Monthly Archives: March 2016

Becoming Fascinating People


Easter – Becoming Fascinating People

Luke 24:1-12

March 27, 2016


Every day on her way to work Nicole

listens to the birds and she is grateful.

Nicole (not her real name but a real person) says it’s her very favorite sound.

She looks forward to it.

For her, the birds sing a song of resurrection.


Nicole remembers all too well a time when she was in a tomb.

There was a time when she was literally locked up –

and she was not allowed to hear the sound of the outdoors.

She couldn’t hear children laughing;

she couldn’t hear the wind blowing;

She couldn’t hear birds singing.


Now free from that tomb,

she listens especially for the sound of the birds on her way to work.

They remind her of this new life she has –

this resurrection.


Easter is sometimes hard to believe…

until you’ve been in that place of darkness.


Easter is sometimes hard to imagine…

unless you’ve been dead and come alive again.


Easter sometimes is hard to understand…

until you realize Easter isn’t necessarily meant to be understood with the head…

it’s meant to be experienced with the heart.

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Lenten Reflection on “There Is a Balm in Gilead”

There Is a Balm in Gilead
Reflection by Corinne Baker

Scripture reading: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

As we’ve just read, the title phrase in this African American spiritual comes from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 8: 22), from Jeremiah’s grieving the destruction of Jerusalem that is to come.

I love the last sentence in the intro to the scripture passage that Pastor Jen wrote:

He experiences what is called “divine suffering” – meaning that his grief is also God’s grief.

Because we know that a slave’s life was filled with suffering and that spirituals were born of this suffering. And in the spiritual, slaves found a comfort they could cling to – a balm, a spiritual medicine – in Jesus Christ, in his selfless sacrifice, in the gospel and the Holy Spirit. And isn’t that the essence of what we as Christians believe? That God sent his only son to know us, to be with us and like us in human form, and yet still sacrifice himself for us.

I was drawn to reflecting on this particular spiritual based on the healing or comforting nature of the title. I was hoping it would help me understand or at least think through something I continue to find odd, amazing, maybe even uncomfortable.

Has anyone seen the movie, 12 Years a Slave?

There were so many moments of disbelief and horror for me in this movie, scene after scene after scene depicting in more clarity than I’d ever painted in my mind’s eye, the incredible cruelty and torment humans can inflict on other humans.

And amidst the scenes of violence, some of which I couldn’t watch, there was another scene of revulsion for me. The scene was of the white slave owner and his family and his slaves at an outdoor worship service on the plantation. Reading the Bible aloud, completely oblivious to the hypocrisy, the sin. I’ve never seen Christian worship as I know it look evil, but this looked evil to me. Continue reading

When The World Calls For Barabbas

Palm-Passion Sunday – When The World Calls For Barabbas

Luke 22:14-23:56

March 20, 2016


Because it was the sabbath,  the  women rested…

that’s how it ends…if you don’t know the rest of the story.


Here we are at the beginning of Holy Week.

Some say when we read the passion narrative –

the story of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion –

preachers shouldn’t preach at all

but let the story proclaim itself.

It’s a powerful story.


He was betrayed by his closest friends..

one turned him in for the sake of some silver;

others were afraid to acknowledge that they even knew him;

and at his trial?

no one – not one of them came to his defense.


Everyone in the crowd shouted “Barrabas!”

Surely one could have said, “How about Jesus of Nazareth?”


How about that man who didn’t want anyone to go hungry,

who touched people no one else wanted to touch;

who ate with people no one else wanted at their table;

who was not afraid of foreigners or women or others people hated;

who reminded us that to be great means to serve others;

and love means caring not just for our friends, but especially for the least of these.


What about him?

What about Jesus of Nazareth?


He’s been killed on a cross…and today his body lies in a borrowed tomb…


Maybe some years it feels okay to stop there.

Maybe sometimes we feel free to go on with our week living in the tension

and pretending like we don’t know the real ending…



But this year I’m not willing to let us sit with Jesus’ body in the tomb –

there’s too much tension already.

This year I need to proclaim loudly that this is not the ending.


The women come back…

They come back in the early dawn…

and they find that the tomb is empty.

The story of Easter is that love wins….love wins in the end.

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She’s All In


Lent 5C – She’s All In

March 13, 2016

John 12:1-8


My dad used to tell a story about his uncle Henry.

Henry had a car – I don’t know what kind of car it was,

but it was a nice car (for the 1950’s anyway)!

Henry spent a lot of time washing and waxing this car.

It was always in perfect shape.


But even if Henry hadn’t spent so much time on it,

it would be in great shape … because Henry never drove it!

It stayed at home.

Sometimes his excuse would be the weather –

he didn’t want to go out in the rain because mud would get on the tires;

he didn’t want to go out in the snow because of the salt on the undercarriage.


If it wasn’t the weather, Henry’s excuse would be the children –

he didn’t want to drive with children in the car

because they might kick the seats and get dirt on them.


And don’t get Henry started on other drivers –

if there was the slightest chance of traffic he wasn’t going to go out –

it was too risky for him –

even on the back roads of New Hampshire in the 1950’s.


Henry had an excuse for everything…

He loved his car,

but everything prevented him from driving it.

