Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broken and Forced

Things break or wear down. Its natural. 

Someone broke the church office copier recently.  Don't know who. Doesn't really matter. But it was broken because a part was forced. Plastic snaps and breaks easily. Now we wait for the part and the repair.

We all have experienced the "forcing" of things.  Almost always this forcing breaks things or relationships or possibilities. Forcing is not natural and has consequences.

Perhaps a common task for God's people is to learn to wait, to breathe, to pause and not to force.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What makes for a healthy church

Rain on the window

What is it that makes for a healthy church, not just a local congregation but the "church"?  I'm always asking this of myself and others. And here are a couple links to recent articles and authors.  But before you read them, and I hope you do, here is my short and incomplete list.

A healthy local congregation
speaks the truth gently
understands faith as a gift
is committed to justice and mercy
does not understand the Bible literally, but seriously 
is committed to relationships with other denominations and faiths and most importantly, its own neighborhood
          stands in solidarity with those who suffer
          has as its goal not to "get to heaven" or "escape hell" but love the world
understands discipleship as following Jesus, i.e. walking behind him

And here are three recent readings that may help. Just click on the links.

A daily offering from Fr. Richard Rohr

A provocative piece in the New York Times on the rebirth of "mainline" denominations

A "new" perspective on Jesus from the author of the book Zealot



Monday, April 22, 2013

Love, Vows and a Hospital Room at the University of Utah

They asked for help in order to be wed while he still lived. 
So the nurses, the doctor and the chaplain's office all helped out.  We called the
County Clerk's office, explained the situation and they too
went above and beyond. Sherrie Swensen, the county clerk, personally
delivered the documents. He could not leave the hospital room.  So everyone came to them.
Later that day they were wed by an LDS officiant. What this picture doesn't show is
the whole room filled with family of all ages, gathered around these two,
community upon community.


Monday, December 24, 2012

quod non assumptus, non redemptus

Christmas Eve + 2012

Emma drew this manger scene many years ago. She’s sleeping right now as I write this. There is quiet except for the furnace. It snowed 8 inches during the night. Utah powder. The world is indeed a wonderful, beautiful place. But not always and not for everyone. We all will experience brokenness, limits, evil and finally death. This is exactly what happens in the Christmas story.

A Roman Catholic priest once gave me this Latin phrase: quod non assumptus, non redemptus. The words come from the 4th CE and mean: that which is not assumed, is not redeemed.

This is the Incarnation, that somehow God takes on, assumes, all that we are, all that the world is and redeems it all, because Love takes on everything and finally redeems everything. No exceptions. No exclusions. This is the power of Christmas.

Pastor Jeffrey D. Louden
St. Matthew’s Lutheran + Taylorsville, UT + www.stmatthewsut.org + 801 965 8484 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Of Holy Writing, Fountain Pens and Ancient Laptops

tolle scribe   take and write

The story goes that St. Augustine was converted when he heard the words, tolle lege “take and read” and then picked up the Scriptures.  So this is a riff on that. I love fountain pens, the way they feel in my hand and help me to write. I found this 100 year old “lap top” writing box in a pawn shop in Pocatello for $15. The glass bottles were filled with dried ink. Into the box I have put my pens, collected over the years from my Uncle Gary and Aunt Marge's office equipment store in Grand Junction. One pen, a Mont Blanc Diplomat, a very fine black pen, came from my father. It is inscribed with his name, "Bob." Writing helps me think. Writing with a fountain pen slows me down, reminds me of what is beautiful. Not a bad thing for Advent.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Other Traditions and the Thawing of the Heart

A long ago mentor told me once that every pastor should come to know another tradition. In some small way I have dabbled in Buddhism and perhaps even more in poetry.  Both have enriched me greatly, poetry the most. Recently I came across someone new to me, R.H. Blyth, an Englishman, who after WWII was tutor to the Japanese Emperor, Akihito. Blyth is regarded as the best interpreter of Japanese poetry. Here are some snippets.
"Everyone recognizes that making mistakes is the one thing that teaches us"…. p. 19  Buddhist sermons on Christian texts.  
Whew. Right away I was hooked, for at this stage in my life, I love people who are simple, direct and speak few words and are filled with gentleness. And of course, I know a great deal about mistakes.
Then he quotes from Thoreau, again a favorite of mine,
"My life has been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it."
Finally one of Blyth's poems is especially fitting for the end of the theological year or for any ending...
we that change
hate change
and we that pass
love what abides

Friday, October 19, 2012

imago dei or why I take pictures

Chris and Rod Rowland
Portrait by Jeffrey Louden

I realized the other day, when taking this portrait, that one reason I enjoy taking photographs is at least partly theological…these people are after all children of god, made in the imago dei, the image of God. I enjoy helping them see that…as gift.
I shared this insight with a friend who is also a pastor. He wrote back, " All art is in some way a means of grace; every artist is in some way a "priest", one who recognizes the holy in any and every thing."