Now that Easter is over

April 10, 2012

“Now that Easter is over…”  was the tag line in a department store advertisement several years ago.  Is Easter really over?  Yes, the trumpets are put away.  We will see a lot fewer  worshipers next Sunday.  The lilies are already starting to lose their blooms.  At our house the Easter visitors from South Dakota have gone home and it’s very quiet again. The dyed eggs are still in the refrigerator and a little of the candy is still around.  The toys are still a bit scattered.  The laundry needs doing. 

Is Easter really over?  Is it all back to ho-um, daily life?  The preacher I heard on Sunday reminded us that Easter is not so much about the life to come or even about an event 2000 years ago as it is about here and now.  Easter is God’s “yes” to life here and now.  Jesus continues to live in us as we join God in God’s work in the world.  Easter continues as God’s “yes” frees us from the power of sin and death to live the abundant life God wants for us.

Let today be an Easter day, and tomorrow too.  Alleluia!

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Dr. Bersagel Braley

March 26, 2012

Our son-in-law, Matthew Bersagel Braley, has finished and defended his doctoral Thesis recently and expects to receive his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  We are excited for him and proud of his hard work in putting this dissertation together.  He has faced many life changing experiences over the years he has written this piece of original research. He has needed to work with and around those experiences. We admire his tenacity and his work ethic.  Congratulations to Matthew.

Dr. Bersagel Braley’s area of study includes the intersection of society and ethics.  He is currently a professor at Viterbo University in La Crosse.  He is the co-ordinator of their Servant Leadership Master’s program.  He also teaches ethics and values courses to undergraduates.  Sometimes we think of professors having “cushy” jobs.  we’ve enjoyed talking with him about the role of professors and what that all means in terms of time and commitments.  University politics isn’t always easy to navigate either.

A shout out also goes to our daughter, Kari, who worked full -time during the first years of this process and now has worked full-time at home with their two children, Nora and Matea, to give Matthew time to complete his work.  We congratulate her on a job well done.  I’m sure that her encouragement and support have played an important role in Matthew’s achieving this degree.

Congratulations to them both!

Bible Verses

March 19, 2012

Last Sunday we were privileged to attend the installation of a young pastor in a congregation.  I had served as supply preacher in the congregation for several Sundays.  The Bishop was there to preach and to install.

The readings for the day included two of my favorite Bible Verses.  John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes on him might not perish but receive eternal life.”   The other was from Ephesians 2:8.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God–not because of works, lest anyone should boast.”

At the welcome dinner afterward, I sat across from the Bishop.  He said, “Why is it that we get two great verses like that on the same Sunday?”

They are great verses.  They provide both comfort and challenge.  Comfort because they remind that God loves “the world.”  Not just believers.  Not just do-gooders, but the world.  The imperfect, sinning, cantankerous world in which we live.  God is in that world and God loves that world.  At the very least that means that God loves me who is a part of “the world.”  And this is a gift to the world.  Nothing we can do to earn that love of God.  Nothing we can believe to presume upon that love of God.  Nothing.  Eternal life is heaven to be sure, but it is also the full and abundant life God wants for us here and now.

Living that life isn’t easy.  We often succumb to the attempts to justify ourselves, prove ourselves.  But in the end it is God who justifies and who approves.

But it doesn’t stop there.  God saves us “for…”  Both the midweek Lenten service I attended and the Sunday sermon reminded me of that.  Annie Lamott likes to say, “God meets us where we are….but doesn’t leave us there.”  We are saved for those good works done in God’s name.  We are saved for that right living in God’s name.  We are saved for love for God and neighbor.  I John reminds us “We love because God first loved us.”

For me, these Bible verses are at the heart of what I believe.  My challenge is to live out of that heart.

Thanks to the readers who are still checking in on this blog.  I’m hoping to get back to a weekly posting.  May these days be days of preparation for your celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

News and Views

February 3, 2012

News

To those few souls who have continued to check the blog, my apologies for neglecting it and my thanks for your continued interest.  I’d promise to do better, but….

January was a busy month.  I had the chance to babysit for my youngest grandchild for a couple of hours three days a week while her mother took some yoga sessions.  It’s marvelous to have the chance to watch a little one develop.  So much changes in these first couple of years.  She has become a little person and is a joy (as is her sister by the way)

Our family wasn’t together for Christmas but happened to have the chance for a gathering over the long King  weekend.  It’s great to have everyone together and to just celebrate family ties.  A lovely and loving group of people.

In my retirement I’ve been able to choose where I continue to be involved in the life of the church.  I’ve been a supply preacher for a pastor who’s spending a couple of weeks where it’s warm, led a couple of Bible Studies, work with a group of 7th grade boys in a confirmation program, and will fill in in February  in a series of nursing home services for another pastor who is someplace warm.  (It’s a good thing it’s been warm here too, or I would have been jealous of them.)  It’s enough.

