From Pastor Dianne Loufman

The Living Word of God

March 4, 2015

Richard Rohr in his Tuesday daily meditation talks about the Jewish practice of Midrash being the way that Jesus would have interpreted Scripture and suggests we practice the same kind of interpretation.  “Midrash,” he says, “is a way of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, questioning and imagining a multitude of interpretations possible. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader, instead of closing down the possibility of being changed by latching onto one final, closed, and forever certain interpretation.”

 

Rohr continues, “Unlike Christianity's post-Reformation and post-Enlightenment approach to Scripture, midrash does not look for the one and only interpretation. Jewish commentaries on Scripture invariably say, ‘It could mean this, and it could mean that, and let's think about it this way for a while.’”

 

I suppose for some that sounds like a giving-up on truth, but I think it’s in that conversation that the words become the Living Word that grabs hold of us and will not let us go.  When we try to nail down the meaning of a passage in Scripture we deaden it; we lessen its power.    It’s tempting to try to wrestle a passage into what we want it to say rather than let go and let it become the living, uncontrollable, inspiring Word of God that it is.  Could it be that part of why Jesus teaches so often in parables is to keep us from thinking that we’ve arrived; that we’ve understood everything and thereby, are no longer in need of God or no longer in need of studying God’s Word?

 

Rohr speaks of a hierarchy of truths: “Not all truths are created equal, or of equal importance. Something might be true merely on a psychological level or a historical level or a mythological level. For some sad and illogical reason, fundamentalists think the historical level is the "truest" one. ‘Did it really happen just that way?’ That is actually one of the least fruitful levels of meaning.”

 

The Bible studies we have on Sunday mornings at 8:30 am and Wednesday mornings at Lincoln Towers at 11:00 am are more in the Midrash tradition.  We don’t spend much time on factual questions; we don’t want to keep the Word in the past and away from our lives; we wrestle with the Word like Jacob wrestled with the angel; there’s danger in that because if you know the story, Jacob was transformed and renamed.

 

So I invite you to come and risk the Word grabbing hold of you – if you can’t make it those mornings, come on Wednesday evening during Lent.  Or open up your Bible and read it yourselves.

 

Just remember, “If you don't interpret a text with a pre-existing condition of faith and love, your egocentricity, your agenda, and your anger can always be presumed to be in charge, and you will interpret the Bible in whichever way you want.”  Martin Luther said essentially the same thing when he said Scripture was the manger that held Christ, meaning the passages and the way of our reading them should reveal not “a punitive, exclusionary, imperialistic, small or tribal” God but a God of infinite compassion and mercy.

 

--Pastor Dianne

 

(In addition to the above link, Richard Rohr's daily meditation can be found on Facebook.

Winter's Yearning

February 25, 2015

I love the cold and the snow.

 

Is it my Scandinavian roots or my childhood memories of sledding down the hill of our front lawn on my mother’s back? Or maybe it’s the love of change and difference; no San Diego with 365 days of sun and blue sky for me.

 

Or maybe it’s the turning inward that comes with cold and darkness. It seems to make self-reflection (a needed spiritual discipline) easier; and it brings out in us a longing as we yearn for the return of light and warmth, and that experience of longing is also central to a life of faith.

 

We long for the life God intends for us and for God’s world. We long for peace and justice. We long for all to have food and love and companionship and a place to live and a place to work that brings meaning and enough for living.

 

Christina Rossetti describes the yearning for spring this way:

 

I wonder if the sap is stirring yet, 
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate, 
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun 
And crocus fires are kindling one by one: 
Sing, robin, sing; 
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring. 

 

Yearning for spring is a far cry from yearning for justice, but they both take us to a deep place where we can dream and imagine something different.

 

Isn’t that what God’s reign breaking in is about? Enabling us to imagine and see a new and different season – a godly rather than human reality?

 

Yesterday I saw a round of robins hopping on the sidewalk outside my office. What are they doing on this cold, blustery day when the ground is too hard for worms, I thought. But isn’t that how it happens, just when we think we cannot abide another day of winter, signs of spring break in with their promise that winter is not eternal.

 

And so it is in a life of faith just when we are in doubt of this resurrected life Jesus talks about - dubious about the reign of God breaking into this world that we humans seem to run not very well, signs of God’s reign break in, surprising us and reminding us that there is life and hope that come from beyond and that God insists will have the last word.

 

--Pastor Dianne

Invitation to Lent

February 18, 2015

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”

 

These are the words with which we begin a 40 day journey we call Lent. We begin by remembering. 

 

Seems a strange way to begin a journey. Journey seems to call us forward while remembering seems to turn us back.

 

So how do we begin a journey by turning back?

 

Of course, the turning back can be thought of as not in time but as a turning back to God. But if remembering is what it so often seems for us-- a thinking of what used to be, how does the remembering fit into the journeying?

 

Scripture says, Remember not the former things; I think because remembering the former things can stop us from receiving the new things. We can get stuck in the past which I guess means that remembering can stop us from journeying.

