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Messages - Eileen Smith

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31
Your Turn / Re: Online Worship Resources
« on: March 24, 2020, 07:48:41 PM »
How often should pastors 'take to the airwaves' to communicate with their parishoners?  Until we can join together as one as a congregation in worship - together as one not from our living rooms but side by side in the pew.

Two weeks ago we held our last worship service in who knows how long.  Governor Murphy didn't outright ban religious services but we thought it prudent, especially given the population density of the state, the proximity to NYC, and our own cases rapidly growing. 

We were instructed to tune in to our Facebook page at 10:25 and immediately names started popping up - people announcing their presence.  When the service started (Pastor, organist, and tech guru) I just cried.  The tears were more of joy.  I can't tell you the peace I found not only in the worship service but in seeing my Pastor lead, preach, caring for us in a new way.  I hope pastors understand how intimate the relationship is between pastor and lay member.   You are on the front lines of our highs and our lows.  When my husband died I called 911 but my next call was to my Pastor who was by my side in about 10 minutes.  I realized how important it is to be able to have some type of contact with my pastor and how important it is to have contact with the members of the congregation. 

We have dealt with the lack of the Eucharist and that is paramount in our virtual worship.  But for many laity the relationship of pastor and congregant is, in a sense, sacramental.  By virtue of your ordination and the Call extended a unique relationship is born.  We do long for the Sacrament but we also long for the caring presence of our pastor - one who Christ placed in our midst.

My Pastor knows the past weeks have been difficult and we are in touch often.  Today he asked if i wanted to work on an on-line service using Service of the Word (which is what we decided to use) and the Great Litany for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.  He knows me well.  I enjoyed having something to focus on and I love liturgy.  Then we sadly acknowledged that we should probably start putting together some worship resources for Holy Week and Easter.  It's highly unlikely we can return for some time.  But I pray that God will strengthen him in his ministry to lead us, week after week as I know that not only did it offer me peace but others as well.  And I will pray that God will strengthen the pastors here to the ministry to which you have been called.

Short question but, as always, long answer.

32
Your Turn / Re: Election 2020
« on: February 20, 2020, 01:03:20 PM »
When Biden entered the race it seemed many thought he would end up with the nomination.  The problem (well, one among others) is that he is inconsistent.  He has one good debate followed by a mediocre showing.  I thought he and Warren were the winners last night.  Buttigieg is just too scripted.  Klobuchar had an awful night.  She just couldn't get into the debate.  Bloomberg had a brutal night and if I was a member of his staff I think I'd call in sick today  ;)  But I don't count him out.  He may rise above all of the negative baggage (sexism, anti-racism) if the press doesn't play it up.  He's a scrappy New Yorker, after all.

33
Your Turn / Re: Prayer Requests
« on: February 10, 2020, 01:35:07 PM »
I somehow missed your post.  Please know your daughter-in-law is now on my list of those for whom I pray.  My prayers are with you as well.  It is difficult being a step away from it - a bit like a step away from control as elusive as control really is.  May God strengthen Laurel and all your family.

34
Your Turn / Re: Bishop Munib Younan and the Sunhak Peace Prize
« on: February 10, 2020, 01:32:30 PM »
Bishop Younan has done much to bring peace not only among Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the his area of the Mideast but among Christians bodies as well.  He recognizes that the the Christian population in the cradle of Christianity continues to dwindle in an area where Christians suffer persecution.  Rather than have Lutherans, Catholics, etc. as separate church bodies he has sought to unify -- not to the point of merging -- but to live in the Middle East as one body with a common purpose.  He even worked to get the Orthodox church in the Middle East to move to the Western calendar for festivals, e.g., Easter.   The primary reason was to present a united front of Christians.   I don't pretend to know how God works (even though I see it as my role to help Him when I think appropriate) but if this award affirms the work of Bishop Younan and even work in some way to bring individuals to peace in Jerusalem, I'm not going to question the means by which he received it.  Bishop Younan is a humble man very dedicated to his calling.  I've no doubt he will use this to God's glory.

