Category Archives: St. Olaf Blog
March Pastor’s letter
At the funeral of my spiritual mentor, Bill Smith, Bob Albers, his (as well as my mother’s) eulogist, described the event that pulled him out of the despair the tragic death of his son had sent him into. “Bob,” said Bill. “I’m not intimidated by your despair.”
Behind this statement was Bill Smith’s unshakeable faith. This conviction to the core of his being plus his natural love of people made Bill so popular on the Luther Seminary campus that they just let him keep his office long after he had retired. And from that office, he continued to not only continue his study of Augustine, but also the care of students and persons in call, like myself in my early years at St. Olaf.
But, the purpose of bringing this incident to your attention is not to extol the greatness of Bill Smith, but to rather, relate the way a person of ultimate faith moves through this earthly existence. A person of ultimate faith understands that this earthly life is but the birthing room for one’s ultimate infinite existence with God. There is an earnestness for heaven as expressed variously by people ranging from the Apostle Paul to Jimi Page. (Paul: “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, indeed.” (Philippians 1:23) Page: “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving.” (Stairway to Heaven) I personally love the expression penned by Brooke Fraser in the contemporary Christian hymn, “Hosanna.”
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
Such conviction of an afterlife in no way demeans the value or the happiness of life in this life and this world. In fact, it enhances this life by providing comfort and relief from the traumas and tragedies of this life. In the TV miniseries, Paul the Apostle, when Barnabas realizes Paul’s trip to Rome is not without peril, he says to Paul, “But, I may never see you again.” Paul hesitates for just one second as the impact of Barnabas’ statement hits him, and then confidently replies, “I’ll see you in heaven.”
But, again, the purpose of bringing this incident to your attention is not to extol the greatness of Paul (or Jimmy Page for that matter), but to encourage you during this season of Lent and to prime you for that greatest of human activities on this earth, which is to let people know the good news of the gift of eternal life received in Jesus. As you head into Lent, take this thought with you. Eternity has less to do with time than it has to do with the presence of God.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
February Pastor’s letter
On January 24, the Doomsday Clock was set to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to midnight it has ever been set. The escalation of the war in Ukraine possibly giving rise to the use of nuclear weapons was given as the primary reason for the advance of the clock.
The Doomsday Clock was the invention of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists after World War II to make the public aware of the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It was arbitrarily set to 7 minutes before midnight. In 2007, the atomic scientists began to factor in the effects of Climate Change. The farthest it ever got from midnight was 17 minutes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is an attempt to regain territory lost when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
The Doomsday Clock fits the timetable of Christian scriptures. Armageddon is always right around the corner.
The big question for Christians is why does God have to let the world be savagely destroyed in order to save it. The answer is, “That’s not what it says.” The Armageddon passages can all be explained by political events of the day – in the first case, the impending Roman destruction of Jerusalem and in the second, the vengeful, hoped for, consequence of Roman persecution. Nevertheless, events like World War II and the holocaust let us know that an Armageddon is a very real possibility. Just how close did we come in WW II?
So, since World War II, people of good will, Christians included, have been working to eliminate the causes of war and genocide. Of course one can argue that there have been notable deviations from this course and less than impressive motivation. Nevertheless, eliminating the causes of war and genocide is a worthwhile goal.
With this in mind, I am looking for Synod Assembly delegates who would be interested in helping me formulate a resolution for the World Council of Churches (WCC) to convene an emergency meeting to expel the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The ROC has consistently supported, without reservation, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Certain members of the WCC attempted to expel the ROC in the last assembly, which was held last summer, but the vote was derailed in a premeeting which consisted of representatives who felt ecumenical cohesiveness was a more important goal of the WCC than challenging member churches who support unjust wars.
I realize this is a wild hair idea, but resolutions focus the issues and local resolutions can be memorialized for national consideration. The ELCA is a member of the WCC.
