I don’t think any of this will be in the newspapers, but I hope I’m wrong. Probably the most unusual man I will ever meet died over the weekend. His name was Otis Woodard. He ran a women’s shelter and food pantry in north St. Louis for decades. In many ways, it seems to me he represented everything that was right in the midst of all the things that are so wrong.
If all (or even a slim majority of) Lutheran churches were like Bethlehem Lutheran Church, I would still be Lutheran. Since they aren’t, I’m not.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself, and made this way too much about me.
Late last week, there was a big boom at the corner of Salisbury and North Florissant in the north St. Louis neighborhood of Hyde Park. It sounded like a truck wreck, but it turned out to be the wall and roof of a 120-year-old sanctuary crashing to the ground. Read more
I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard a journalism professor say, “Don’t ever do something you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.”
It’s worse today. In the 1990s, the news cycle was hours long. Today, with three major cable news channels and the Internet, the news cycle is minutes long, and marching toward real-time.
This morning, I read something in the St. Louis-Post Dispatch that disturbed me greatly. I didn’t say anything about it until I had a chance to confirm with my pastor that it is true.
In the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., Rev. Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, spoke at an interfaith service designed to give comfort to the community. the Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, of which I am a member and a former employee, forced Rev. Morris to apologize. (I will refer to him as Dr. Harrison throughout because he has earned that degree, not because I agree with what he says. It is possible to acknowledge rank while expressing disagreement.)
I heard something really disturbing in church this morning. Something not terribly surprising, I guess, but something that isn’t right. There are kids in that community that aren’t getting enough to eat.
I go to church in Oakville, Mo. Oakville is a sleepy, isolated, upper-middle class suburb along the Mississippi River. On the surface, it’s the picture of affluence: Nice cars, manicured lawns, big houses. But somehow, there are homeless people there. Or people who are having to choose between buying groceries or paying bills, apparently.
If it’s happening in Oakville, it’s happening other places.
Fred “God Hates Everyone But Fred Phelps/Thank God for Dead Soldiers” Phelps and a couple of his family member-followers paid St. Charles a visit today. And I thought of him when I read the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically, Matthew 5:11-12.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Suddenly I think I know what motivates them.
I’ve seen and heard a growing concern over the phenomenon of “Leavers”–young adults who leave Christianity. This month, even Christianity Today is talking about it. That’s not really anything new. Growing up, I heard more times than I could count in confirmation class and theology class that some of us would walk away once we graduated. What’s new is the percentage of those who are leaving, and how few ever come back.
Reasons vary. Sometimes it’s Christian beliefs getting in the way of how we want to live. Sometimes it’s the church hurting us. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. By all rights, I should have been one who left and never came back. The reason is in the article, but I think it’s glossed over. Read more
I’m very sorry to report that when Fred Phelps and a few of his minions were waving their Thank-God-for-dead-soldiers signs at Sgt Jason James McCluskey’s funeral, somebody slashed his tires.
I’m also sorry to report that no shop in town was willing to service Mr. Phelps’ Honda minivan that day.
I’m sorrier still that the Tulsa World printed a photograph of said Honda minivan limping on two tires, with Kansas license plate 550 CUV plainly visible.
Sgt McCluskey died for you too, Mr. Phelps.
Today, the sermon at church was based mostly on Nehemiah 5. Nehemiah 5 talks about the ruinous financial situation of the children of Israel at the time the book was written. Check out Nehemiah 5:4-5.
“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”
In other words, in order to pay their bills, some had resorted to selling their children into slavery. Sadly, some Americans find themselves in that situation today. Or close to it. At least it’s uncommon enough that we’re offended when we hear about it. Read more