“Are you ignorant of what it means to be ignorant?” (LW 33:254) That’s my favorite Lutheran insult. I’ve used it often. It’s wonderful when people look at me after I say that to them and go, “Huh?” *** It all began in Kurt Hendel’s “Theology of Martin Luther” class. Dr. Hendel’s final project had two […]
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When Frank Senn asked me to write an essay on what I appreciate/don’t appreciate about Luther I practically jumped at the chance. Why? Because writing out my answer gave me the chance to share one of my most perplexing observations of Lutherans. For what confuses me about Lutherans is not so much what they appreciate […]
For the last five years, I have been the only Lutheran teaching at my ecumenical seminary. Having taught at a Lutheran seminary prior to coming here, I was surprised by the negative reaction of other Protestants (evangelicals, Disciples of Christ, Reformed, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc.) towards the mention of Luther. This negativity has less to do […]
(with a bit of ersatz theology thrown in for good measure) In the past, centennial celebrations were times for rejoicing and celebration. Quincentennial celebrations were times for over-the-top rejoicing and raucous celebration. For the last few decades, however, these milestones have often been the occasion of less than flattering revisionist historical treatments. Cultural icons and […]
Peace at the Last was birthed out of congregational need and experience in a specific time and place: Lake Chelan Lutheran Church in Chelan, Washington, beginning in 2007. A member said to me “Pastor, it feels like people are coming to us to die!” For a long stretch of time our little congregation was facing […]
Night Comes: Death, Imagination, and the Last Things. By Dale C. Allison, Jr. Eerdmans, 184 pp., $18.00 paperback. What happens to our bodies and souls when we die? Is heaven real? What about hell? Can I be Christian and not believe in an afterlife? Questions about death and the hereafter—or if there is something after—occur […]
The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. By Thomas W. Laqueur. Princeton University Press, 736 pp., $39.95. This is a monumental work of history—the history of an idea as much as the history of a physical thing. In this massive book of 557 pages (not including the extensive notes), historian Thomas […]
After sixteen years of licensure, the funeral director part of my identity is woven deeply into the fabric of my being. Even prior to these career years, I have been around the dead. My birth placed me in a line of five generations of embalmers and funeral directors. Although much of those preceding generations make […]
Over the last two decades, the Green Burial Movement has worked to mend U.S. deathcare ways by advocating for simple dust-to-dust human burial. Rejecting the trio of practices that have come to make up the American Way of Death – chemical embalming, the modern casket, and the burial vault – the movement calls for the […]
Bill was a long-time member of the ELCA congregation I serve as pastor. Prior to pronouncing the benediction at his memorial service, I watched the honor guard play taps and present the flag to Mary, Bill’s widow and second wife. While part of me was – as always – moved by this sight, another part […]
This past summer, I went slightly out of my way to visit Oak Grove Cemetery, near Detroit Lakes, MN. This cemetery is known to my mother’s family as one of the “family” cemeteries. I’m not even sure how many of my relatives are buried there, but it’s a lot. My grandparents are buried there. My […]
This issue of Let’s Talk is about death. As I see it, when it comes to an open discussion of death, which affects us all in a most direct way—in our bodies—we practice avoidance. The church participates in this avoidance by not paying enough attention to the body in our ministries to the dying and […]
The works of Belinda Carlisle were preserved for just this moment: As the credits roll, “Heaven is a Place on Earth” sparkles to life; a sundrenched California is glimpsed in long view; in close-up, a dose of lethal chemicals course through an IV and a coffin descends into the earth, as the consciousness of the […]
In the delicate dance of social interactions, most of us intuitively know the subtle difference between being “welcomed” and being “invited.” Imagine that you show up at someone’s house for a dinner party, bottle of wine in hand. The host greets you at the door with a big smile and invitation to come inside. Everyone […]
This survey was, in part, created and adapted from ideas presented in “Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors” by Jonathan Malm, and from conversations with Brian Zehr, Consultant with Intentional Impact. Download the Is My Church Welcoming? survey in PDF format.