Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Remembering 9/11

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a Sunday in 2011.   I wrote this article for the September 2011 Newsletter.


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ten years ago, Robin was early in her pregnancy with Henry.   I was working in offices at the Port of Elizabeth in New Jersey commuting an hour each way from our home in central New Jersey.   My sister lives in Westfield, New Jersey and commuted to Manhattan daily.   My good friend Michael live and worked in Brooklyn, and his girlfriend Jayne worked sometimes "in the city", that is Manhattan.  Ten years ago, the day started off normally.   After 9/11, it was very different.   I could talk for hours about that day.   I could tell you about the phone call from Robin that told me about what was happening.   I could tell you about running around the warehouse and looking east where I could look over the Hudson River and see the twin towers belching smoke like two factory smokestacks.   I looked again after the first one collapsed, and a heavy could of dust and smoke completely obscured the other.   The skies completely void of any commercial airline traffic were disturbingly eerie.

We finally heard from my sister whose commute had a subway stop underneath the World Trade Center.   When her train had come up on the Manhattan side, the conductor tol them that this train was going no further into the city and was returning to NJ.   She went with it.   At my office, we watched a Spanish-speaking network.   It broadcast from he Empire State Building while the major English-speaking networks could not broadcast sin their towers were at the top of the WTC.   At mid-day, I went home down the Garden State Parkway.   Curiously, there was little traffic heading south.   And except for the occasional fire truck or EMS vehicle, noting at all was heading north to the city.   Everyone living in and around New York City on September 11, 2001 has a story to tell about that day and the way life became afterward. 

There had been a well-publicized story of people trapped on an elevator; they had gotten the door open, but had to dig through ten layers of drywall to break out of the elevator shaft.   For months (years? still?) my sister carried a bottle of water and a Leatherman knife/tool in her bag when she went into the city.   I had business travel to Paris during the whole era of "freedom fries" and the "axis of weasels" as the US began to move the war from Afghanistan to Iraq.  I go off the plan with both fists cocked.   But the Parisians I met were gracious, kind, and proud of their home--one of the most beautiful cities in the world.   Years later in a chaplains' group discussion, a discussion facilitator asked us to raise our hand if we were part of a minority.   My friend of mid-eastern descent raised his hand.  The facilitator asked if that really counted.   My friend replied, "you better believe it did on September 12th."   Ultimately, Robin and I knew no one that died that day, but we knew people who knew someone who died.   And everyone knew someone that knew someone that had been lost. 

An internet bulletin board for ELCA clergy has been batting around "what to do" regarding the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  Some pastors want to talk about our violent world.   Some want to make prayer remembrance liturgies for church that Sunday.   Some want to be critical of American responses.   Some want to talk about forgiveness.   But I think I know what I will do that day.    I will come to church that morning.    That evening I will watch a bunch of programs about 9/11.   And sometime that day, I am going to call my sister.

In Christ's Holy name,
Pastor Lance

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Who dare say they know the will of God?

It's a legit question.   Click HERE to listen.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Of Jerks and Kings

This one was a lot of fun.   If you've been following my Facebook page, we've had some parking lot drama at the church, and it served as a perfect sermon illustration.  Thanks, Holy Spirit!  Listen HERE

Sunday, August 25, 2019


In this story about Jesus healing the bent woman, our place in the story is where Jesus addresses the the woman herself.    There is a blatant Jordan B. Peterson quote in the sermon and I didn't give him credit, but I'm doing so here.   Click HERE to listen.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

There is more than one way to have our sin cling to us...

And when we won't set it down, it keeps our focus in the wrong direction.
Click HERE to listen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Churchwide assembly says we have a Patriarchy problem

Most likely to die in a workplace accident? Men. 
Most likely to suffer substance abuse? Men. 
Most likely to be victim of a violent crime? Men. 
Most like to be incarcerated? Men. 
Lower life expectancy? Men. 
Most likely to drop out of school? Men. 
Most likely to commit suicide? Men. 
Most homeless? Men. 
Most likely to die in war? Men.

Fellas, if this is a patriarchy, we stink at it.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Maybe I was wrong

**Updated to correct typos**

If you read my blogpost titled "Pffft", you know that I said the ELCA CWA decision to declare itself "a sanctuary church body" was basically an exercise in puffery.    In our church's polity, no congregation is bound by one of these statements (called "memorials").   And without binding authority, it basically just ends up being an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for being the right sort of Christian.

But that was before FoxNews chimed in. 

Now, a little background.    A parishioner had come up to me in the narthex Sunday morning.   I wasn't aware of the FoxNews piece, and I do not know if he was.   But he was upset by the decision.  I reiterated my position saying it means "nothing".  He responded, "oh, it means EVERYTHING."  Now he didn't convince me that it was EVERYTHING, but I certainly was convicted.   It didn't mean NOTHING.   It meant something.

On Sunday morning, a FoxNews panel chided the ELCA for its decision to declare itself a "a sanctuary church body".  The panel was one sided, no one from the ELCA was represented, there was obviously no understanding of ELCA polity and there were often points that were just wrong.    I'm not going to offer all the correction.   That's not the point.  But I wondered, since when does FoxNews give a hoot about the ELCA?

By yesterday evening, I was seeing posts circulated by earnest pastors trying to explain what this all meant.    That Lutherans have a long history with refugees.  Etc. Etc.  Etc.   By this afternoon, I saw a local colleague had done the same to his congregation and posted it on Facebook.    In it, he makes very reasoned arguments in a warm pastoral tone and goes through the memorial line by line.   But why was he having to do it at all?

And then the SOMETHING came to be realized.  It's no surprise to anyone that the illegal immigration debate looms large in the USA.  I don't have to go down the list of recent stories that are related to immigration.   But, of course, one of the stories is the ongoing resistance of entire cities to assist ICE in the enforcement of immigration law.  These cities are known as sanctuary cities.   By now you are thinking "Lance, didn't you notice that?"   And, of course, I did.   But that is not the something.    The SOMETHING is that the ELCA had come together on one of the most highly charged national debates and in those three words "sanctuary church body" declared "THIS is the side we are on!" No nuance.   No calls for seeing both sides to an issue.   No respect for varying opinions out in the congregation.  Just BOOM.

Gosh.  Even in the days of the sexuality debates of 2009, the church presented all the sides and said, "okay, yes, we have many differences on these issues, but they don't have to be church dividing." (they were, of course, and the body count from that decision was enormous)  Nevertheless, that was decade ago, nuance mattered.    Apparently it doesn't any longer.  For the progressive ELCA  being "woke" matters.   Being on the "right side of history" matters. 

I keep wondering what it must be like to be Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.   She was re-elected for another 6 year term on the first ballot.   That almost never happens.   She seems even-keeled,  kind of nerdy and certainly not interested in the church as cultural warrior.   Even her first election seemed to promise a calmer ELCA, an ELCA less interested in devouring its own tail.  Six short years later and she has her little church body is getting ravaged on FoxNews.   It's not a job I would want.  She's going to hear it, too.   There's a lot of Trump supporters in those Lutheran heavy states that won him the election.   They are going to be heard.   But wokeness has a terrible side effect, it makes you deaf.