Mary Jo and I have joined the Choral Union Choir at UWL and will sing Mozaart’s Requiem in May.  It’s fun to be back in that choir situation. We sang together in a college choir so it’s a trip down memory lane for us.  The choir has about a hundred voices and a pretty good sound even though many of us are older.

Mary Jo keeps her teaching schedule.  That work still is fulfilling for her as she helps children learn not only music skills but also life skills.  It would be easy in the current political climate for the teaching profession to feel devalued.  Despite those feelings she and the others at her school continue to help children become the persons they were meant to be.  Hurray for teachers.

We miss our time and the folks at Our Savior’s, but God is using us yet in some interesting ways.  We give thanks for that.

Views

We’re reading from the Gospel of Mark on the Sundays of 2012.  It’s year B in the lectionary.  Each time I preach, I look at the reading from the viewpoint of Mark who sees the power of God loose in the world in Jesus and especially in Jesus words that transform.  People notice that Jesus word’s have power.  (“Even the unclean spirits obey him!!!”)   We’ll see Jesus use that word power over evil, disease, nature, even death. 

The words of Jesus are still powerful for us. We listen to these words Jesus speaks.  We discover they are for us too.  Evil doesn’t have final control in our lives.  Disease is not the last word to us.  Even death cannot silence Jesus word of healing and help and hope.  God is loose in the world even now.  The world isn’t descending into chaos, but God is at work redeeming the world, transforming lives, making people whole.  We go with God as we join God in breaking down walls, offering help and hope, and letting the power of God work through us.  Praise God!!!

 

 

A Blessed Christmas to all!!

December 21, 2011

Life Changes.  A baby is born.  Life changed for Mary and Joseph.  Jesus  is born and life changes for everyone. We are not alone.  God is with us.  Emmanuel. 

Life changes for us too.  We welcomed a new grandson, Liam Andreas last December  19th.  Unfortunately he suffered a severe brain injury during birth and died after 9 weeks. Along with his parents, Ahna and Oren, and our whole family, we continue to grieve his loss.  

Life changes.  We also welcomed a new granddaughter last December .  Matea Elizabeth joined Kari and Matthew’s family on the 7th. They live in La Crosse.  She joins our four other grandchildren:  Johnathan and Isaac (Kjerstin and Jamie’s boys) and Nora and Ezra.  You can see they enjoy being together.

Life changes. Dave’s mother passed away in July, three days after her 99th birthday.  We were blessed to have shared her life.  We grieve our loss and commend her to God’s new life. She’s pictured with Matea on Matea’s baptism in April..

Life changes.  On February 28th we retired from Our Savior’s Church after 23 years..  We’ve moved to Onalaska, Wisconsin.  Mary Jo continues to teach music at Bangor Elementary School, and Dave has  had opportunities to preach in several congregations this summer and fall.  We miss our work and the people at Our Savior’s very much, but we do trust God to continue to walk with us as life changes

 Life changes.  Retirement has meant more time to spend with family and to do a few new things for ourselves.  The picture on the card is at Miller Park, the home of the Brewers.  Along with a trip to Door County this fall, we visited Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

May you know God’s blessings in your own life changes.  Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Thanksgiving

November 28, 2011

We had the joy of spending the thanksgiving holiday with Kjerstin and Jamie and their boys and Kari and Matthew and their girls.  Many of you know how great it is to have family around the table–a table filled with all kinds of good things to eat and too much of it.  It’s very satisfying.  We missed Ahna and Oren, but Oren had to work  Thursday and Friday this year.  Ahna wanted to stay home also as they continue to grieve their loss.

I don’t know if gratitude come naturally or needs to be learned.  We certainly teach our children to say thank you.  We also keep reminding them to speak their thanks as they receive from others.  On the other hand the emotion of thanks does come naturally as we discover that our lives are filled  with the gifts of others.  The greatest lesson  is when we learn that all that we have and all that we are are gifts from God.  What can we do except to turn in thanks to that great giver.

We hope yours has been a good Thanksgiving.  May you live always with an attitude of gratitude.

All Saints’ Sunday

November 5, 2011


As we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday this weekend, we’ll remember two special people in our family.  Pictured above are Dave’s mother, affectionately known as ‘Bestemor,’ and Liam Andreas, son of Ahna and Oren Bersagel-Briese.  One died at the age of 99, the other died at the age of 9 weeks.  Both are missed.  We grieve for both.  Our lives are not the same without them.

They both are saints of God.  In their baptism God claimed them as God’s own and made them saints.  Bestemor lived a long and productive life that had it’s share of sorrows and hardship. In spite of that she frequently said that she was very blessed.  Liam lived a short life that produced an effect on those around him.  He lived courageously even as he always needed the help and support of those around him.  We grieve that we will not know what other good he might have done in the world.  We were blessed by his presence in our lives.