Members, even if you do not want to get involved in such a wild hair idea, we need Synod delegates and since we postponed our Annual Meeting to February 26, we will need your names before that. The Synod Assembly is scheduled for Saturday, April 29, at Lord of Life in Ramsey. Call the church office if you are interested in serving as a delegate.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
January Pastor’s letter
I wish to extend a huge thank you to those of you who responded to our “friends of St. Olaf” fund-raising appeal in November. I apologize for the delay in getting out thank you letters, but assure you that you will receive them soon after the New Year, in time for reporting on you tax returns.
The delay was caused by the sudden catastrophic illness of our Parish Administrator, Angela (Ann) Hogan. Ann was smitten with a case of double pneumonia with sepsis over the Thanksgiving holiday. She wound up in the intensive care unit at North Memorial and spent nearly three weeks recovering before being transferred to transitional care. Miraculously, she recovered to the point of being released to her daughter’s home for Christmas and then approved to return to her home and work after the New Year. Her doctor, a Christian man, said that angels had protected her.
For me, the timing couldn’t have been worse. During the winter months, I coordinate hockey in north Minneapolis through my role as Executive Director of New Directions Youth Ministry, the youth-serving agency my wife, Sue, and I co-founded in the 70’s as a vocational choice. When I was called to St. Olaf, bringing New Directions to the church was a no-brainer. Some of you may have seen Bloomington Police Chief, Booker Hodges, on television responding to a deadly shooting at the Mall of America. Booker came up through New Directions, played hockey, and went on to Executive Direct the agency during its early years at St. Olaf. Though they live closer to the Mall these days, they are still members of St. Olaf. Dr. Hodges is also on the Board of New Directions and we are looking for an administrator to take over for me. Frankly, it is getting too difficult as St. Olaf moves into more community-serving ministries such as the Youth Ministry and the Food & Clothing operations. Ann was an integral part of these operations as well, so I have been scrambling to keep up with the bare essentials of St. Olaf and New Directions administration and fund-raising since her departure. Thank God -and I sincerely mean that -she is coming back.
Ann’s absence accentuated the need to plan for St. Olaf’s future. One option is to close the church. Whose need does that serve? So, with that option out of the way, we are moving ahead in the New Year with the plans that have been set in motion with your help these past years. We are an asset to the ELCA in that we are a multiracial congregation serving an inner city multiracial community. Even as I write, the ELCA is giving serious consideration to our application to receive funding from the national church to fund a pastoral position (I currently serve without pay.), preferably an African-American person for a predominately African-American neighborhood. Secondly, even as I write, Blondo Consulting, who wrote the successful application for St. Olaf to join the National Register of Historic Places, is putting together an application to fund an assessment of the building’s needs for long term maintenance funding.
The only fly in the ointment is the fly that seems to be affecting many churches in the mainline denominations these days -they just aren’t coming back. Cyber worship has contributed. Most of us have perfected the process of supplying worship at home – no need to travel to church. But, that’s not the big factor. The big factor is the GRAND ILLUSION. The grand illusion has always been the curse of humanity -literally. It’s the idea that either there is no God, or if there is, I will define him(her). He can’t exist independently of my control, could he(she), we presume. From there, it’s a slippery slope to the denial of death and the abandonment of the sacredness of life. Pull it together, humans! God has been speaking to us for centuries and still is speaking. Just because past peoples who called themselves Christians did things that seem contradictory to Christian ethics doe not mean the message is or was invalid. On the contrary, it means that the message was spot on -no matter who we are or who we think we are, we are in constant need of redemption. Don’t think for a moment that, given the times and the need to survive, you would have done anything differently from the masses -or that you are behaving in a morally superior manner anyway.
What really troubles me is the inability of many people to see the hidden hand of God working through human history for the principles that God cares for and for the persuasion of the human mind -though they might not give credit where credit is due – toward these principles. I will give as example one of the greatest achievements of our time -the passage on December 13 of the Respect for Marriage Act. Though many still stand opposed to same-sex marriage and even inter-racial marriage, they have now been codified -DEMOCRTICALLY -into our life together.
