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.
  • It’s no surprise — or secret — that Bible camp builds life-long memories and relationships. In August a group of single moms and their children will do just that atOutlaw Ranch, Custer, S.D.  Rachel Jensen, who went last year, already knows this to be true. She is 11 and just finished fifth grade. She volunteers at the Humane Society, dances, plays the drums, bakes, and tends to her cats and tarantula. But what Rachel is really looking forward to is being baptized at camp in August, and into the community of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Spearfish, S.D. Oh yeah, and the bonfires, singing, horseback riding, canoeing, hiking and … well, she says the list is just too long: “My highlight at camp was looking up at a clipboard of all the things you could try and cram into one day.” Her mom, Cynthia “C.J.” Jensen, found family camp to be a respite from the clipboard of her usual responsibilities: “Once there, I don’t have to worry about money or bills or homework or anything. It’s a chance to relax, recharge and reconnect with the other moms and kids.” The moms and kids have come to know each other through the “Adopt-A-Mom” program sponsored by Lutheran Campus Ministry at Black Hills State University, Spearfish. These moms “are determined to earn [a college] education for the betterment of their children,” explained Kris Garlick, who works for both Lutheran Campus Ministry andLutherans Outdoors in South Dakota.  “At camp, they can spend truly quality time with their children and get the break they need. They’re single, going to school, working and they don’t get a whole lot of either [quality time or downtime],” Garlick said. “They are dedicated, with a passion only a mom could have to succeed for their children’s sake.”  The Adopt-A-Mom program is 3 years old, and it was just more than a year ago that the moms began discussing camp. They hosted bake sales and yard sales to raise money for camp, and they donated an additional $2,000 to LOSD for camperships. This year their extra fundraising money will allow single moms from other South Dakota universities to go to camp.

  • It is August. In the Northern Hemisphere it is the season of harvest: wheat and corn, persimmons and grapes, jujubes and apples and peaches. Roadside ditches bloom with foxtail and blanket flower. And in this season of harvest is the festival day of Mary, Mother of Our Lord: Aug. 15, a day dedicated to her for at least 1,400 years. Author Gertrud Mueller Nelson, in To Dance With God (Paulist Press, 1986), recalls “walking with my mother and sisters along the river banks, collecting every variety of grass seed … from pinks to sage …” to gather into large bouquets for the festival of Mary. “Blessed are you among women,” cried out Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  Fruitfulness and harvest. Mary is the example of what magnificence can occur in the world if we are willing to say “yes” to the request of God, if we are willing to cooperate with the divine and participate in the ongoing fulfillment of God’s creation. A 20th-century hymn sings: Mary the root, Christ the mystic vine; Mary the grape, Christ the sacred wine! Mary the wheat sheaf, Christ the living bread; Mary the rose tree, Christ the rose blood-red ... (Justin Mulcahy, C.P.). Fruitfulness and harvest. The first reading for this festival day is from Isaiah (61:7-11). “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (11). Mary is not the exception, not an unreachable apex of humanity, but the example of what can spring up if we, in our human freedom, say “yes” to God. As Benedictine nun and author Joan Chittister writes: “By her unconditional fiat, she became the perfect recipient of God’s will that each of us would like to be.” The Lutheran church still joins with Mary in singing her great outpouring of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), in evening prayer and in every Advent season. But over the last centuries in Protestant churches, Mary has often been relegated to more of a footnote than an example of righteous faith. Martin Luther called Mary the “Queen of Heaven” and “Mother of God” (Theotokos) and advocated praying the first half of the Ave Maria. In his commentary on the Magnificat (1520), Luther prayed: “May the tender Mother of God herself procure for me the spirit of wisdom, profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers.” And yet by 2004, church historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan felt compelled to write an essay, “Most Generations Shall Call Me Blessed.”

  • Like the people he met two millennia ago, Christ calls us from our varied stations in life to follow him and be his disciples. And in the succeeding 2,000 years Christians have struggled with exactly how to be faithful disciples of Christ while keeping their jobs, raising families, paying taxes and being good citizens of the countries in which they live. Exercise 1: What’s a disciple? We use the term “discipleship” freely, but what exactly is a disciple? Draft a “job description” for a disciple, listing all appropriate duties, responsibilities, commitments, attitudes and work habits. When done, discuss: • How is a disciple different from a follower, a believer, a seeker or a church member?  Exercise 2: Great Commission In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commands his followers to “make disciples of all nations.” • Given the job description your group has come up with, why does this make sense? • Is it a primary task, then, of disciples to make other disciples? (Was that on your job description?) • Why doesn’t Jesus command us to make “church members” of all nations? • Does your congregation seek to make church members or disciples? • What are the specific tasks Jesus mentions for making these disciples? • How do you teach obedience? • At your congregation what needs to be done?  Exercise 3: Disciple-making • Do you consider yourself a disciple? • Who (or what resource) taught/teaches you how to be a disciple? • Is it something you learn all at once? • What have you learned over the years? • What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a disciple? • How does your congregation encourage, inspire, nourish or teach people to be disciples? • What could your congregation do better? Exercise 4: The Way Acts of the Apostles makes it clear (in 18:25-26 and elsewhere) that some of the earliest Christians called their faith simply “the Way.” • In contrast to the way of the word, what does the Way of Christ mean? • In what manner is Christianity still (and always) the way for humanity? For your congregation? For you? • Looking at Acts, what risks, responsibilities and sacrifices are involved in being a disciple of the Way? • Is that different from discipleship commonly practiced in the ELCA, in your congregation or in your life? • What can we learn from Acts?