35
Your Turn / Re: Impeachment Hearings
« on: February 10, 2020, 01:19:25 PM »
A while back Pr. Speckhard said he's never seen anything concrete about President Trump's career racism. This piece from The Atlantic does a nice job collecting examples throughout the decades: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/trump-racism-comments/588067/

BTW, I don't call Trump a racist as a shorthand to call his voters/supporters racist. I call Trump a racist because he is one. I very much doubt anyone on this board who supports him is a racist. Again, I understand that a great number of people who vote for him do so because their conscience is convicted that he is the best person to turn the tide against abortion. My concern is with those who cheerlead him in all things.

M. Staneck
That article is very telling about how deeply and long Donald Trump has been acting in a racist fashion, and how that has gained him the approval of conservatives in the Republican party. He is willing to say and do what more careful Republicans could not bring themselves to say or do.

Peace,
Michael

 New York City natives know first hand that Donald Trump managed his NYC real estate as a racist.  My dad, like many immigrants, eventually owned a few small NYC apartment buildings. He also earned a living painting apartments. Some of his buddies scraped floors, others did plumbing, still others did plumbing. He, like his fellow immigrants, rented to persons regardless of their race.

The fact that the large Trump Real Estate Empire did not rent to persons of color was well known among NYC landlords.

Marie Meyer   

Sadly that was not my family's immigration experience.  My parents, Italian, were denied apartments by both German and Irish landlords.  Only Jewish people would rent to them.  While the building they lived in eventually joined by my sister and me was rather diverse there were many Jewish families and it is with them that my parents built their strongest relationships.  As a result my sister and I can speak a bit of Yiddish!
Might the area you lived have been a factor?  My Dad was part owner of the 40 family Bronx apartment house where I lived until college. Our immediate neighbors were Jewish - the other families on our floor were Italian and Irish. I was often called on to re-light Sabbath calendars for Jewish families throughout the building. The women were my "Tantes," Tante Sarah being a favorite. My parents were often invited to Bar Mitzphas.  "Pop Otten" was also part owner in two other buildings where tenants were of different races, faiths and nationalities. Long story short, "De Bronx" was a great part of America to grow up in during the forties and fifties.  During high school I helped my father with the real estate paper work, something I continued after his death.

NYC, then and now, consisted of several real estate cultures.  At the top were landlords who inherited property or money to start their real estate business.   There was also a sub-culture of immigrants who often lived in the apartment buildings they owned  and did much of the necessary care and maintenance.  "De Bronx" personified the diversity that made America great economically, socially, ethnically and racially.   My parents belonged to the latter group. Although neither were high school graduates, they were able to send all four children to college, two to seminary and one to graduate school as a result of the opportunities this country offered them.

Along the way learned Yiddish and a bit about NYC real estate.



Marie Meyer

I also grew up in the Bronx two blocks north of Fordham Rd. and three down from the Grand Concourse.  It was wonderful!  My parents never complained or held a grudge, they simply told their story, not in such a way that suggested they were entitled to an apartment, rather it was just the way things were.  The neighborhood was eclectic, to say the least.  Our building had 54 apartments.  There were four other apartment buildings on the block, the rest being row houses.  There were a lot of Irish with Our Lady of Refuge rectory and convent across the street and the church around the corner.  (This church now holds the distinction as one of the most unsafe places in the Bronx where drugs are dealt in the pews.)  There were a lot of Jews, some Germans and some Asians.  My grandmother's best friend was from Spain.  There were two black families and my dad was very close to one of the men in those families.  There were very few Italians.  I have to admit that I never sensed any animosity toward Italians.  Much of what I know came from older cousins however a documentary on PBS regarding the Italian immigration experience very strongly supported what my cousins told me.   

I never thought of the word diversity growing up.  It was just there.  We didn't all look alike or speak alike but there was a closeness - a sense of caring that doesn't exist today, at least not in my experience.  I think the mothers knew all the kids on the block and watched out for them.  And while I am not much of an athlete I excelled at Ace, King, Queen!  Always good to meet up with another Bronx girl.

36
Your Turn / Re: Impeachment Hearings
« on: February 09, 2020, 06:46:26 PM »
A while back Pr. Speckhard said he's never seen anything concrete about President Trump's career racism. This piece from The Atlantic does a nice job collecting examples throughout the decades: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/trump-racism-comments/588067/

BTW, I don't call Trump a racist as a shorthand to call his voters/supporters racist. I call Trump a racist because he is one. I very much doubt anyone on this board who supports him is a racist. Again, I understand that a great number of people who vote for him do so because their conscience is convicted that he is the best person to turn the tide against abortion. My concern is with those who cheerlead him in all things.