And so, as we move into resolutions mode, let me suggest that we make a resolution to never give up on God. Indeed, he(she) has never, and never will, give up on us.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
December Pastor’s Letter
The celebration of St. Olaf’s historic designation on November 13 gained St. Olaf a good deal of attention. Channels 5 and 9 ran coverage of the event and several people from outside St. Olaf’s orbit notified me that they had seen me on TV. Several people asked me what we hoped to get by the designation.
It is my hope that St. Olaf’s historic designation creates a wider respect for its presence and mission in the community. I did not see the coverage myself, but I hope it gave an impression of the sensual aspect of worship at St. Olaf. It’s almost like you don’t know it’s happening to you. The organ is bright and crisp. The sound is all around. The space is large and at the same time close and intimate. The colors are earthy and warm.
It’s a great place to immerse oneself in the fullness of time and space. As we read scriptures, we are propelled two thousand years back in time. The surrounding stained glass windows, paintings, and textiles reinforce the content of the scriptures. What we read about happened in a far away time and place, but is relevant today.
Take, for example, climate change. At the recent COP27 summit in Egypt, the poor countries of the world demanded that the wealthy countries create a fund to help them offset the financial impact of climate change. Christians can easily identify this as the right thing to do by the Golden Rule of Jesus.
It’s an exciting time to be a Lutheran Christian. Lutherans have been made aware of what they did wrong in the past and have embraced a new, more Godly way of approaching the future. Refering to God as the “Creator,” which Indigenous Peoples do, helps us better recognize the infinite value of all human beings.
Going forward, we would never want to disregard the value of certain classes of human beings as we did in the past. We should not disregard the critics of our religion, but we should not let them overwhelm us either.
The witness and proclamation of events that occurred long ago have a lasting presence in the human memory. Just because we may have acted in opposition to the Creator does not mean we cannot radically change our ways. Indeed, it is through the unique gift of the Creator known as Jesus that the Creator provided us with the means to repent and begin anew. On Christmas we will celebrate the incarnation of this unique gift of the Creator – given to the world as one of us. Wherever you live, take in a Christmas Eve candlelight service and let yourself be immersed in the experience of once again welcoming this gift into our world. Peace…. Pastor Dale
November Pastor’s letter
The Norwegians were in the news this morning. Russian drones are threatening their air space. They have put Russia on notice that they will not tolerate their presence. Norwegian oil and natural gas are vital resources in the defense of Ukraine. Russia not only turned off the natural gas line to Europe, they perhaps sabotaged it so no one else (the Norwegians?) could use it.
Parish Administrator, Ann and I attended our bank’s annual community event last week. Because it had been canceled the two previous years, they went all out this year. Our bank is Northeast Bank, situated in the heart of the Ukrainian-American community and we were treated to a special performance of Ukrainian dance.
As I made my way back to North Minneapolis, I couldn’t help but marvel at the melting of cultures that is occurring here in the United States. But, I also couldn’t help being reminded as I passed the WIN gas station 10 blocks east (and across the river) that there is yet a separation of cultures in the United States. The Winner station has been nicknamed the “murder station” for the many murders that have occurred there. It’s sad that the African-American culture is taking the brunt of this unintended harm. In the September issue of the Star Tribune, University of Minnesota Law School Professor of Civil Rights said it all in the title of his essay: “In a segregated region, crime and police hurt the same people.”
Today, the Minneapolis City Council approved a new Department of Public Safety which many people see as an olive branch between the people who want to see the police defunded and those who, in the last election, felt a stronger mayor would help deter crime. To me, this action demonstrated where we need to be as a culture moving forward with the problem of race. I will again use the quote from Henry Louis Gates that I referred to in my last Pastor’s letter: “None of us are responsible for what our ancestors did. But all of us are responsible to work together to make this a better world.” (I hope you are watching his new documentary, “Making Black America: Through the Grapevine.”)
Again, as I have said before, though these are troubling times, they are exciting times. The world truly has become globalized and a new movement of global cooperation for peace is bubbling up through the muck of human sin. God is once again doing a new thing. It’s just troubling to see so many people suffer as the world comes to its senses. Keep praying and stay in church. Peace…. Pastor Dale
October Pastor’s Letter
All are invited to celebrate St. Olaf Lutheran Church’s admission to the National Register of Historic Places. All are welcome. An RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org would be appreciated.