His prized possession –

his most expensive purchase –

stayed in the carport, day in and day out. Continue reading

The Unheard Voice from the Ethiopian State

The Unheard voice from the Ethiopian State
The Case of the Oromo

Reflection shared by Good Shepherd’s pastoral intern Wasihun Gutema

The modern Ethiopian Sate was an inception in the late 19th C and built as a modern State through the conquest of Emperor Menlik (1889-1913) who brought the Southern nation and nationalities of Ethiopia in to a centralized country. A complete modern state of Ethiopia was formed with the incorporation of Jimma Abba Jifar, an Oromo province, in 1932 under the newly crowned Emperor Hailie Silassie of Ethiopia culminating the further expansion of the Ethiopian Empire. Following this, the Ethiopian state consolidated its power and became important in the horn of Africa. The country is a country of diverse nations with diverse languages and cultures. The Oromo are one among the many nations and nationalities of Ethiopia.
The Oromo nation predominately inhabits Ethiopia, North Kenya and Somalia which makes the Oromo the single largest group in the entire Horn of Africa. Historical accounts differ over the population census but current Ethiopian Sate Demographic profile puts at 35 million. The people speak Afaan Oromo, a language which is the 4th most widely spoken language in Africa following Hausa, Swahili and Arabic. Continue reading

The Righteous Man Shows Up

Wisdom 2:1a, 12-24 – The Righteous Man Shows Up

Washington National Cathedral Noon Eucharist

March 11, 2015


On Sunday night, I went with our confirmation class – 10 middle schoolers –

to visit Guest House.

Guest House is a residence a couple of blocks from our church in Alexandria,

and we’ve had a good relationship with the women who live there for several years.

The women come to Guest House directly from prison.

They stay for 90 days and in that time they learn to live in community again,

as they find jobs, go back to school,

make amends with family, reconnect with children,

and work on maintain their sobriety – all in 90 days.

I was glad we could listen to some of their stories because

these women are truly remarkable –

they have reached rock bottom

and yet are the most hopeful people I’ve ever talked with.

They know what it is to experience death…

and they don’t want to go back.


In this passage of poetry from the book of Wisdom,

some individuals the author calls “ungodly” individuals

make friends with the figure of death.

They rationalize,

“if you can’t beat him join him” –

so they grovel together in their hopelessness and despair.

They lie in wait for anyone who would dare challenge them –

for anyone who would dare say that death is anything but the end.

Our text for today says, they “lie in wait for the righteous man…

because he is inconvenient to us…

he opposes…” our despair.

Christians have taken this passage to be a reference to Jesus..

Jesus is the righteous man who opposes their despair;

Jesus is the one who claims knowledge of God and calls himself God’s son;

Jesus is the one whose manner of life is unlike others  – whose ways are …well according to those who are speaking – his ways are strange!


What’s so strange about this Jesus?

He refuses to give in to death.

Those who have befriended death and despair aren’t looking for hope –

they’re  looking for someone to agree with them.

Their looking for someone to say to them,

“You’re right…life is messed up and then we die;

Give up.

It’s not worth it.

You’re not worth it.”

The women at Guest House heard similar words most of their lives.

Over and over again they got the message that they weren’t worth it…

that hope wasn’t real;

that the only thing to numb the pain were the drugs they used;

death was the only way out.

But at some point, for all of the women who spoke to us,

the righteous man showed up.

Jesus came to them and told them that he was a child of God –

and they were too.

That there is hope;

That death does not have the last word;

That resurrection and new life are real and possible!


It was strange for them –

their families and former friends tried to take them down again –

tried to take them back to death.

But this community of women at Guest House

all of whom had once experienced death themselves,

kept pointing them back to God who was calling them to life!


Perhaps you are experiencing a kind of death at the moment…

perhaps some hopelessness or despair.

If so, wait for the righteous man…

Jesus will show up for you too.


Celebrating Grace


Lent 4C – Celebrating Grace

March 6, 2016

Psalm 32

Luke 15:1-3; 11b-32


Psalm 32 says “Be happy – you’re forgiven!”


A friend of mine has a blog she calls the “Happy Lutheran.”

At first I thought the title was a little unusual….

I mean if I were to describe Lutherans –

I’m not sure the first word which comes to mind would be “happy.”


Maybe the “Thoughtful Lutheran,”

or the “Caring Lutheran,”

or the “Bold Lutheran,”…but the “Happy Lutheran?”

Frankly, we Lutherans (and perhaps church people in general)

can be a little suspicious of too much happy…

especially in Lent.


We have a sense that the more something hurts, the better it is for us;

We want to be sure that we (and others!) are really really sorry for our sins;

We profess our faith in God’s grace

and yet at the bottom of hearts we’re often thinking,

“But surely they should change that behavior!”


And so we understand the older brother.

The older brother who is doing all the right things.

The older brother who stays home, works the fields, never having any fun.

…he may have been Lutheran.


I say that tongue in cheek of course.

But one of the many things we can take from this parable,

and one of the things we hear directly in the psalm,

is “Be Happy!”

Happy are those whose sin is forgiven!

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,

and shout for joy!

(Even in Lent!)

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