M. Staneck
That article is very telling about how deeply and long Donald Trump has been acting in a racist fashion, and how that has gained him the approval of conservatives in the Republican party. He is willing to say and do what more careful Republicans could not bring themselves to say or do.

Peace,
Michael

 New York City natives know first hand that Donald Trump managed his NYC real estate as a racist.  My dad, like many immigrants, eventually owned a few small NYC apartment buildings. He also earned a living painting apartments. Some of his buddies scraped floors, others did plumbing, still others did plumbing. He, like his fellow immigrants, rented to persons regardless of their race.

The fact that the large Trump Real Estate Empire did not rent to persons of color was well known among NYC landlords.

Marie Meyer   

Sadly that was not my family's immigration experience.  My parents, Italian, were denied apartments by both German and Irish landlords.  Only Jewish people would rent to them.  While the building they lived in eventually joined by my sister and me was rather diverse there were many Jewish families and it is with them that my parents built their strongest relationships.  As a result my sister and I can speak a bit of Yiddish!

37
Your Turn / Re: Impeachment Hearings
« on: February 06, 2020, 02:36:26 PM »
Pete Buttigieg just tweeted that he cannot wait for President Buttigieg to award Rachel Maddow the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  I don't know if he was joking or not, but I will say this -- I wouldn't be mad.  It's the president's award.  He can give it to whomever he pleases.

For all of Rush Limbaugh's many faults, I don't think he's worse (for various reasons, but mostly being hyper-partisan or generally a bad person.....(cough....Bill Cosby)) than any of these past medal winners:

Barbra Streisand
John Paul Stevens
Bill Cosby
Jesse Jackson
Gloria Steinham
Donald Rumsfeld
Dick Cheney
Strom Thurmond
Edward Kennedy
Bill Clinton
Joe Biden
Tiger Woods

I mean, I'm sure there are a bunch I missed because I don't know who they are.  But I'm not looking at the above list and thinking "it's denigrating that Rush Limbaugh gets to share an award with them."  And I'm also not looking at that list and thinking "those people totally deserve to share an honor with Rosa Parks."

David, your comments are always well-thought out and well-reasoned.  I agree with you somewhat.  Yes, for me personally, there are names above that would not have been my first, second, or even third choice.   Not in defense but in one case, at least, I wonder did we have any idea at all of what Bill Cosby was doing when he wasn't playing everyone's dad.  Makes one wonder if it shouldn't be a posthumous award.  I will admit that my comments are less than two days after this award was given and carry with them an emotional response.  That's one of the problems with our instantaneous communication today and the influence of social media.  It is easier to act on emotion quickly than reason things out.  That said, I still think that this award was given in the same way - an emotional response to a terrible announcement of Limbaugh's cancer diagnosis.  It gives the appearance, which may not be true at all, that this was hastily put together.  Perhaps if it hadn't happened at the SOTU but a bit later on in the President's office it might have mitigated the feelings of those of us who do not agree with the action.  That said, as it is given at the president's prerogative and as I have no intention to run at this point, I'll admit Trump had every right to do this. 

38
Your Turn / Re: Impeachment Hearings
« on: February 06, 2020, 08:15:27 AM »
Pastor Preus writes:
Rush Limbaugh is neither mean, nasty, nor vicious.  He is very funny!

I comment:
I actually listened to him for several years. I thought he would fade away after he no longer had the Clintons to hate. or when he was caught using his housekeeper to get extra opioid pills. Or when his personal life did not match his on-air righteousness.
No, he is not funny. Some folks here have asked that this humble correspondent be banned from this modest forum for whimsical musings nowhere near as mean-spirited as  Limbaugh’s denunciations of specific women, politicians, journalists, and anyone he considered “liberal.” He has spread hatred and division, and shown intentional disregard for honesty and truth.
The late Don Imus was funny. And he lost his radio show and advertisers for a few remarks considerably less offensive than Limbaugh’s years-long nasty ranting.