Historic Designation Celebration
Sunday, November 13
9 – 10:30 am historical exhibits
10:30 – 11:30 am celebration worship
11:30 am – 1 pm reception with hors d’oeuvres
So, here we are in one of the inner cities of America, a “lodestar” of Norwegian-American heritage. “Loadstar” is the word one of the gatekeepers of designation at the Minnesota Historical Society termed our designation on the National Register. It’s not exactly what we were after when we first applied, but unbeknown to us, there was a 50 year demarcation line, defined by the civil unrest in 1967 most known for the riots in North Minneapolis following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Having passed that 50 year demarcation line, our designation could no longer be for the immigration history of the neighborhood, but rather, for its Norwegian heritage.
Nevertheless, the immigration history of the neighborhood looms dominant over the Norwegian Heritage. Immigrants outnumber Norwegians at St. Olaf and in the St. Olaf neighborhood. Add in those who did not have an immigration origin, to wit, Native Americans and African-Americans, the outnumbering is higher.
As American society tries to melt its many cultures into a homogenous whole, some European heritages are problematic because they involve resentments caused by colonialism. However, Norwegian heritage is fairly benign it this regard. Norwegian colonialism happened so long ago (the Vikings) that everybody is okay with it now. No one is clamoring to change the name of Minnesota’s football team! After that, Norway’s colonialism was mostly in territories no one wants anyway -places like South Georgia Island, Fridtjof Nansen Land, and the Sverdrup Islands, all since abandoned as colonies. Norway does maintain a colonial claim on a section of Antartica, an area which could be colonized without displacing indigenous peoples. Penguins maybe, but not people.
The first Norwegians who arrived in the United States seem to be rather innocent of the colonialist expansion of the United States into its west, which displaced Native American people. They responded to advertisements for free land in the United States, not knowing it was already inhabited. And, from what I can tell, they tried to befriend their Native American neighbors and didn’t participate in the later Boarding School movement that so traumatized Native American people. (They started one school in Wisconsin.)
But, all that is beside the point. As Henry Louis Gates says in his PBS show, Finding Your Roots, “None of us are responsible for what our parents did. But all of us are responsible to work together to make this a better world.” On November 13, we will celebrate our historic designation with this understanding. Peace…. Pastor Dale
September Pastor’s Letter
We must not neglect the suffering of the world. For, when we do, we become less than human. As Christians, we believe that a big part, if not the biggest part, of being human is tending to the suffering of the world. If we ignore the suffering of our neighbor, then we are neglecting one of our most fundamental human needs.
During the pandemic, many people were forced to isolate. For some reason, isolating became comfortable. You can blame social media or the closure of public institutions, but as restrictions relaxed, people didn’t necessarily head back to the public gatherings of their pre-Covid lives.
I think you can probably guess where I am going. As we approach Rally Day -and yes, I stick with that appellation – I am hopeful that people return to the public gathering of their churches. One of the very good reasons I am hopeful for a return to the “pews” is for that human need to tend to the suffering of the world. The ELCA especially does a good job of ferreting out the suffering in outer -and sometimes inner -pockets of the world and responding to it. For example, ELCA Disaster Relief is responding to both the Ukrainian refugee crisis and the flooding in Kentucky. But, Disaster Relief is only part of the picture. We must also tend to the ongoing suffering of the world.
Again, Lutherans have many organizations to address the ongoing suffering of the world. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and Lutheran Social Services are just two of the Lutheran organizations that provide ongoing relief. And, if you’re one who prefers to address the upriver causes of suffering, there’s Lutheran Advocacy Minnesota and the Synod Assemblies. And if you’re one who like to either do advocacy or address the immediate concerns of suffering, there are the ministries of your local church, which for the most part, get carried out in the neighborhoods around the church.
