An Unexpected Christmas

Enjoy this amazing telling of the Christmas story from a totally different perspective. It is another wonderful video production by folks from St. Paul’s Church in Auckland, New Zealand.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

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Presiding Bishop Eaton Calls ELCA to Join Dec. 10 Prayer to End Hunger

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sisters and brothers, Advent is a season of hopeful longing. Hope for the coming of the Christ child and longing for the abundant life Christ promised. But we know many in our communities and around the world are hungry. You know this because of the work you do in your communities through your food pantries, and in your community meals. And because of the work we do together through ELCA World Hunger.

This Advent, at the encouragement of our brother Pope Francis, we have been invited to join with all people of faith to pray for the end of hunger. I urge you to pause wherever you find yourself at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 10, and take part in a worldwide wave of prayer. Together, let’s pray that citizens and world leaders will work to find just and equitable solutions to end hunger so no person goes to bed hungry.live streaming film The Lobster

Thank you for taking this moment to pray at noon on Dec. 10, and for the many ways that you take action through your congregation and together in ELCA World Hunger to end hunger in your community and around the world. In this season of hope and anticipation, what a fitting way for us to participate in God’s incarnate love.

Blessed Advent,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
 

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Happy Thanksgiving: The Power of Gratitude

In just a couple days we will celebrate Thanksgiving.  It has always been one of my favorite  holidays.  Our family had the tradition that I suspect many follow where we went around the dining room table before grace and asked each person to name one thing that they were thankful this year.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

There is now scientific proof that people who express thankfulness or gratitude are actually happier.  In fact, you can increase your sense of happiness by expressing opening your gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life.film Life streaming

Watch this seven minute video as it might just change your life.

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A Prayer for Healing

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Being Promised (Christian Theology for a Postmodern World)

Gregory Walter

Gregory Walter

I was asked to read Professor Gregory Walter’s new book Being Promised: Theology, Gift, and Practice. It is part of Eerdmans Publishing Company’s series Sacra Doctrina: Christ Theology for a Postmodern Age.  Professor Walter teaches at St. Olaf College.

This Youtube video below is a short description of his book.

Follow are four questions that I asked Dr. Walter to respond as I read his book.

1) What is the relationship between covenant and promise?  Is the Abrahamic covenant a pure gift (since it had no strings attached) or are there no pure gift covenants?  I see a covenant as a promise but to receive the gift does one have to at least accept the gift?

This is an important question and I think a necessary thing to work on.  A covenant might be thought of as a pure gift but I think the mutualism that a berit implies would end up being more of a reciprocal, archaic sort of gift.  This is the reason I focus on Genesis 18 instead of 15.  The berit God makes with Abraham is far more complex than a promise, though I think that it involves a promise in some way.

A pure gift is nearly defined as a gift that the refusal does not nullify but confirms the gift.  In other words, the reciprocal gift depends upon the three important moments of giving, receiving, and returning.  Since the pure gift is free (or purified of those moments), it does not depend upon reception in order to be a gift.  But there are other requirements that make a gift pure.

A promise can be refused but that does not defeat the promise.  It may invalidate it such that God has no credible name among those who do not trust God’s promise.  Since the promise is a doubled gift, refusal only applies to the first “part” of the promise – the initial pledge or offering of the promise.  If that is rejected that does not mean God no longer can give what is promised but that the one cannot act, live, or delight in that which is promised, that which is anticipated.  As Luther put it in a different way when he wrote that faith creates divinity, this may not mean that God is God only when trusted but that God is God among us when people trust God’s promise.

 2) How could a church use your work on Promise to aid them in outreach/evangelism?  Are we not trying to convey that Jesus is gift and promise?

Being Promised relies on a basic framework of gift-exchange, something that permeates both our lives, the Bible, and the Christian tradition.  It is useful, I think, for understanding what a promise is and how it works within that idea of gifts.  Moreover, I think it is useful for talking about how God acts in a gracious way.  The last two chapters are more practically-oriented, the one toward Christian practice in general, the other toward the Eucharist and how that matters for Christian liturgical work as well as mission.

I don’t imply that one can’t get promise without Being Promised.  But I would say that the book supplies a critical vocabulary for engaging promise and considering how it is that God is a God of promise, not just a giver.  If Christians cannot be hosts, cannot give and receive in such a way that they rule a certain area (the church) because of God’s promise in the Crucified One, then I think the many ways that congregations and communities can aggregate spaces to themselves deserve a second look.

