Monthly Archives: July 2015

Of Planets and Moons

keplerOf Planets and Moons

When the discovery of the planet Kepler 452-b, a close cousin to earth, was made last week, one headline read, “Earth 2.0: Bad News for God.”[i] I get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. Religion and astronomy have had a complicated relationship over the years.

Celestial bodies have been both deified and demonized. While ancient Egyptian cultures worshipped the sun god Ra, ancient Aztec cultures feared Tezcatlipoca who ruled the night sky.

Greek philosopher Anaxagoras (~510-428 BCE) has the distinction of being the first person in recorded history to be arrested by religious authorities for “impiety” for declaring that the sun was not a god but a fiery stone.

As scientific study advanced in the Middle Ages, more scientists found themselves at odds with religious bodies. Galileo Galilei was tried and found guilty of heresy by none other than the Roman Inquisition for his insistence that the earth revolves around the sun. Biblical passages such as Psalm 93:1 (“The Lord…has established the world; it shall never be moved.”) and Ecclesiastes 1:5 (“The sun rises and the sun goes down…”) were used to “prove” Galileo’s error.

So the author’s position that discovery of a new inhabitable planet, and the indication that there may be billions of others, means the end of belief in God is perhaps understandable if one believes (as many have over the years) that the Bible is meant to be read as history or as science.

I don’t read the Bible as a book of history or science. I read the Bible as a book of faith. It’s about God and God’s desire for relationship with God’s people and the cosmos (billions of planets or not). The Bible depicts a God who delights in all of creation – and I think God delights in these new discoveries of physicists and astronomers.

This has been a banner week for scientists with stunning pictures of Pluto and the discovery of a new planet.

A week like this happens once in a blue moon….and guess what? Today just happens to be a blue moon!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen



Who Do They Say That We Are?

Ford FieldWho Do They Say That We Are?

If we walked around Good Shepherd and asked the neighbors who we are and what we do, what do you think they would say? Who do they say that we are?

This week three of our youth and one leader are in Detroit, as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) youth gathering. They are with 30,000 other Lutherans in the city…and the city has noticed!

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the gathering for me so far has been to read local newspaper articles and social media posts about the event. The residents of Detroit have been impressed by Lutheran youth from across the country who have chosen to give up a week of their summer to come to one of the poorest cities in the nation.

Here’s some of what they have said…this is who they say that we are!:

It feels good to get out and help the community, help people,” (Jeremy) Smith said during a break. Smith and about 10,000 other Lutherans worked across metro Detroit on Thursday in service projects that helped the needy. Another 20,000 will be working on Friday and Saturday. Wearing orange-colored shirts, the Lutherans have been a big presence in downtown Detroit this week, holding nightly gatherings at Ford Field.”[i]


These kids showed up yesterday and wanted to WORK. They wanted to meet residents. Pull weeds. Board homes. They were friendly and happy after hours of working in the hot sun.


The neighborhood looks amazing after just hours. Every neighborhood resident I talked to was overjoyed to see the abandoned lots next to them not look like tire dump sites anymore. Many of them came out and worked alongside the kids or offered tools, lawn mowers and lemonade.[ii]

Hear what our youth did in Detroit on Friday, September 11!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen




[ii] from a social media comment,

Crazy Christians

mother teresaPentecost 6B – Crazy Christians

2 Corinthians 12: 2-10

Mark 6:1-13

July 5, 2015

Today we come to our last section of 2 Corinthians.

As you remember, Paul is writing back to the people in Corinth – in Greece.

After Paul had left Corinth,

other preachers have come to town.

They’re better speakers than Paul;

they’re better looking than Paul;

and the people are also thinking that they’re perhaps closer to God than Paul.

These new preachers have been talking about

miraculous, spiritual experiences.

Paul never talked about any such things!

Well, Paul says, these “super-apostles” can brag

about how spiritual they are all they want.

He says, “I too have had mystical experiences,

I was caught up into paradise

and heard and saw things that no one – not even these super-apostles – has ever seen and heard!”

But Paul says, the Christian life isn’t a competition

to see who has the most miraculous spiritual experience to tell.

The Christian life isn’t lived in these ‘out-of-body’ experiences,

but very much ‘in-body,’ in the flesh,

one-to-one: feeding people, embracing people, connecting with people, touching people.

It’s hard to imagine living a Christian life alone.

The Christian life is one which follows Jesus who became flesh –

God who chose to be “in-body” with people.

Well, Paul’s body changed over time.

Paul says that he was given a “thorn in the flesh.”

Continue reading

“Daddy, I Don’t Want To Be Black Anymore”

boyRon’s son was four years old when he said to him, “Daddy, I don’t want to be black anymore.”

Wow! Ron wasn’t sure how to respond. He was sad. He was angry. He knew he needed to do something.

Ron told me that he decided to change churches. He and his family left the predominantly-white Protestant church they were attending and became members of a historically-black congregation. Ron wanted his young son to have more role models who could show him that he could be proud to be African-American.

It’s hard to talk about racism. Could there be a more shameful insult than to be told one is a racist? It brings to mind images of the KKK and violence of the 1950’s and 60’s. We’d like to think we’re beyond all that.

And in many ways, we have moved beyond all that. It is no longer legal to discriminate on the basis of skin color.

And yet, when the Washington Post reports that 35% of white Americans rate black Americans as more lazy/less hardworking than whites; when 24% of whites report a belief that blacks are less intelligent than whites[i]  ; when police officers use their firearms disproportionately against blacks; when black churches are being burned to the ground; when a young man decides to kill 9 people at a Bible study because they are black; when a four year old boy says, “Daddy, I don’t want to be black anymore…”

When these things are happening around us, we know we have more work to do.

I’d like to hear what you are feeling called to do. I am feeling called to listen, to learn, and to develop relationships.

I am trying to listen to more diverse voices: I’ve started to follow groups such as The Root and the Southern Poverty Law Center as well as various local AME churches on Twitter and Facebook.

I am trying to learn more of the history of black Americans in Alexandria and the United States by visiting the African-American history museum in town and attending events of the March on Washington Film Festival (  later this month.

I am trying to develop relationships with more persons of color. This is a hard one. When I was in college and graduate school I lived and worked with a diverse group of people. Once I began work in the church, I discovered that I have far fewer relationships with people of color. (Yes indeed, today’s church remains largely segregated.) I want to change this. I haven’t quite figured it out how to do it yet, and I’m open to your suggestions – maybe we can work on this together.

I never want to hear of another child saying, “Daddy, I don’t want to be black anymore.”

In Christ,

Pastor Jen