Prior to the pandemic, I listened with interest to a Public Radio program on where people found meaning in gathering. One woman exuberantly exclaimed it was her local brewery, because “where else do people gather weekly to sing together?” Where else? But, her brewery didn’t have the options for addressing human suffering that I laid out in the previous paragraph. Based on her comments, I’ve searched for good drinking songs to use in church. Voila! Martin Luther’s “Mighty Fortress” was originally a tavern song.
But, moreso, there is the context of meaning provided by your local church. Christian worship celebrates the human freedom wrought by this man named Jesus who endured the suffering of the world for the sake of all of us.
It is my hope that you all find a way to return to the regular practice of Sunday worship and Sunday School. Indeed, I am convinced that a positive outcome for the world depends on it.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
August Pastor’s letter
Correction. St. Olaf was admitted to the National Register of Historic Places on June 2, not July 2, as written in the July newsletter. So far, what is planned is a celebratory worship at 10:30 am on October 16, 2022 with a catered meal afterward, the main course being lutefisk and chittlins. That should bring the cultures together in a fun way, but we better let them know there is some more traditional fare, such as meatballs and fried chicken, potato salad and greens…you get the idea. I have sent feelers out to the Norwegian institutions in Minneapolis and so far, I have heard back from most of them. Seems the Bishop of Norway is in town that same weekend and we may be able to share him with some of the other organizations. Augsburg College President Pribbenow agreed to be present in some capacity. The Council established a task force for further planning of the event, for which you may sign up on the table by the church office or by calling the church office. A meeting will be convened soon.
We got some other good news early in June. Our risk of fire will be going down greatly. The Fire Marshall did an inspection and found several items lacking. While correction of these code violations will make our building safer, they are and will take time and money. The CIA (Al Helgemo, Mark True, and Doug Johnson) have swung into action again and are tackling some of the DIY repairs. Others are more complicated and will require a paid handyman. Still others are very complicated and will require specialized contractors and extra funding. That’s where our historical status will come in handy. Funding for construction is available from the State Historical Society and the Foundation for Sacred Spaces. In the meanwhile, if you would like to help the CIA or if you know a good handyman, or if you would like to get involved in the grant process, please call the church office.
We also are in the hunt for a Youth Director. New Directions is also looking for a Program Director for Hockey and Figure Skating and the two positions could be combined. College and a driver’s license are required for both positions. Call the church office for a job description or to apply.
As we move into the tail end of the summer, we will be looking toward Rally Day, which will be September 11 this year. We are hiring for Vacation Bible School, August 1-5, and will take volunteers as well. The job description is available from the table by the office or by calling the office. Our goal is to get back to normal and have Sunday School for all ages next school year.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
July Pastor’s letter
On July 2, St. Olaf Lutheran Church was admitted onto the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is THE place where places of historical significance in the United States are listed. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!
It’s also a quandary. What are we going to do with it? While the Norwegian history upon which the designation was made was significant in the state and in the community, the Norwegian presence in the community now is quite small. Add to this physical diminishment the sudden importance of diminishing historically dominant cultures to increase the civic awareness of the history of traditionally underemphasized minority cultures, which happened after the killing of George Floyd, and we really have a quandary. The neighborhood is over 50% Black, 11% Asian, and only 18% Caucasian (2020 census data – no specific data on Norwegians).
But let’s call it a challenge! Let’s say it’s an opportunity to do exactly what is called for -uplift cultures which are historically less acknowledged. Acknowledgement would be a good place to start. We can acknowledge the original occupants of the land upon which the church was built – the Dakota Tribe. In 1852, the Dakota ceded much of Minnesota to the United States government by the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota. Twenty years later, Augsburg Seminary (College) moved from Wisconsin to its present location in Minneapolis and 4 years later St. Olaf Lutheran Church was established as an outreach mission of Augsburg. In 2016, the ELCA formally repudiated the “Doctrine of Discovery,” whereby the United States government claimed the land occupied by Native Americans. A little too little, a little too late, but nevertheless, a step in the right direction. That repudiation also committed the ELCA “to supporting the healing of survivors of Indian boarding schools, adoption, and foster care and their descendants while advocating for policies that will bring both truth and justice for Native American people.” That is a worthy task, considering our historical context.
