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Topics - James_Gale

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Your Turn / A Bit of Hope in the Middle East
« on: August 13, 2020, 01:08:59 PM »
Particularly in this year, any good news is worthy of note and at least cautious celebration.  As I'm sure you've all read, Israel and the UAE have agreed to the full normalization of relations.  Israel has agreed to suspend annexations in the disputed territories.  The UAE will help Israel reach normalization agreements with other Arab states.  President Trump and the US government played a role in negotiations. 


The agreement among Israel, the UAE, and the US is being called the Abraham Accord.


We all know that the landscape is littered with failed efforts toward peace in the Middle East.  Let's pray that the Abraham Accord proves to be a durable step in the right direction.

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Your Turn / BeirutóMass Interrupted
« on: August 04, 2020, 09:59:59 PM »
Iím sure that the people of Beirut are in our prayers. For those who havenít seen it, here is a video of mass being said when the explosion came. The priest carries on through the first rumblings. But then bits of the ceiling start to fall:  link.


The priest reportedly is safe.

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Your Turn / Hagia Sophia--A Mosque Once More
« on: July 11, 2020, 11:00:52 PM »
I'm sure that you all have read that Turkey has declared that Hagia Sophia is a mosque once again, after having served as a museum since Attaturk's time.


According to press accounts, the Turkish government considers this is "a milestone in Turkey's rebirth as a powerful, Muslim nation after a century of misguided efforts to imitate the Christian West."  President Erdogan said that "the revival of Hagia Sophia is the harbinger of freedom of Al-Aqsa and the footsteps of Muslims emerging from the era of interregnum." 


Many have expressed dismay, starting with the Greek government.  The WCC and EU also have condemned the move.  I doubt that any of that will matter.


This will obviously not engender an era of good feeling in a region that for two-thousand years has been at the crossroad of cultures and religious practice.

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Your Turn / Two Supreme Court Rulings Regarding Religious Liberty
« on: July 08, 2020, 11:42:41 AM »
I haven't had time to digest the two opinions yet.  But the Supreme Court handed down two decisions today bolstering religious freedom.  One involved an exemption to an ACA-related mandate that employers include contraception coverage in their health insurance plans.  Little Sisters of the Poor v. PennsylvaniaThe other clarifies the scope of the ministerial exception to employment discrimination laws.  Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru


The first of these appears to be subject to further litigation over whether the federal government followed the Administrative Procedures Act when creating the exemption claimed by the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The second seems to be a pretty clear win for religious freedom, solidifying (and extending?) the holding in Hosanna-Tabor.

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Your Turn / Online Communion: NALC Bishop Selbo Weighs In
« on: April 07, 2020, 06:03:26 PM »

Bishop Selbo today sent a letter to all NALC pastors regarding virtual communion.  You can read it here.


Here is the crux of Bishop Selbo's letter:

For the sake of the unity of the North American Lutheran Church and the greater Church catholic, for the purpose of allowing our own NALC Ministerium the time to think and pray through the implications, pro and con, of this significant change in practice, and for the greater purpose of ensuring that our witness to the world of the saving power of Jesus Christ, offered to us through His cross and in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, is not divided, I request that we place a moratorium on the virtual sharing of the Lordís Supper, until we have allowed ourselves sufficient time to come to a thoughtful and prayerful and collective understanding around such an important and significant question.

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Your Turn / Advent/Christmas Services
« on: December 03, 2018, 02:49:38 PM »
In the upper midwest, the ELCA colleges (and some others) held their annual Christmas services this past weekend.  I am an alumnus of Gustavus Adolphus College and attended Christmas in Christ Chapel there (as about seven inches of snow fell outside).  A heavily edited version will be shown on public television as part of the Christmas rotation.  It will be nice, but the thematic elements likely will be lost or blurred.  C in CC almost always starts with a bit of the brokenness into which Christ came and comes. 


In any event, here's the whole thing.  I'm biased, but I think that it was beautiful, aesthetically and theologically.  Nothing should offend the theological sensibilities (at least much) of anyone here.   Enjoy if you'd like.  Here's a link to the program, if you'd like to follow along.


A couple of comments.  Christmas in Christ Chapel always ends with the congregation singling the same arrangement of O Come All Ye Faithful.  It's a rousing end, which elicits strong emotions from choir members and congregants in part because it links us across time.  Also, the director of the top choir (in the top left on the risers), Greg Aune, is retiring after this academic year.  Brandon Dean, who now directs the large Chapel Choir, will take over.  He sang at Luther College under the legendary Weston Noble. 

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Your Turn / The Rev. Don McCoid Named Interim Bishop of MNYS
« on: February 11, 2018, 01:58:31 AM »
According to the Metro New York Synod web site, Bishop McCoid will lead the synod on an interim basis. This strikes me as a very good choice, all things considered.

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The Supreme Court today granted certiorari in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case involving a baker who objected on religious and free-speech grounds to preparing a cake for a same-sex wedding.

The issue:

"Whether applying Colorado's public accommodations law to compel the petitioner to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment."
The Court will hear the case in the term starting in October.  Here's a link to the current docket sheet, which includes links to the briefs filed in conjunction with the petitioner's request for certiorari.

This will be fun.  My very early guess is that the bakers will win this case.  We'll know by this time next year!