 3) Is part of the nature of God to be one who wants to gift us with creation, the Word, the Word incarnated in Jesus?  Someone once told me that God “wanted” to be loved therefore created humankind who had the capacity to enter a love relationship, though I really don’t know if other parts of creation can’t do this too?film Beauty and the Beast 2017 streaming

Though I do not directly deal with the relationship of creation to promise, or even to think of creation as gift except in a kind of roundabout way when I take up “the given” in chapter 4, there is a way to consider how the act of creation is a promise.  By “letting another than God be,” God, in the act of creation gives to another and so allows the other to have life.  And, as the one who draws this creation into union with Godself through the Crucified One, God therefore is promising the creation that God will be the God of love not only of Godself but of the world.  I think this strongly means that God is not just one who promises beings with consciousness or beings capable of trust but that God’s

promise is in fact cosmic in scope.  Without anthropomorphizing wisps of smoke, cosmic dust, and the St. Louis Arch, I am not quite sure how to consider those events and things to have their being in promise, though I think considering them in their possibility and event-hood would be the right place to start.

 4) When you look at our Lutheran liturgy, as presented in ELW, how does it proclaim this promise and how might we adapt the liturgy to have promise as a more central theme or does the Eucharist declare this by being a meal connected with promise when this bread and wine are blessed, connected with the Word, and received?

In general, the ELW and indeed the Common Service tradition are faithful to the reform of the liturgy toward promise made in the 16th century German Reformation agendas.  I hazard some reasons, supported by Lutheran-Catholic ecumenical work, that this tradition, rooted in promise, is not at odds with Eucharistic prayer.  Surely there are many views of sacrifice that are not compatible with promise at all, and I point those problems out.  But because promise requires memory, it requires pleading with God to remember the promise made in the Upper Room.

More important than the agenda, I think, is how the liturgy is done.  And even more important, I think is the organization of place and the movement, the ways that people’s bodies are organized, such that they are not guests of a host, nor that the one presiding is standing in for Christ.  It is the bread and wine as the promise of Christ’s body and blood that are over-and-against the congregation, I think welcoming and scattering alike.

I believe this book will be enjoyed by many pastors and those interested in philosophy and theology.   It is not an easy read but if one carefully works their way through Being Promised they will discover that has become a gift to their understanding of this basic Biblical concept.

 

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Streaming Movie Life (2017) Online

Life (2017) HD

Director : Daniel Espinosa.
Writer : Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick.
Producer : Bonnie Curtis, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Julie Lynn.
Release : March 23, 2017
Country : United States of America.
Production Company : Columbia Pictures, Skydance Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Nvizage.
Language : 广州话 / 廣州話, English, 日本語.
Runtime : 103 min.
Genre : Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller.

‘Life’ is a movie genre Horror, was released in March 23, 2017. Daniel Espinosa was directed this movie and starring by Rebecca Ferguson. This movie tell story about The six-member crew of the International Space Station is tasked with studying a sample from Mars that may be the first proof of extra-terrestrial life, which proves more intelligent than ever expected.

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Reflections: Montana Synod Visits the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bolivia

DSCN0204When I led the first mission trip from St. Luke Lutheran in Gales Ferry, Connecticut to visit the small Honduran village of Chachaguala to work with Padre Francisco, now six years ago, we went Easter week. I asked our group of 33 each night when we gathered after dinner for prayer and reflection a simple question, “where did you see the Risen Christ today?” Justin Eller, our ELCA missionary in Bolivia for the past four years and now the recently appointed ELCA Representative for all of South America, asked our group basically the same question when spent a couple of hours debriefing before we left to return home from La Paz.

What I think is so important is the premise of that question. The question is built upon the assumption that we did not bring Christ to a pagan world. The philosophical foundation for missionary activity has changed in the last century. We no longer send missionaries, nor mission teams I would add!, to convert the pagan and teach the “Western” or “North American” way of life. The term we use now is “accompaniment.” We go to accompany our brothers and sisters on their walk with Christ. We go as fellow Christians who are asking the same question, how can be better serve our common Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and how can we walk with you as you seek to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading you?

bolivia map 1This was especially true as our six member team left Montana on September 3 to visit Boliiva and join in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Boliviana (IELB) [the Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church]. Our Montana Synod has been in companion synod relationship with IELB for several years. We went as pilgrims to to learn about the IELB and how our Synod can better walk the walk of accompaniment. Our hosts for this trip were both the President of IELB, Pastor Emilio, and Justin. We walked with a church that has its struggles but whether through operating schools in La Paz, Santa Cruz, or Galilee Center in Cobija or churches that minister to indigenous peoples, Christ is present in Bolivia!