However, the higher percentage of people of African descent in the St. Olaf neighborhood swings the priority of the historical context to that focus as well. In 2019 (before the George Floyd awakening), the ELCA passed a Declaration of Apology to “people of African descent for its historical complicity in slavery and its enduring legacy of racism in the United States and globally.” The statement is quite long and is available on the ELCA website. A companion study guide titled, “Now Is The Time,” was issued this year.
The date for the unveiling of St. Olaf’s historical status has not yet been set, but in the meanwhile, stay tuned and stay steady in your support of this historically important church.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
June Pastor’s letter
“What’s wrong with us?” This was the cry of a promising young baseball player on the team my children played on at Folwell Park. The team had just lost yet another game to conflicted base-running. “What’s wrong with us” is also the cry of Americans who have lost yet another game to conflicted base-running. That loss was announced by yet another mass murder, this time in an elementary school in Texas.
Once again, the cries for better gun control are heard; but we all know that, like better umpires, gun control would only partially solve the problem. There’s a deeper disfunction involved and we all know it.
Just the divisiveness over gun control attests to the deeper problem. Something’s out of control here and it’s frightening.
We pride ourselves in America as being a paragon of democracy, but mass shootings undermine our confidence in democracy. It’s like we have too much freedom, if there is such a thing. We’re willing to limit the freedom around guns. What about media?
In August, the movie, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, will be released in theaters. The movie is a comedy about a serial murder and is expected to bring in droves of teenage males. The movie is rated R and the parental advisory lists violence and bloody images. My question is this: why the bloody images? Do they enhance the humor?
Extrapolate movie content to all media forms. The mass murderer in Buffalo filmed the event live on Twitch, Amazon’s version of Facebook. Twitch took it down within 3 minutes and urged anyone who had saved a copy to destroy it. Wouldn’t you know it, it surfaced during youth group last week and not a one of the kids shielded their eyes from the horror.
In the United States, we rely on Parental Controls to be the bottom line for viewing safety for our children. The fact that the video of the Buffalo shooting surfaced among a group of teens is an example of how poorly parental controls work. Last month, the European Union passed strong legislation limiting socially destructive forms of media content. Graphic violence was but one of these. At the time of the passage, the comment was made that because of the emphasis on the Bill of Rights, Americans would be loathe to follow suit.
Before Cain kills Abel in the book of Genesis, God tells Cain, “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7)
Down deep, where our soul meets God, deeper than a bill of rights, we know what is right. We can master the sin of apathy that allows the presence of destructive content in our social discourse. Rachel wept for her children (Jeremiah 31:15), but God promised to reward the hard work of her people to preserve their culture. (31:16) We can do the same. Peace…. Pastor Dale
May Pastor’s letter
May is the month of Mothers’ Day, Memorial Day, and Fishing Opener, not necessarily listed in order of importance to all people. There’s the old Minnesota joke about the man whose wife informed him that she would leave him if he left her home alone for another fishing opener. “Sure gonna miss you,” he replied.
Well, that’s good. We have our activities in life that give us pleasure and something to look forward to. Now, what about that future? The threat of World War and Climate Change are on our doorstep. “Even now, the axe is lying at the root of the trees…” (Matthew 3:10, Luke 3:9)
So, why do I even have a concept of “future?” Is it just so I can plan the most pleasant outcome for myself?
Recently, I watched Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, Benjamin Franklin. I was reminded of how significant the American revolution was in world history. For the first time, at least in the Western World, it created a form of government that emphasized human rights. Sadly, though, Burns reminded us of the astonishing omissions of that revolution -the rights of slaves and indigenous people.
Burns also made sure his viewers were aware of Franklin’s interest in and respect for the existing governments of Native American people, especially the Iroquois Confederacy, which he used as a model for the confederation of the United States. The Iroquois Confederacy, more appropriately named the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, took into consideration not only the human rights of those present in society, but also of those future -the next 7 generations.