I first heard Limbaugh during the Obama administration.  He quoted something Obama said and while I don't remember the exact quote or even what it was about I do remember thinking what awful words from Obama.   I then read Obama's remarks.  Yes, the words that Limbaugh accused him of speaking were there but in a completely different context which gave them credence.  It became a game for me.  I would listen to portions of his program and then searched the original text(s) and what I found were comments misconstrued for purposes of creating hate.  I did this for a short time as it was impossible to continue listening to his hate-filled rhetoric.  It is very sad that that someone who used his position on radio to lie, to misconstrue, to put the worst construction on those whom he considered enemies (and he would use that word) be given this distinguished award.  One can only assume it was moved by the announcement of his advanced cancer - that's putting the best construction on it. 

39
Your Turn / Re: What Qualifies as ‘Similar Belief’
« on: February 05, 2020, 08:19:10 AM »
In the story that you shared, Pastor Stoffregen, you wrote that colleagues are going to the Anglican church for ordination.  From your initial post on the subject of this woman:

I was just at a conference where a speaker from the Australian Lutheran Church lamented the fact that she feels called to the ordained ministry, she has been through seminary, she is a CPE supervisor helping to form clergy; but she cannot yet be ordained in the LCA. She does feel victimized by the church that she loves. She speaks out against their practice. Perhaps, like your accusation against me: she is both a victim and an abuser of her church body. While over the years the number of votes for changing the practices have increased, it hasn't reached the 2/3 majority that is necessary. (The last vote was about 60% in favor.) She is not willing, as many of her friends have done, to switch to the Anglican church where she could be ordained.

It would seem her friends are going over to the Anglican church but she is not willing.  Yet she wants to stay in a church where she feels victimized, speaks out against their practice, and is both a victim and an abuser of her church.  There seems to be a path to ordination for her.   It might not be a Lutheran path but it is one other Lutherans have apparently walked.



 

40
Your Turn / Re: What Qualifies as ‘Similar Belief’
« on: February 04, 2020, 06:47:13 PM »
How should I show love towards the lady who spoke at the conference who cannot respond to God's Call in her own church body; or to homosexual friends who are ordained but wished to fall in love and have a lifetime helpmate? How do you show love for these fellow believers?


Do you let your sons smoke in your house?

When he smoked, he voluntarily went outside to smoke. We were known to drive him to the store so he could buy some more.

But he really wanted to smoke in the house.

Nope. He didn't even smoke in his own apartment. He'd go outside. He began smoking when working fast foods, and for a smoking break, employees had to go outdoors. They couldn't smoke in the building.

Now you may be beginning to see how to show love to the Australian Lutheran laywoman.  Or, how she can show love to the Lutheran Church of Australia.


And Rosa Parks should have given up her bus seat to the white passenger.

Why is the ordination of women (or LGBTQ+ for that matter) a political issue, one of human rights to be legislated.  It's a theological matter and every church body has a right to continue practicing the faith which is been their doctrine. if this woman does feel a call to ordained ministry wouldn't it be better to answer that call by going through the process to ordination in another church body?  For a woman to stay in a church that doesn't ordain women when they feel they are receiving a God-given call is a bit like saying, "OK God, but we'll do it my way."   Of course, her way is staying in the church for years as a victim.   A dear friend loved her LCMS congregation and was very active.  She loved the pastor of her youth and to this day speaks of him with love and gratitude.  Yet she had a call to ordained ministry and went into an LCA congregation.  She stayed there for two years before going to seminary going on shut-in calls and helping the pastor in other ways to 'test' that she was meant for this ministry.  It can be very painful to leave one's church but if you are truly feeling God's call that might mean some sacrifice. 

I also don't understand how the church shows love by ordaining someone when it is against their doctrine.  If we don't get what we want is our first reaction, "you don't love me."   If she can't accept that God may be calling her in other ways I'd say the church is probably right in this case.  Even if they voted to ordain women tomorrow, they might wish to show their love for the congregations in their synod rather than place someone who one wonders about fitness to ministry.  I have seen too many congregations ruined because a kindly bishop got involved in the candidacy process with candidates who should never have been placed in a congregation. 