 

And yet every Sunday we hear at communion: Do this in remembrance of me. And today we start our Lenten journey with the call: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

 

The theologian Carter Heyward writes about remembering in this way: “to forgive is not to forget but to re-member

what has been dis-membered.”

 

So maybe re-membering that we are dust  and to dust we shall return isn’t just something involving our minds but something involving our whole lives. Maybe re-membering we are dust and to dust we shall return is re-connecting the things that have been disconnected like our past and our future.

 

Where we begin – in God – is the place we are returned to. What does that mean for everything in-between if God connects our beginning to our end?

 

Maybe re-membering during our Lenten journey has very little to do with what we do and a whole lot to do with what God does in the beginning and in the end and in-between on the cross where we are forgiven or in Heyward’s words, re-membered to that from which we have been dis-membered: God and one another and whole selves.

 

Won’t you come and join in this Lenten  journey to the cross where forgiveness happens where God re-members us into Christ’s body.

 

--Pastor Dianne

 

Ash Wednesday service is at 7pm this evening following a 6pm potluck.

Each Wednesday in Lent we will gather for vespers at 7 pm followed by Lenten Adult Education at 7:45. We gather every Sunday in Lent at 10 am to hear Jesus’ call to pick up the cross and to receive the power to do so.

In a box

February 11, 2015

Have you ever felt like someone put you in a box and wouldn’t let you out?

Or maybe we’ve done that to someone else?  Or to a group of people?

We even have a saying that describes that reality – “I’ve got you pegged.”

 

 

Last Wednesday the Bible study group that gathers at Lincoln Towers read chapter 20 in Numbers where Moses and Aaron are told that their lack of faith just evidenced will prevent them from entering the Promised Land.  It took us a long time searching the text to figure out what they had done to bring forth such a harsh response from God.  We actually discovered two things, but I think at root they are the same thing.

 

The Israelites, freed from Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt, whine a lot.  We have read enough of their whiny passages that one of the Bible study attendees said, “Here they go again.”  And much of their whining in chapter 20 is the same as previous times, except this time there is also a true fearful reality.  There is no water where they find themselves, and as we know, we need water to live, and so, this time their complaining is real.  They will die with no water source.  Moses, however, had the people pegged (as did we readers) – “Here they go again – whining because things aren’t how they want them to be.”

 

Thinking in human terms, we would probably side with Moses and say, “Well, they’ve cried wolf one too many times; Moses and Aaron are understandably fed up,” but in divine terms to predetermine who a person or a people is, to allow the past to determine the future is to deny that God can do a new thing – that people can indeed be transformed.

 

Moses not only has stopped listening deeply to the people and their needs, but he also has stopped listening to God.  He’s in a been-there, done-that mode.  Once before God had told him to pick up a rod and strike a rock with it to bring forth water to quench the people’s thirst; Moses presumes he knows the drill and he’s supposed to do the same thing; so, he hits a rock until water gushes forth.  However, God after inviting Moses to pick up a rod, had told him to speak to the rock.

 

As he had decided he had the people pegged, Moses decided he also had God pegged.   The result? what he had decided for others and for God became the truth of his own life.  The future did not open up for Moses in a new way – the past became his present and his future.  I guess that means that when we try to limit and define God and other people we end up limiting and defining ourselves. 

 

God seems harsh in this passage, but actually, God was only speaking aloud the choices Moses had already made. 

 

The story of course, doesn’t end here because we follow a God who continually opens up the future to new life – who sends Jesus and beckons us to follow this one of whom no one can say, “I’ve got you pegged.”  He is always doing a new thing and inviting us to participate in it.

 

So, maybe this Lent we can listen anew to our God and listen afresh to our neighbors and discover what new thing God is doing in our and our neighbors’ midst.

 

On Ash Wednesday there will be a bilingual prayer service at 4:30, followed by a community pot-luck dinner at 6, and a traditional Ash Wednesday worship service at 7.

 

During subsequent Wednesdays in Lent we will have a vespers service at 7 p.

 


--Pastor Dianne

Hope

1-14-15

On Sunday morning on the way to St. Stephen’s, I listened to the end of Public Radio’s Krista Tippet’s “On Being” and heard Parker Palmer read this beautiful meditation on“Hope” by Victoria Safford.  (If you are unable to access the link to hear his reading, I invite you to read it yourself, slowly—maybe even aloud).

 

“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness which creak on shrill and angry hinges, nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of ‘Everything is gonna be all right,’ but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.”

 

Those who attend worship know that I am always inviting us to ask others to tell us their story and risk sharing our own.  We tend to think that these small exchanges are fairly meaningless and innocuous, but as this meditation points out they carry hope – they bear Christ into the world and one another’s lives.  What if we risked ... and witnessed what happens?

 

--Pastor Dianne

Come Celebrate

December 23, 2014

Where he came from and who he was, he showed by what he taught and by the evidence of his life.  He showed that he was the herald, the reconciler, our savior, the Word, a spring of life and peace flooding over the whole face of the earth. Through him, to put it briefly, the universe has already become an ocean of blessings.