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Your Turn / Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer
« on: June 26, 2017, 10:22:30 AM »
Here's the Supreme Court's opinion.  I haven't read it yet.  But by a 6-3/7-2 vote, Trinity Lutheran won.  Bottom line:  "The Departmentís policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status."

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Your Turn / Pr. Johnson's FL Reflections On Holy Land Visit
« on: March 18, 2017, 05:26:36 PM »
I enjoyed Pr. Johnson's reflections on his Holy Land trip.  It all rings true and familiar to me.


I figured I'd toss in a few of my own random reflections, which may be of interest.  Or not.


First, I have driven all over Israel, the West Back, the Golan Heights, and Jordan.  I've walked the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth, and Amman at all hours.  I have never felt unsafe.  On the contrary, I generally felt much more safe than I would in some areas of Washington (where I live).


Second, outside the chapel on the Mount of the Beatitudes stands a fountain with a plaque quoting from John, "Let anyone who thirst [sic] come to me and drink . . . ."  Next to the plaque was a handwritten sign warning, "Attention Water Not Potable."  I had to laugh.


Third, after visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, I attached myself to a couple of graduate students who were on break.  One was an American woman of east-Asian descent.  The other was an English man from Manchester, England.  They were planning to walk to the refugee area on the edge of Bethlehem.  The wall runs right along the area.  The painting on the wall was interesting and moving.  As the three of us walked back toward the center of town to catch the bus back to Jerusalem, we were stopped by a couple of Palestinian soldiers/officers.  They were probably not yet 20.  They asked us for our names and where we were from.  The young English man said that his name was Bilal, which also was one of the officer's names.  That officer's name also was Bilal.  He said to the Englishman, "You and I are both the same.  Both Palestinian."  The Englishman insisted that while his parents had been from Palestine, he himself was English, not Palestinian.  He was remarkably insistent.  I still don't know quite what to make of that.  But I found it interesting.


Fourth, Pr. Johnson mentioned a spot on the Golan Heights where you see silhouettes of military men.  I suspect that he was writing of Mt. Bental, which was an important site in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Just 60 km from Damascus, the view from the top is beautiful.  But gazing across the border into Syria, you can't help but think about what's going on there.  When I visiting in 2013, a group of Palestinian school girls were there.  As I sat looking over the landscape, these girls approached and offered me some of the snacks that they had brought along (mostly cheese wrapped in grape leaves and topped with olive oil).  I said "thank you" in Arabic.  They giggled and asked me questions in English.   


Fifth, in Nazareth, a couple old Palestinian Christians told me that they had long resented the Jews and the Israeli government.  But their perspective has changed as they feel squeezed out by their Muslim neighbors.  We all bring our own preconceptions to these conversations.  But as when traveling through the Balkans or Northern Ireland, I always try to keep my mouth shut and to listen.  Opinions such as this might sound harsh or bigoted.  But they don't arise in isolation.  We humans are tribal to a fault and are always able to find reasons to dislike the people who belong to a different tribe.

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Your Turn / FL Article -- "He was a sinner"
« on: May 10, 2016, 03:07:58 PM »
The May 2016 Forum Letter arrived in my mailbox today.  As I read Pr. Johnson's lead article, I thought about this part of the ritual used to mark the death of Habsburg emperors and high-ranking princes.  This ritual played out (for the last time?) in 2011 upon the death at 98 of Otto von Habsburg, the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary.  Much of the ritual surrounding the funeral very much focuses on the life and achievement of the deceased.  However, this ritual at a Capuchin Church in Vienna, has a different emphasis.


The person at the head of the procession knocks on the door three times.  Each time, the senior Capuchin asks, "who seeks entry"?  The person at the head of the procession first lists Prince Otto's many royal and aristocratic titles.  The old Capuchin responds, "We do not know him."  He does not open the church door.  The second time, the person at the head of the procession lists Citizen Otto's many impressive achievements and offices.  (He very much supported democracy and Austria's lead role in what is now the European Union.)  Again, the old Capuchin says, "We do not know him."  The church door remains closed.  The third time, the person leading the procession answers the question -- "Who seeks entry?" -- by saying "Otto, a mortal, sinful man."  With that, the Capuchin leader bids the party to enter into the church.


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Your Turn / Surviving Abortion
« on: April 23, 2016, 07:19:33 PM »
People who favor legal abortion seem to either (i) regard an unborn child as irrelevant to an absolute "right" of a woman to control her own body or (ii) delude themselves into thinking that the child is little more than a sub-human blob.  The few people who survive abortions provide a powerful witness that makes the "pro-choice" presumptions hard to maintain.  I find this young man's witness very hard to ignore.  If more targets of abortion were able to speak for themselves, it's hard to see how abortion "rights" could endure.  The linked video is well worth your time.

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Your Turn / Funeral Planning -- Sympathy For Pastors
« on: April 20, 2016, 12:07:04 PM »
I'm sure that you all get unbelievably odd requests relating to funerals (or weddings, etc.).  But this seems wrong on so many levels.

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Your Turn / Pope Emeritus On Justification And Faith
« on: March 18, 2016, 11:03:53 AM »
I ran across this article, which includes the transcript of an interview from last October with Pope Emeritus Benedict "on issues of justification and faith."  I thought that some of you might be interested.

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