We don’t believe God needed them more than we did.  We do believe that in all circumstances of life that God’s steadfast love doesn’t ever desert those God calls saints.  We believe in the wonder of life now, our call to God’s purposes in the world.  We believe in a life to come when we will gather with them around the throne of the lamb,  We will gather with the angels and archangels and all the host of heaven to praise God.  We believe we practice for that great day as we gather as Christians to worship, to praise and thank the God who makes saints out of 99 year olds and 9 week olds and all of us.

Reformation

October 30, 2011

If you worship at a Lutheran Church this Sunday, it’s likely that you’ll celebrate Reformation.  Yu already know that on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther set in motion a movement to reform the church of his day.  We Lutherans are the inheritors of that movement.

Inheritors do have a gift but with it goes a responsibility.  The church has a responsibility to always be in Reformation and we have that responsibility as possibility as Lutherans.  For me what we inherited was an emphasis on God’s grace, on God’s steadfast love for all people.  God calls to proclaim that grace, God’s love for a world God created and loves dearly.   None of us is excused from that calling of proclamation for God has made us a part of the priesthood of all believers.  Our identity is as saints because God through Jesus says we are holy and as sinners because we live in a broken world.  Sinner saints and saintly sinners.

As inheritors of the Reformation God calls us to love this world God loves dearly.  That world belongs to God and God is always active in it.  We join this God of action in providing for and protecting all that God has made.  It’s a privilege and a duty that God grants to us.

I remember the days when our worship on Reformation Sunday was a reminder that thankfully we weren’t Roman Catholic.  I’m grateful now that our Reformation worship is truly a call to continuing reformation of our lives and our congregations and our world.  Change is the constant for us as the inheritors of the reformation Luther began almost 500 years ago

Happy Reformation celebration!!!

 

Called but not chosen?

October 6, 2011

This blog has been idle for a little while.  I haven’t been preaching in September, so I haven’t paid as much attention to the scripture readings coming up.  I have an assignment later in October, however, so I’m stepping back into the flow of the scriptures we’re all hearing.

Having just read the readings for Sunday, I’m left scratching my head.  The gospel reading in particular is troubling.  Jesus tells a parable about a king who plans a wedding banquet.  When the invitations go out, those invited laugh it off and even kill the delivery workers.  So the king kills them all and has his servants go out in the street and invite everybody in–the good and the bad.  Good news there for us who through Jesus are invited to God’s great feast of joy.  And yet the story concludes with the strange wrath of the king toward someone not suitably dressed.  the conclusion:  Many are called but few are chosen.

The community for which Matthew writes his gospel is a mixed community.  Some are super Christians claiming special gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Matthew sees others as shallow Christians.  For Matthew true faith is lived out in right living.  At the same time he discourages a judgmental attitude toward others.  Judgements about sincere faith are to be left to God in God’s good time.  So the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

We could read this story as a call to invitational evangelism–inviting others into the faith community of which we are a part.  How good a “church member’ they may be, how good a “follower of Jesus” they may be is not up to us to decide, but simply to invite them and let God work in their lives. In the end God will make the judgements.

Listen to the first reading as well.  What good news it is that even God can change God’s mind.  We are constantly creating idols for ourselves, we turn away from God and God would be rid of us.  But Jesus intervenes on our behalf and God changes God’s mind and continues to be our God.  In our baptism God has made us a promise to always be our God.  We trust God not to have a change of mind, a change of heart about that.  But it is Good News to us that God is not just an angry God, but a God of steadfast love.

May you enjoy these days of beauty and let them remind you of God’s great blessings.

Grandparents

September 16, 2011

Ten years ago this week, we became grandparents.  Johnathan Richard Smith gave us this title with his birth.  Since then we have been blessed 5 more times.

What is it to be a grandparent?  We’re still learning.  But what we’ve noticed is that it usually means unconditional love given and received.  It means sitting at t-ball games and football practices as children learn the fundamentals of the game.  It means reading books and more books.  It means watching Toy Story and Cars over and over again.  It means attending dance recitals and musicals and holding your breath as they come on stage.  It means changing diapers with a smile.  It means an occasional overnight guest.  It means interesting conversations and occasional meltdowns.  It means biting your tongue when you don’t agree with parental decisions, and biting your tongue because you weren’t a perfect parent either.  It means an opportunity to watch in a more detached way as a special human being grows and develops and struggles toward maturity and adulthood.  It means dreaming for their futures and worrying for their futures and grieving for those whose future will never be.

Johnathan was born three days after 9/11.  It was a note of hope in the midst of despair.  It was an affirmation of life in the middle of death.  It was a peace in the midst of turmoil.  We’re happy to be here to celebrate him and all our grandchildren.