The “7 generations” concept is helping motivate climate change action by helping us balance our actions in the present with the needs of future generations. And yet, there is one important question about the 7 generations philosophy – how do we motivate ourselves to do it? Our incredible ability to compromise even our best intentions is notorious. The continuation of slavery in the United States after the revolution and the war in Ukraine are two examples.
What is needed is a shared belief system to complement the 7 generation respect for the future. The shared belief system of Christians is that God is working with us on forging a just and equitable future. This belief system is reflected in the ELCA slogan, “God’s work, our hands.” We can, and should, apply the 7 generation concept to our Christian hope. It’s not just about my future or my children’s or grandchildren’s future. It’s about the future of the next 7 generations.
Hope isn’t so much about personal salvation as it is about the future of the world. In a strange twist, once we commit ourselves to 7 generations, our anxiety about personal salvation disappears. We have work to do! A headline in the paper regarding the upcoming funeral service for Madeline Albright says it all: “She was a force for good.” Let us all be forces for good that will last for at least the next 7 generations.
Peace… Pastor Dale
April Pastor’s letter
Shock and dismay! These words describe my state of mind as we go into the Easter month this year. Shock at the witness of unchecked brutality unleashed by the Russian people. And dismay that human civilization has progressed so little toward the values of the Kingdom of God. I was living in a bubble, telling myself that all was better than it was. I had hoped for more.
I’m sure many of you share my sentiments, but others may have had a prior pessimism about human affairs. Certainly, perceptive people of color were more pessimistic. “Oh, now you notice,” one African-American person opined. She is referring to the genocidal events that have occurred throughout the globe in recent years which have received far less public attention and reaction. In an effort to make up for this lack, on March 21, Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, added the Rohingya people of Myanmar as the 8th ethnic genocide recognized by the United States since 1990. Others include Bosnian Muslims, Hutus in Rwanda, Hutus in Burundi, Kurds in Iraq, and Muslims in Kosovo, Darfuris in Sudan, and Yazidis by ISIS. And, of course, we people of the United States have our own skeletons in the closet and an understandable resistance to airing our own business to the world.
Using murder as a benchmark of human brutality, one might say the world has not progressed as far as we would have hoped toward living in peace. Even Christian nations like Russia, and historically Germany and the United States, engage in genocidal atrocities.
For Christians, the brutality of Jesus’ crucifixion is also a benchmark -a benchmark of God’s love for humanity. That God would so loved the world to send his beloved Son to undergo the worst brutality that human beings can inflict on one another is nothing short of incredible. And, of course, had he not risen from the dead, his death would have had the same effect on the overall picture as the death of every other victim of human violence, which is not enough or none at all.
But, he did rise, and because of that, we know that the end point of all this suffering is the end of it. One day there will be perfect justice and perfect peace. That is the promise of the Kingdom of God. I had just hoped that we were further along.
So, for this Easter, let us rededicate ourselves to following Jesus. This will not be easy because we would rather not have to make sacrifices. But, as Dietrich Bonhoffer pointed out during the greatest genocide of all time, there is a cost to discipleship. For Bonhoffer, it was his life. For Ukrainians who defend their homeland, it may be their lives. For our armed forces who die in the course of duty or training, it is their lives. For the rest of us, we need to honor those sacrifices and most of all, remember the sacrifice of Jesus, through which we have hope. And dedicate our lives to the progress of justice and non-violence in our stations in life.
Peace… Pastor Dale
March Pastor’s letter
Once again, Minneapolis has become the focal point for national concern over police brutality toward people of color. The killing of Amir Locke during a “no knock” warrant has put Minneapolis in the spotlight again.
One week to the day after Amir Locke was killed, DeShaun Hill, a 15 year old scholar-athlete at North High School died from what looks to have been a stray bullet from gang activity. His name is added to the growing list of children killed by collateral damage from the rising gun violence in the inner cities of the United States.
Agonized relatives and community leaders search for answers but answers are hard to find.