 

                                        -Clement of Alexandria-

 

Come, celebrate the incarnation of our God

the Light that enables us to see in the midst of darkness

the ocean of blessings.

 

Wednesday, December 24th at 7pm, 1301 N Broom St.

Making Room

December 10, 2014

I visited today someone who is dying from brain cancer.  We read Psalm 27 and shared communion and she said, “Even out of bad situations, good can come; faith is back in my life.”  I asked her what had drawn her away and she shared what happens to a lot of us – it was easier to sleep in and make a big breakfast.

 

Then she went deeper and shared, “Grace moments used to be far-between; now it’s like I can see them; it’s like a line coming down ending in a pile of grace.”

 

Grave illness, sorrow can do that for us – focus our lens so we can see with greater clarity what was always there – grace -- not far-between but pouring down, rising up all around us.

 

Advent comes at a crazy time of year; and yet, that makes it a perfect time of year.  In the midst of all our busyness of decorating and shopping and holiday partying or in the midst of the loneliness of memories of such times that are no more, Advent calls us to watch, to wait, to prepare the way, to make room for God; I think that’s the same as beckoning us to look for that line coming down that ends in a pile of grace;  it’s not far off, we’re standing in it.

 

--Pastor Dianne

Giving Tuesday

December 3, 2014

My sister called me the other night to ask what I and the three men in my life wanted for Christmas.  It’s really so bizarre, isn’t it?  To yell down the stairs, “What do you want for Christmas?” and when there is an “I don’t know;” or “I don’t need anything,” push for them to come up with something?

 

Even my one son who always has a list, this year, said he didn’t need a thing.  Is this a sign of spiritual growth on our  behalf or a sign of a life too saturated with stuff?

 

My sister had hoped to take advantage of Cyber Monday, but we failed her with our inability to come up with suggestions in time. 

 

And now, as I write this, it’s Giving Tuesday. I seemed to have missed this new day initiated a few years ago by the 92Y in NYC to counterbalance the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday by inviting people to give outside their circle of family and friends to charitable causes.

 

I wonder what my sister would have done if one of her nephews had said, “Tell Aunt Kathy to donate money to my school?”  What if I had asked her to make a donation to LCS or to St. Stephen’s or contribute to the animals we, as a family, buy each year for someone across the world in memory of our other son?  Maybe she could give to the Lutheran Seminary or Family Promise?

 

There is, after all, a difference between saying, “I don’t need anything,” and inviting someone to think about those who do need – an education, an income, meaningful work, a home, some food.

 

And of course,  there is a difference between living this way on Giving Tuesday or during the Christmas season and living this way the rest of the year.  But habits start with a first act as journeys start with a first step. 

 

Maybe I’ll ask Aunt Kathy to give  differently this year.

 

--Pastor Dianne

Planting

November 12, 2014

It is going to drop to 9 degrees in St. Paul this week.

 

I know that because now that my son is attending his first year of college there, I keep track of the weather as though it somehow connects me to him.

 

I've always loved Minnesota -- the snow and the cold. But this weekend, I was grateful for the forgiving Philly weather that allows procrastinating gardeners to delay into November the turning of the earth and the planting of bulbs for the spring.

 

The wind was biting and the earth heavy with the coming of winter and I couldn't find my gardening gloves, but I dug two holes -- one for daffodils and one for tulips. I hope the daffodils aren't in too deep of shade and the tulips in not too deep of depression to get "wet feet." I wonder if I planted them the required 6 inches -- the cold made me hurry.

 

When I worried aloud to my mother about whether I planted them deep enough, she said she didn't know anything about the equinox. She's 99 and deaf; we laughed, and then she, a superior gardener in her day and still directing her son and daughter-in-law in planting her yard, said, "I never worried much about planting bulbs; they always come up."

 

Forgiving weather and forgiving bulbs -- grace notes in the fall that forgotten for the next six months will become grace notes of color in the spring as against the brown earth and death of winter yellows and reds and pinks and purples will burst forth and remind one of the beauty and hope and life.

 

What do you plant in your life to remind you of the same?

 

--Pastor Dianne

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St. Stephen's 

Lutheran Church

To Love, To Invite, To Serve

 

1301 N Broom Street Wilmington, DE 19806

302-652-7623  office@ststeph.org

As a Reconciling in Christ congregation of the ELCA, we believe that the gospel is God's gift to all people, shared unconditionally and without regard to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic or family status, age, physical or mental abilities, outward appearance, or religious affiliation. We seek to live the truth written in Ephesians that Christ breaks down the dividing walls between us and makes us one.

 

© 2019 St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. All rights reserved.

St. Stephen's Lutheran Church

1301 N Broom Street, Wilmington, DE 19806

302-652-7623 office@ststeph.org

 

We are a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Delaware-Maryland Synod.

 

 

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