41
Your Turn / Re: Halftime Show
« on: February 04, 2020, 03:04:16 PM »
While I apologize for my earlier rant, I'll stand by it.  It doesn't go directly to the Super Bowl half-time show but rather that women dressing, acting, and speaking in provocative ways in so many arenas has led us to   be inured to this type of behavior, behavior that once may have been unacceptable is now fit to emulate.   As women took on more and more roles in the workplace, in the church, in politics, they - we - acted and dressed in a way so as to be taken seriously - to be listened to, not looked at.  Today it seems young women want it all:  to be looked at and be taken seriously.  It's a difficult balance to maintain.

To the issue of the two performers who 'represent' Latinas may I suggest that this is not a homogeneous population.   Blacks are not homogeneous, Asians are not homogeneous, yes - even old white men aren't homogeneous.  But we tend to lump people into ethnic buckets and then treat them as if they are identical.  Not every Latina was moved to pride by the half-time program.  Our friends from Puerto Rico have two daughters, both teenagers.  They were not happy specifically as they didn't want their daughters to consider that this is appropriate behavior.   

 

42
Your Turn / Re: Halftime Show
« on: February 03, 2020, 05:34:23 PM »
I did not see the half-time show last night, but I looked at snippets this morning after returning from a meeting where both men and women commented on it, some calling it lewd.   Apparently on the morning shows viewers overwhelming denounced the performances.  I'll admit that I was surprised by the reaction.  But the reason that I was surprised is not because I found the show in good taste, rather I was surprised that people didn't see this coming.   

-  We have several local networks that produce two news programs each night.  The male newscasters wear appropriate on-air clothing such as a suit and tie.  The women wear tight dresses, often low cut and/or quite short. 

-  I can only speak for this area of the country, but I am amazed when I drive past a local high school in warmer weather.  Girls barely cover themselves. (And yet the onus is on the hormone-driven young boys to treat the girls with respect.)   In our Wayne schools parents were told that they cannot put in a dress code for girls as it takes away their freedom of choice of clothes (they have one for boys). 

-  In the workplace women often dress inappropriately.  At my former firm a notice had to go out imposing a dress code of sorts.  Television programs - good grief, in family viewing time programs become close to x-rated. 

I'm truly not a prude.  But I'm a woman who worked in an industry that was predominantly male when I started.  One way that I (and others of my generation) gained validation in our work was to look the part.  We dressed as professionals - mostly wearing suits.  We worked hard to be accepted and, yes, wardrobe was a piece of this.  A discussion I've had with women in my age bracket lately is how we helped ease the entry of younger women into areas of the workforce that had been predominantly men and they are tossing away all we worked for by using their sex appeal. 

Again, I'm not a prude but just look around you - look at young girls, look at women in the news, look at women in the workplace, watch a few programs from 8-10.  If you do I think you'll find that these women last night weren't edgy in their performance -- they're just going with the flow.

43
Your Turn / Re: What Qualifies as ‘Similar Belief’
« on: February 01, 2020, 07:36:08 PM »
I'm sorry but this sort of question always seems to trigger my latent paranoia. I don't know if you mean it in this way or not, but all too often this kind of hypothetical posing of an exceptional situation for which exceptional actions are needed leads to questions of if you are willing to set aside your usual rules for those exceptional situations, then those rules cannot be that important and shouldn't you set them aside to facilitate working, discussing, worshipping, exchanging pulpits and preachers, etc. in our everyday interactions? The exception becomes the rule. Which in turn leads some of us to be quite hesitant to bend rules for exceptional circumstances, even hypothetically, since in our experience such reasonableness will come back to bite us and be used as rational to abolish those rules.


To my eye, your post hints at just that eventuality. You go from asking how we should act if our faith were made illegal and we all ended up in prison together, to asking, "Does how we answer that question inform in any way how we approach each other, even in our online interactions, let alone in our ministries as pastors and lay leaders in our respective churches?" Sorry, I don't intend to play those games, walk into your trap, or willingly hand you ammunition to use against me. If I find myself in such an extreme situation, I will then consider how I should act. I do not intend to base my behavior in ordinary circumstances on a doomsday scenario. 