Something has gone awry with our culture and we are having difficulty figuring out what it is. Some Christians latch onto the simple answer that “no one goes to church anymore.” Others just cry out into the chaos with incongruent accusations. In one sense their cries make sense. The same sinful impulses in a rogue cop aren’t much different than the sinful impulses in a teen gone rogue.
But, behind the sinful impulses of these players in the tragedy are the evil impulses of the enormously wealthy. In his parables, teachings, and actions, Jesus taught about the evil of money and its opposition to the goodness of God. The Apostle Paul famously taught that the love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10) Large corporate entities are manipulating the masses to buy their products with little regard for the social consequences of either the quantity or quality of what we are buying. Most notable is the marketing of electronic media and media devices. A 4 year old can now access things which only adults should see or hear. The testimony of former Facebook employee, Francis Haugen, in October of 2021, brought the seriousness of the situation to our attention, but our insatiable desire for new products has made that testimony a distant memory. Any wonder that a 14 year old would join a gang and start carjacking automobiles for the lucrative profit received in a black market tolerated by a culture that doesn’t really want to know what is going on.
What’s missing in the United States is a culture of restraint. As the churches empty out, there is no countervailing culture moving in. What’s left for culture is a sort of no man’s land where the reality that exists in any one individual’s mind supersedes all other values. There was a time when all citizens knew that what they thought had to be normed by what the rest of the culture thought, and most of that was determined in churches and synagogues on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Hopefully, we will soon get to a point where we can gather once again, recognize a higher power, and affirm our common culture. There is much work to be done, of course. There’s historical revision, reparations, modernization, and a bunch more. But, let’s do it together. Let’s gather together in our places of worship and redefine what it means to be human and what it means to be citizens of the United States.
Peace… Pastor Dale
January Pastor’s letter
I hope you all had a blessed Christmas despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic.
A pandemic can make one question the existence of God and the value of faith. But, doubt is the crucible of faith. A faith that has not grappled with some of the most difficult issues of life is shallow as opposed to deep and poor as opposed to rich.
What is causing me to doubt is not the pandemic, but the proliferation of social media. It is proliferating in an uncontrolled and unexamined way. Recently, the Grammy awarded singer, Billie Eilish recounted how pornography had damaged her brain. She began to access abusive pornography on Youtube at the young age of 11.
In my role as a “Youth Director” in the church youth program, I get a glimpse of what youth are viewing that parents and others who study youth from afar do not get. The youth are still careful about what they reveal to me, but sometimes in their need to fit in, they will not notice that I am listening when they are talking.
That is how I discovered that youth from decent families, whose parents wouldn’t suspect they were doing it, were vandalizing school bathrooms. In case you have not heard about it, the social media venue, Tik Tok, issued a “devious lick” challenge to children at the beginning of the school year to vandalize their school bathrooms.
I have long been concerned about the content of music that can attain an American Music or Grammy Award -even, in one case, a Pulitzer Award. Media awards have a character of authentication about them. If a song or an artist gets an award, then the message conveyed is that it must be socially acceptable. Many of this year’s grammy nominations contain lyrics that would shock the average adult and are readily accessible to children and regularly listened to by children.
But, the abuse of social media that has most caused me to doubt is the unvetted, uncontrolled, proliferation of “gangsta” rap. Of course, we would not want to see one of our youth become a victim of gang violence or perpetrate it. But, they are increasingly becoming vulnerable to it as it is readily available and creating a constant itch to “keep up with the peers.” The recent proliferation of carjackings is to some extent fueled by the lyrics of this venue.
Social media is not inherently an evil thing, as evidenced by the many good uses it is put to by persons and organizations. What is missing is the societal resolve to stop the proliferation of its evil uses. My concern is particularly that use among children. But, until we are able to do that, I can think of no better protection than to bring one’s children to hear the word of God in Sunday School, Confirmation, and Church and to center one’s family around traditional faith values. Despite their tarnished reputation these days, faith values still best lead families during confusing times.
Peace…. Pastor Dale