Monthly Archives: October 2014

When A Rocket Fails

antaresWhen A Rocket Fails

It is perhaps a result of the success of the space program that rocket launches these days don’t make much news unless something goes wrong. This week something went wrong. The unmanned Antares rocket was destroyed seconds after its launch from the Wallops Flight Facility.

We’ve gotten accustomed to ‘routine’ launches, but this week’s failed launch reminds us that engineering success and scientific advancement depend on many things.  They depend on risking new things, acknowledging mistakes, learning from errors, sharing information with others, and always, always trying again.

Thomas A. Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”

Some might call the experience death and resurrection.

Who says there’s no connection between science and faith?


The Next Martin Luther?

confirmation classReformation/Confirmation

October 26, 2014

John 8:31-36; Romans 3:19-28; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 46

It was the year 1546 in Eisleben Germany.

Martin Luther preached a sermon that would turn out to be the very last one before he died.

Five people showed up to hear him. That’s it.

Afterwards, Luther wrote to a friend that he feared the reformation was a failure.

Most of us have been afraid of failure at some point in our lives…

Yet I doubt many of us have been afraid of failure in something as big as the Reformation!

…Probably because we haven’t been willing to risk as much as Luther did.

Jesus says to the believers in the gospel of John, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

For Luther, the truth he heard in the gospel set him free indeed! Continue reading

It’s What We Live

percentPentecost 19A: It’s What We Live

Matthew 22:15-22

October 19, 2014

They say that there are a couple of things you really shouldn’t talk about …

a couple of things people find too personal…

a couple of taboo topics in social gatherings, in families, and especially in church.

They are: sex and money.

Yesterday I was at a church workshop about sex.

And today’s gospel reading is about money.

Breaking two taboos in one weekend!

(That’s got to be some kind of a record!)

But here’s something I learned…

the faith message about sex is a lot like the faith message about money.

(And the message isn’t “Don’t have either of them!”)

The message for people of faith is to think of both sex and money

in relationship to our values:

things like respect and joy and love and generosity and delight.

And then recognize that being a Christian – having these values – means something to us.

It affects our behavior.

It affects our behavior around sex.

And it affects our behavior around money.

In fact, the message of the gospel reading today,

is that it affects all parts of our lives.

Continue reading

Whose Fault Is It?

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854.Whose Fault Is It?

An intruder gets into the White House…whose fault is it?

Nurses caring for a patient contract the Ebola virus…whose fault is it?

A sports team gets eliminated from the playoffs…whose fault is it?

A couple files for divorce…whose fault is it?

The coach may be replaced; the director may resign; the CEO may be fired. These actions may make us feel better.  Assigning blame eases anxiety and helps us feel like something is being done.

Yet, in our heart of hearts, we know that one person is rarely at fault. In our humanity we want to think that there is an easy solution to the difficulty – but often it means that because of our desire for a quick resolution another human being takes a fall.

The one who takes the fall is known as the scapegoat.

A scapegoat is an ancient concept. In Leviticus 16:21, the priest places his hands on the head of a goat, thereby transferring the sins of the people onto it, and then the goat is driven out into the wilderness. The goat is the literal ‘scapegoat.’

The concept may be biblical, but biblical stories demonstrate that over and over again God reverses it. In stories such as Cain and Abel, Job, and in the psalms, the victim is innocent and the crowd is guilty.  God’s reversal becomes particularly clear for Christians as we see Godself choosing to be the ultimate scapegoat in Christ.

What does God do in Christ? God substitutes himself for the victim. We don’t have to sacrifice each other to survive. We don’t have to transfer our anxieties on someone else to ease our own. Jesus is the scapecoat, the innocent victim who does not assign blame but rather chooses to forgive.

We don’t need more scapegoats. There’s already been one – Godself.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

If you’d like to read more from philosopher René Girard and theologian James Alison about Jesus as the ultimate scapegoat, start with this article:

Who’s Invited?

invitation-Rfw1wM-xlg-lgPentecost 18A Who’s Invited?

Matthew 22:1-14

October 12, 2014

Have you ever been dressed wrong…I mean really wrong for something?

It was October and our junior choir was having its

yearly Halloween party one Saturday morning.

I was about 9 or 10 years old and was very excited.

I was going to be a clown that year…

I had the best costume

and I was especially proud of my makeup:

white face with a big red nose.

That morning I proudly walked into the choir room…

but discovered to my horror…

that I was a week early.

No one else was in costume!

I ran into the bathroom.

I could take off my costume,

but I couldn’t remove the makeup.

So there I sat, with white face and a big red nose!

To this day, I get a little anxious about parties…

checking the dates and times three or four times!

Continue reading

Born In The Wrong Place

curranBorn in the Wrong Place

Last week, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, noted that the fight against Ebola is a fight against inequality.[i]

The Ebola virus is difficult to treat in the nations of the world where there is the best medical treatment available (as we witnessed this week with the death of Thomas Duncan in Dallas), but for those who happen to live in Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, it is thousands of times worse.

It means arriving to a medical center only to be turned away because there isn’t enough space or staff.

It means entire villages being wiped out from the virus.

It means the dead being left with no one to bury them.

It means not being able to comfort the grieving.

It means the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of economic growth in countries which are already devastatingly poor.

Kim adds, “Thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place.”

The presidents of these three West African countries made a plea for help from the international community yesterday. In speaking to the World Bank, they asked for medicine and food. Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was specific in her requests. She asked for the construction of treatment centers and training of healthcare workers to be completed within a month.

We are called to give assistance not because of the risk the virus brings to us in the United States.

We are called to give assistance because no one is born in the wrong place.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

(Lutheran Disaster Response is serving at Phoebe Hospital and Curran Lutheran Hospital in Liberia, providing protective gear and supplies to medical workers. Consider a gift: (


What More Could I Do?

photo 1 (2)Pentecost 17A What More Could I Do?

Isaiah 5:1-7

Matthew 21:33-46

Every generation has its love songs.

I’m told by our confirmation class that if you’re in love today,

you might want to listen to

“Love Story” by Taylor Swift or

“Stay With Me” by Sam Smith.

In the 1950’s Buddy Holly sang about “Peggy Sue.”

In the 1970’s the Jackson 5 sang, “I’ll be There!”

Mariah Carey sang “Emotions” to those of us coming of age in the 1990’s.

Of course not all love songs have lyrics like Shakespeare…

Apologies to country music fans,

but check out these lyrics from Brad Paisley:

I’d like to see you out in the moonlight,

I’d like to kiss you way back in the sticks,

I’d like to walk you through a field of wildflowers, 
and I’d like to check you for ticks.


Now that’s true love!

Continue reading