Monthly Archives: January 2016

Love As A Philosophy of Life


January 31, 2016

1 Corinthians 13:1-13


I’ve preached on this text from 1st Corinthians many times…

but I don’t think ever on a Sunday morning!

After the 23rd psalm,

this is probably the most familiar passage in the Bible

because it’s been heard so often at weddings.


There’s a scene from the movie Wedding Crashers

where Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn

are placing bets on what the reading at the wedding will be.

“20 bucks First Corinthians,” Vaughn says.

Then we hear,

“And now a reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.”


1st Corinthians chapter 13 brings to mind couples,

holding hands, making vows,

and romantic love that they hope will last.


Love is patient; love is kind;

Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant;

Love bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.


Indeed it is a beautiful passage for a wedding…

And I can tell you first hand that it

makes a great cross-stitch for an anniversary gift!


But Paul did not write this letter for a couple in love.

He wrote this letter to the church he had started in Corinth,

which was having a very hard time with love.

Continue reading


We are pastors. We are prophets.


As we begin the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, I’m thinking about prophets.

Not the kind which foretell the future, but the biblical kind – the ones who speak the word of God to the people, calling for justice.

I was with a group of Oromo prophets yesterday. They are pastors (primarily Lutheran) from churches throughout the United States: Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Columbus, OH, and Washington, DC. They came to Washington to speak with the state department about human rights abuses directed against the Oromo majority ethnic group in Ethiopia.

Wasihun Gutema, our pastoral intern, is Oromo and has been sharing some of the frightening things happening to his friends and family in Ethiopia. Over 140 students have been tortured and killed in the past couple of months; journalists have been jailed for voicing dissenting views; and the military has moved into the Oromo villages, setting up a system of control using bribery to encourage neighbors to spy on neighbors.

On the eve of our meeting with the state department, there was much encouragement of each other, but there was also a sober reality: these Oromo pastors speak publicly with some risk to themselves. They expect to experience repercussions. They debated about whether or not to include a visit to the Ethiopian embassy on their travels, knowing that their names will be carefully noted and that their conversation recorded.

But Rev. Dr. Gemechu Olana said, “We are pastors. We are called to be prophets.” They decided to go.

Another prophet near and dear to Good Shepherd set up the meeting at the state department – Rev. Paul Wee. This weekend we will share a blessing with Paul and Rene before they move to Washington State next week.

As many of you know, Paul has been a prophet throughout his ministry. Serving with the Lutheran World Federation, he was a key figure in brokering the Oslo Accords ending civil war in Guatemala. He has also been involved in negotiations for peace and reconciliation in Nigeria and South Africa.

Paul knows as well as anyone the risks prophets take. He was with the six Jesuit priests in San Salvador the week before they were killed in the midst of the civil war in El Salvador. The other night I learned that he was with an Ethiopian pastor in Germany when a bomb intended for the pastor went off too early, missing him, but killing two others.

As he moves his home base to Washington, I am mindful of the ways Paul has called us to one of the cores of ministry. We are pastors. We are prophets.

Thank you.

In Christ,
Pastor Jen

You Are Mine

downtonBaptism of Our Lord

Isaiah 43: 1-7; Luke 3:15-17; 21,22

January 10, 2016


Last Sunday, Downton Abbey began its final season.

For those of you who don’t know the show,

it’s a series set in Britain in the early 20th century.


It follows the lives of the Lord and Lady of the manor

and the parallel lives of their servants.

It’s an upstairs-downstairs kind of a show.


The show has been quite popular,

partly I suppose for the scenery and costuming,

and partly of course for the British accents

(which make any dialog interesting).


But also I think the show is popular because it points out

that there are certain themes of human existence

that all of us have in common, rich and poor.


These universal issues do not necessarily

get easier the more money you have:

so if you didn’t win “Powerball” last night take heart!


They are themes like the pursuit of love;

dealing with family;

and one of the recurring questions

that both upstairs and downstairs questions people have:

“Who am I?”

And especially, “Am I stuck with being the person whom society says I should be?”

Continue reading

Getting Close to Racial Justice


Sometimes I find it hard to commit to a wall calendar for the new year. Do I want nature scenes or puppies? Funny or inspirational? Photographs or drawings? Once I’ve made a decision, I’m stuck with it for 12 months, so I tend to agonize a bit over the choice. (Hence the reason I don’t yet have a tattoo!)

This year there wasn’t a difficult decision.

A couple of weeks ago I received in the mail from the Equal Justice Initiative the gift of a wall calendar. There are photographs, but they’re not the humorous kind. They document the struggles for racial justice in the United States.

The photograph for January is of a group of African Americans standing at river’s edge. The caption reads, “Black church members gathered for a baptism at a river in Columbus, Missouri are required to wait for white church members to complete their baptisms at the same river.”

There is no room to add my own appointments to this calendar. Instead, on each day’s space there is a statement about an episode of racial injustice which happened on that day. For today, January 8, the statement reads, “1811: Largest slave insurrection in U.S. history begins in Louisiana Territory; after their defeat, many of the 500 rebelling slaves are mutilated, decapitated, and burned alive.”

There are no words.

Author, lawyer, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson says that ordinary citizens can confront racial injustice and change the world if they dare to get proximate to the issues – to get close so that we can see and hear what we can’t from a distance – to go to where the suffering is. He reminds us that that’s what Jesus did.

For me, this year, one of the ways I’m getting closer to the issue of racial injustice is to use this wall calendar. The pictures are not cute. They aren’t amusing. But they are honest.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Learning True Worship from the Magi


Sermon by Wasihun Gutema, Pastoral Intern

Matthew 2: 1-12

The event in this Gospel of Matthew was recorded during the time of King Herod, who was the governor of Palestine under the Roman Empire.  Herod ruled Palestine from 37 BC – 4th C BC. Herod was called “King of the Jews,” and ruled ruthlessly.  He was a brutal leader. Church historians dated his death to the 4th C BC. The Magi arrived sometimes before his death. The Magi which are the center of this sermon were from the East.[1]

The term Magi (Magos or Magician) is a reference to a priestly caste in ancient Persia or Babylon.  The Magi were active in religious, scientific and diplomatic activities of their country of origin.  One can understand from this that the Magi were not illiterate people. They had profound education during that time even though we do not have any clue of their educational status.  The Magi were looking for the “king of the Jews.”  Here one can understand that Herod was the “king of the Jews,” and that creates a serious conflict with the Magi who were looking for the “king of the Jews.”[2]

The Magi were not looking for Herod the governor of Palestine. They were not looking for Herod the militarized and well established. They were looking for a different “king of the Jews.” This by itself creates a conflict, for two kings cannot be the governor of a certain place. [3] How can we apply this into our lives? Do we have any king other than Christ? Continue reading