The tragedy of that is that there are situations and circumstances that are so out of the ordinary with needs that are so great that regular rules should be bent. Meeting the immediate need is in some cases more important that following usual rules and procedures. But that does not say that ordinary rules are not important and should not be followed in ordinary situations.


Would you condone cutting off someone's leg? What if that person's circulation is poor and the leg had developed an intractable infection that antibiotics could not stop and which was progressing up the leg and threatening to infect the whole body and kill the person? Would you support cutting off the leg then? So, if amputation can be a reasonable action, why not for an ingrown toenail or athlete's foot? Amputation would certain remove those problems.


We are beset by temptations no matter what we do, or what rules that we follow. Some are tempted to be super picky about rule following and are tempted to put following rules above meeting human need. Others are tempted to be super lax about rules and look for any excuse to forget the rules and do what people might think is nice, no matter the eventual consequences. Sometimes extraordinary situations demand extraordinary actions.


I'm reminded of a passage from the 1966 work, Situation Ethics by Joseph Fletcher. In it he suggested that it could be perfectly moral, admirable even for a psychiatrist to seduce a patient to demonstrate to her that she was a desirable person and help her self esteem. Perhaps such a doctor would have really been acting solely on what he felt was best for his patient, but I doubt that he could convince a medical review board or a jury that there should not be a general rule against doctors seducing patients or that such a rule should not be enforced.


So yes, in such an apocalyptic scenario where all Christians are jailed I may well ignore our differing faith traditions. But I find that no justification for doing so in America of today.

Dan,

Thank you for your response. I know hypothetical extremes don't make for good policy, but I was trying to get at something, clumsily I admit, that bothers me.

I see the instinctive reaction to define ourselves over against some alien "other" all too prevalent. When it happens among Lutheran Christians it's all the more distressing. I grew up in a moderately Muhlenberg style of Lutheran church in Central Pennsylvania. By the time I went to seminary (Gettysburg late 70'-early 80's) I was only becoming aware of the Missouri Synod. (In Lancaster County 52 LCA, 0 ALC, 2 Missouri) My future father in law, an ULCA/LCA mission developer pastor always spoke highly of the Missouri Synod pastors he encountered in New Jersey and the level of cooperation they enjoyed among each other. The LBW was just published with high hopes for greater cooperation. I didn't know about "The Wars" until I went to seminary. Still, those who belonged to Missouri I got to know in those early days confirmed what my father in law experienced himself.

I realize our two churches have both changed. I think those who have prevailed in the ELCA and the Missouri Synod both feel they "won" somehow. But now, coming into the twilight of my career I definitely feel something important has been lost. My ham-handed question was directed towards an appeal to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope we do. That's all.

Kurt Strause

This reflection on the past week doesn't fully  touch your question but I would like to share it with you.  Fourteen years ago my husband's pastor, Fr. Dan, was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.  He fought this disease with years of strong chemotherapy.  In remission for about eight years he developed a new, more aggressive cancer.  He is days, perhaps hours from death.   He does not want to be alone and, as such, his door is always open.  Former parishioners from a parish he served in Paterson, parishioners from his parish here in Wayne, colleagues, and former students visit and sit with him.   An email comes each day to remind us that the doors open at 11 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.   I will admit to you that I've often thought that I wouldn't last one day in his parish.  He is well loved but no one holds back from saying how difficult he is.  I've gone to Mass often with my husband and have never received the Eucharist.  Fr. Dan has never invited me and I wouldn't have put him in an awkward position.  I don't see this as legalism, but doctrine to be respected.  One of the area priests started coming each day at noon to to celebrate the Mass.   The first day Fr. Dan took my hand and invited me to share in this meal.  He apologized that he couldn't ask me to receive in the parish.  He explained that to do so would go against the teaching of the church and just open up too many questions.  I thanked him and responded that I would never have asked and he thanked me.  It may sound simple, but it was a special moment between us.  And so this week we've shared the Eucharist.  I don't see this as his relaxing the faith he was charged to teach on his ordination.  There are times for pastoral discretion and he chose to exercise it at this time.  The visiting priest is aware that I'm a Lutheran.  Although there are usually about 20 or so for Mass I see this as a very intimate moment between Fr. Dan and me.  There will come a time when we will feast together throughout eternity, but as death closes in on him having this time with Fr. Dan in fellowship, Word, and Sacrament has been a gift.