  • The crazy inner workings of the Meadowbrook Asylum will be on display again this Halloween in Frewsburg, N.Y., thanks to the efforts of 11th-grader Craig Rodgers.  The ex officio member of Zion Lutheran’s youth group will again donate the proceeds of his homemade Halloween haunted house, called an asylum. Last year, Rodgers handed over $1,200 of the $2- and $4-ticket sales to the youth group. With the asylum’s growing popularity, he expects to triple that amount this year.  Rodgers, who has been creating and producing the Halloween event for the past four years, said calling the house an asylum lends itself to stunts. “There’s lots of banging on the walls,” he said.  The most popular scenario is sure to be the “Butcher Shop,” noted this Eagle Scout candidate, who likes to give back to the youth group since it was such a big part of his life. “Last year I used a lot of butcher props on loan from a friend in Warren, Pa., like foam feet, arms, legs, heads, all covered in lots of blood and put on festive decorated trays.” While he says the basic formula for blood is corn syrup and food coloring, he stops short of giving up his secret recipe. The event is also a family affair, with his cousin acting as the butcher, and parents, Craig and Megan, and three siblings helping. School friends and youth group members also play spooky parts, like working a chain saw, running around covered in cobwebs, wielding axes and being the hooded guides.  The Hauntmaster, as Rodgers refers to himself, said the key to the asylum’s success last year was convincing the landlord to let him use an available storefront at the Warren Mall rent-free. “She gave it to me, but I had to promise to give all the money to the church youth group,” he said. Not a problem for the burgeoning mechanical engineer who wants to specialize in robotics and animatronics, because he really likes his church. “I’m an active member of my church,” he said. “People look to me when they need an acolyte. I’ve grown up with my parents saying, ‘We’re going to church on Sunday,’ and I liked Sunday school.”

  • The story of how Holy Trinity Lutheran, a once struggling church in Charlotte, N.C., was reborn began on a Sunday in June 2013. As the 11 a.m. service was about to begin, about 20 newcomers walked into the sanctuary and bunched into two back pews. “Like sardines,” recalled Nancy Kraft. The pastor of Holy Trinity was surprised, but delighted, that they had accepted her off-the-cuff invitation to worship. The group was made up of former members of nearby St. Andrew Episcopal Church — many had worshiped there for decades. But a few weeks earlier, the church had closed unexpectedly, its locks changed. They were grieving and angry. St. Andrew’s closure, after more than 100 years, had also left them spiritually homeless and eager to find another church where they could stay together. So here they were at Holy Trinity. When Kraft invited worshipers, including the visitors, to take communion, she was surprised again. Looking into the faces of those kneeling at the altar, she saw that the St. Andrew refugees weren’t the only ones feeling emotional. The eyes of Holy Trinity members were brimming with tears of compassion. Since then, dozens of other former St. Andrew members have flocked to Holy Trinity. Most stayed. The size of the choir has doubled; the congregation is more diverse; and weekly offerings are way up. Resurrection story On Easter, their first together, Holy Trinity’s sanctuary, once half-empty, was full — and then some. The new Holy Trinity is a testament to how “resurrection is all around us. And it’s always a surprise,” said Kraft, whose sermons have soothed the St. Andrew souls. “This is not the same church at all.” St. Andrew members last worshiped at their church on May 26, 2013. At a meeting three days later, the church-elected vestry, or board, announced it was handing over the property to the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, which shuttered it. The diocese and others pointed to dwindling attendance, financial troubles and lack of support for priests at the church. Members knew their church had issues. Still, many were shocked. “My four little ones were christened there, and two of them were married there,” said Ruth Alden, a member since 1954 whose husband is buried in the memorial garden.  The Sunday after St. Andrew closed, some members gathered in front of their church with prayer books and lawn chairs — but no priest. Later that day, some met again at a restaurant. Kraft had also stopped at that restaurant for lunch. Deciding it was too crowded, she was about to leave when she spied two friends who were part of St. Andrew. As Kraft visited with them, they perked up when she invited them to worship. Holy Trinity was established in 1916 and, for most of its history, was a neighborhood church. But like a lot of churches in old Charlotte neighborhoods, it has struggled over the years to keep its numbers from sliding. It peaked at 700 or so in the 1970s. By the time Ohio-born Kraft became its pastor in 2005, Holy Trinity was drawing fewer than 40 people on Sundays. The church started slowly growing but still had trouble attracting a diverse population. Kraft’s lively preaching (she began a Lenten sermon about “time in the wilderness” with a Tarzan yell) attracted some. And Holy Trinity’s description of itself as “loving, not judging” drew some gays and lesbians who felt unwelcome at other churches. A different congregation But with the arrival of so many from St. Andrew, “it became a totally different congregation overnight,” Kraft said.