Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A short, short story on keeping Lent

What does it mean for us twenty-first century Christians to “keep Lent”? the pastor asked his congregation this rhetorical question in a sermon on the first Sunday in Lent.

   There was silence for a few seconds. Then Pastor Jacob continued with the rest of his sermon on “What do you give up or take on for Lent?”

   After the service, shaking hands with his parishioners there wasn’t a word spoken to Pastor Jacob about his sermon. He wondered whether his message made any difference. He wondered if he made any difference. What was God up to in his life and in the life of the members of this congregation, Resurrection Lutheran Church? Sunday after Sunday the same response, the same soul-wrenching questions. Were there ever going to be any answers? he wondered. The more he looked and longed for, the less he saw any signs of resurrection in himself or his parishioners.

   Then, one day while preparing yet another sermon for Sunday, there was a knock on his office door. He opened it. In front of him stood a homeless drunk whom he had seen in church before.

   The drunk surprised him when he blurted out, “Pastor, I would like to take on something for Lent, can you baptize me?”

   They sat down and chatted further, they agreed to go ahead with the baptism next Sunday, even though Resurrection Lutheran frowned on such a practice during Lent.

   Next Sunday Bjorn Egan was baptized much to the surprise and dismay of many parishioners. Pastor Jacob wondered what was going to happen next. Was that the last he would see of Bjorn Egan?

   The days passed by quickly and as the pastor began the Sunday service, he was shocked and delighted to see Bjorn Egan and a dozen or so other street people sitting in the two back pews.

   Of course the congregation glared at them as if to say “What are you doing here?”

   After the service when Bjorn Egan shook hands with Pastor Jacob, he asked him: “My friends here were wondering if you would baptize them too?”   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the world wide web

Today, March 12, marks the 25th anniversary of the world wide web. What do you the readers of this post think of the www? Do you think we are better off with it, or would you rather turn back the clock to life before the www?
   One of the main fall-outs of the www I believe is how we gain our information now and how we communicate with others. Before the www, most folks relied on books, magazines, newspapers and libraries for their information. Now a huge number of people look for their information on the www. This is both bane and blessing in the sense that there is far more access to information on the web readily available to the public. Yet, one questions the reliability/credibility of the information out there.
   Another huge issue I think is that the www has caused some negative consequences for how we communicate with others. Many folks become reclusive and are addicted to the www, that is not a healthy thing. I think it can and sometimes sadly does have very adverse consequences for husband-wife and parent-child relationships. When folks are in public places, more often than not, you see them obsessed with their i-phones or smartphones and NOT communicating with others in their midst. Even when you manage to involve them in a conversation, they still keep their device out and keep checking it obsessively, which I think is just plain rude and disrespectful of the person that is trying to converse with them. 
   On the national and global level, of course there are also still some very serious issues like, for example, privacy, security, cyber-bullying, identity theft, and more. For an interesting reflection on the www, I encourage you to watch the video below by Tim Berners-Lee the purported founder of the www, and then tell me what you think by leaving a comment.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

At the Concert Hall

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Recently my wife and I attended a Jesse Cook concert. He is, by now, a world renowned guitarist. We enjoyed the concert and, judging from the resounding standing ovations in the concert hall, so did the other members of the audience.  He definitely has the ability to encourage an audience to participate, in this respect he reminds me a bit of the old classic folk musician, Pete Seeger.
   Cook seems to have been influenced and inspired by world, jazz, Spanish, and Middle Eastern traditions. If you're not familiar with Jesse Cook, visit his website here to find out more, view a video, and discover where he is touring-perhaps in your city. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ask the pastor

What does the word shrove mean, and why are pancakes served on Shrove Tuesday?

The word shrove comes from another related word, shrive, which means to confess one’s sins and receive absolution or to hear
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confession of sins and give absolution. Dating back at least to the Middle Ages, Shrove Tuesday confession and absolution prepared the faithful for the season of Lent, which begins the next day, on Ash Wednesday. Martin Luther however in his Small Catechism, exhorts the baptized to drown the sinful Adam and Eve in us by a daily sorrow and repentance, in order that the new person may rise up, cleansed and righteous.

The serving of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday also most likely dates back to medieval times; some even refer to it as Pancake Tuesday. The practice of serving and eating pancakes is related to dietary restrictions and fasting during the Lenten season. Diary products and fat foods were all gathered up and prepared to consume on Shrove Tuesday to clean the household of these foods for Lent. In some traditions, Shrove Tuesday then became the last day to indulge in worldly carnal pleasures prior to the austerity of Lent—hence the celebration of Mardi Gras carnivals, parades and parties.