There are circumstances where we can come together as God's people even though our beliefs are anything but similar.

This is a wonderful testimony, Eileen.  We'll keep Fr. Dan in our prayers tomorrow,

Dave Benke

Many thanks, Pastor Benke.  I will call his caregiver now to let him know.  He truly has been humbled by the prayers offered on his behalf.

44
Your Turn / Re: What Qualifies as ‘Similar Belief’
« on: February 01, 2020, 07:21:16 PM »
I'm sorry but this sort of question always seems to trigger my latent paranoia. I don't know if you mean it in this way or not, but all too often this kind of hypothetical posing of an exceptional situation for which exceptional actions are needed leads to questions of if you are willing to set aside your usual rules for those exceptional situations, then those rules cannot be that important and shouldn't you set them aside to facilitate working, discussing, worshipping, exchanging pulpits and preachers, etc. in our everyday interactions? The exception becomes the rule. Which in turn leads some of us to be quite hesitant to bend rules for exceptional circumstances, even hypothetically, since in our experience such reasonableness will come back to bite us and be used as rational to abolish those rules.


To my eye, your post hints at just that eventuality. You go from asking how we should act if our faith were made illegal and we all ended up in prison together, to asking, "Does how we answer that question inform in any way how we approach each other, even in our online interactions, let alone in our ministries as pastors and lay leaders in our respective churches?" Sorry, I don't intend to play those games, walk into your trap, or willingly hand you ammunition to use against me. If I find myself in such an extreme situation, I will then consider how I should act. I do not intend to base my behavior in ordinary circumstances on a doomsday scenario. 


The tragedy of that is that there are situations and circumstances that are so out of the ordinary with needs that are so great that regular rules should be bent. Meeting the immediate need is in some cases more important that following usual rules and procedures. But that does not say that ordinary rules are not important and should not be followed in ordinary situations.


Would you condone cutting off someone's leg? What if that person's circulation is poor and the leg had developed an intractable infection that antibiotics could not stop and which was progressing up the leg and threatening to infect the whole body and kill the person? Would you support cutting off the leg then? So, if amputation can be a reasonable action, why not for an ingrown toenail or athlete's foot? Amputation would certain remove those problems.


We are beset by temptations no matter what we do, or what rules that we follow. Some are tempted to be super picky about rule following and are tempted to put following rules above meeting human need. Others are tempted to be super lax about rules and look for any excuse to forget the rules and do what people might think is nice, no matter the eventual consequences. Sometimes extraordinary situations demand extraordinary actions.


I'm reminded of a passage from the 1966 work, Situation Ethics by Joseph Fletcher. In it he suggested that it could be perfectly moral, admirable even for a psychiatrist to seduce a patient to demonstrate to her that she was a desirable person and help her self esteem. Perhaps such a doctor would have really been acting solely on what he felt was best for his patient, but I doubt that he could convince a medical review board or a jury that there should not be a general rule against doctors seducing patients or that such a rule should not be enforced.


So yes, in such an apocalyptic scenario where all Christians are jailed I may well ignore our differing faith traditions. But I find that no justification for doing so in America of today.

Dan,

Thank you for your response. I know hypothetical extremes don't make for good policy, but I was trying to get at something, clumsily I admit, that bothers me.

I see the instinctive reaction to define ourselves over against some alien "other" all too prevalent. When it happens among Lutheran Christians it's all the more distressing. I grew up in a moderately Muhlenberg style of Lutheran church in Central Pennsylvania. By the time I went to seminary (Gettysburg late 70'-early 80's) I was only becoming aware of the Missouri Synod. (In Lancaster County 52 LCA, 0 ALC, 2 Missouri) My future father in law, an ULCA/LCA mission developer pastor always spoke highly of the Missouri Synod pastors he encountered in New Jersey and the level of cooperation they enjoyed among each other. The LBW was just published with high hopes for greater cooperation. I didn't know about "The Wars" until I went to seminary. Still, those who belonged to Missouri I got to know in those early days confirmed what my father in law experienced himself.

I realize our two churches have both changed. I think those who have prevailed in the ELCA and the Missouri Synod both feel they "won" somehow. But now, coming into the twilight of my career I definitely feel something important has been lost. My ham-handed question was directed towards an appeal to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope we do. That's all.

Kurt Strause

This reflection on the past week doesn't fully  touch your question but I would like to share it with you.  Fourteen years ago my husband's pastor, Fr. Dan, was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.  He fought this disease with years of strong chemotherapy.  In remission for about eight years he developed a new, more aggressive cancer.  He is days, perhaps hours from death.   He does not want to be alone and, as such, his door is always open.  Former parishioners from a parish he served in Paterson, parishioners from his parish here in Wayne, colleagues, and former students visit and sit with him.   An email comes each day to remind us that the doors open at 11 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.   I will admit to you that I've often thought that I wouldn't last one day in his parish.  He is well loved but no one holds back from saying how difficult he is.  I've gone to Mass often with my husband and have never received the Eucharist.  Fr. Dan has never invited me and I wouldn't have put him in an awkward position.  I don't see this as legalism, but doctrine to be respected.  One of the area priests started coming each day at noon to to celebrate the Mass.   The first day Fr. Dan took my hand and invited me to share in this meal.  He apologized that he couldn't ask me to receive in the parish.  He explained that to do so would go against the teaching of the church and just open up too many questions.  I thanked him and responded that I would never have asked and he thanked me.  It may sound simple, but it was a special moment between us.  And so this week we've shared the Eucharist.  I don't see this as his relaxing the faith he was charged to teach on his ordination.  There are times for pastoral discretion and he chose to exercise it at this time.  The visiting priest is aware that I'm a Lutheran.  Although there are usually about 20 or so for Mass I see this as a very intimate moment between Fr. Dan and me.  There will come a time when we will feast together throughout eternity, but as death closes in on him having this time with Fr. Dan in fellowship, Word, and Sacrament has been a gift.

There are circumstances where we can come together as God's people even though our beliefs are anything but similar.

45
Your Turn / Re: Impeachment Hearings
« on: January 31, 2020, 03:39:24 PM »
Trump isn't the first president to be compared to Hitler.  Ronald Reagan shared that comparison as did, more recently, Barak Obama.  I believe it was Mike Huckabee who said that Obama was leading Jews to the oven door (I paraphrase). Often throughout his presidency Obama was compared numerous times to Hitler and those who didn't agree, primarily Democrats, said that conservatives were over-wrought, over-reacting, just couldn't get over Obama's success in the election process.

And now we have Trump - also compared to Hitler.  I would say that those who do so are over-wrought, over-reacting, and we should move along the approval process for a drug to calm down those suffering from TDS.

But this is nothing to laugh about - or joke about.  I've read books about the Holocaust, I've seen documentaries and Hollywood movies, but one day I sat and spoke with a Holocaust survivor.  I still cannot grasp all she shared.  I'm not sure I'd have the strength to doso - to carry those memories into my 90's.  She was from a family of four.  When the Nazis came she was 13 and her brother 8.  He was too young to be useful.  He was shot on the spot.  Her parents lied and said she was 16 or else she would have met the same fate.  Her father was sent to one camp and she and her mother to another - for almost four years.  She watched atrocities such as soldiers raping, killing, and  urging dogs to kill women in the camp.  Her final six months began with a death march to a camp deep within the woods of Germany.  As women faltered, dogs were set on them, dogs trained to kill.  She had absolutely no dignity.  A shift made out of a rough material -- one shift for her entire time in the camp - was issued to her.  In four years she was not allowed to wear any undergarments.  Can you even imagine such evil!  Though she was stripped of so much, physically and emotionally, she survived to share her story - a story that needs to be told, especially now as we have so few survivors. 

To compare Trump or Obama or Reagan to Hitler is simply ignorance - ignorance of history and more importantly ignorance of the suffering of millions of Jews, suffering that we simply cannot fathom.    Evil or any of its synonyms is too merciful a word to use for Hitler.   For those on both sides of the political chasm let us not resort to accusations so vile.   To do so lessens the dignity that we must give to those who suffered at Hitler's hand.  We may not like Trump, some may hate him, but we can give thanks that we do not know what it means to have been a Jew in the 30's and 40's. 

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