I encourage those who want to see what our mission team did during the nine days were in Bolivia to look back at my previous posts from Bolivia on this blog. I tried to write daily outlying our activities and posting some pictures. In this blog post I want to reflect on four places I saw Christ present while in Bolivia and in each case it was in a person or a group of people. The motto of the ELCA is “God’s Work — Our Hands.” I was blessed to see that motto being incarnated and lived out my many in Bolivia. Here are just four examples that will stay with me and be recalled each time I reflect on our trip to Bolivia and our sisters and brothers there in prayer.

DSCN0300We visited the town of Cobija which is on the Acre River that separates Bolivia from Brazil.  Went there to see the Galilee Center and Church and visit an agricultural farm they are running to support their ministry which focuses on children who come to the Galilee Center for educational support, fellowship, to be fed, and to learn how God loves them through Jesus Christ.  The lay pastor there is Luis.  While not formally ordained, he accepted the call of the IELB to move from La Paz to direct this ministry.  Luis has so many gifts for ministry and is making such a impact in the lives of 30-50 children who daily come to the Galilee Center.  He is a visionary who sees the potential of developing the agricultural farm, the chickens and tented garden at Galilee as a way to produce the food that he feeds the hungry children each day.  The center has a small library, some computers, a soccer area and becomes a shelter and sanctuary for the children.  Luis has a love for Jesus and leads the Galilee faith community too.  Cobija is not an easy place to do ministry but in Luis and his ministry I saw Christ present.

IMG_1771The second place I saw Christ present is when we worshipped on Sunday on the highlands (altiplano) in the Lake District about about two hours from La Paz.  This is an indigenous community of faith where many only speak the native language of Aymara.  The entire congregation waited for our arrival and greeted us with song and music as we literally passed through them to enter the church.  Some had walked two hours to attend this service.  Bishop Crist preached and celebrated Holy Communion with Pastor Emilio.   We were treated to a great potato luncheon (apthapi) after the service where I have never seen so many different kinds of potatoes.  Their hospitality reminded me of Abraham feeding the guests who showed up at his house, serving more than just the little food they had, but hearts of generosity.

It was in the people of this congregation that I saw Christ.  They listened intently to Scripture being read, to the sermon, walked forward and gave what often was a widow’s mite to support their church, and humbly stood to receive Holy Communion.  Their weather beaten faces shown with the love of Christ and they were so thankful for our presence with them to celebrate the 75th anniversary of IELB at their congregation.  They felt blessed but it was our delegation that was blessed and even changed by walking this road to Emmaus and leaving having experienced our hearts have been strangely warmed.

DSCN0369The third place I experienced Christ was in the dedication and leadership of Pastor Emilio for the IELB.  He continues to search for ways to have the congregations of the IELB serve the communities where they are located.  He has transformed the central offices of IELB where most of the program leaders were residents of La Paz or El Alto, into having his staff comprised of people from all the different regions of the Bolivia.  We attended a conference where Lutheran identity was the topic.  What does it mean to be Lutheran today?  What are the gifts of the Lutheran theological tradition and how best to witness in an ever growing pluralistic and secular world?  These are the same questions we are asking even in our congregations in Montana and throughout the USA.  Pastor Emilio has strong faith and cares deeply for the IELB.  Bishop Crist and he talked on how the Montana Synod can continue to accompany IELB in its mission and ministries.  I am pleased that Pastor Emilio is coming to visit our Montana Synod in October and we at Hope Lutheran will host him for a few days and he will bring greetings at our worship services on October 20.

DSCN0385Finally I saw Christ present in our missionary host, Justin Eller.  Justin and his wife, Kari, accepted a call to global service four years ago after graduating from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.  They arrived in Bolivia and during their time there have earned the trust, support, and love of those they worked along side of whether in churches of the IELB or teaching at the seminary or offering workshops.  Justin has an infectious smile and great sense of humor.  Their love for the Bolivian people moved them to adopt a Bolivian son, Everette (Eber).  Now with their new responsibilities they will be moving in the spring to live in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   When I talked to them I sense how this move is filled with mixed emotions.  As one who just moved a year ago from a ministry where I was for fifteen years, I know what they are going through.  Leaving friends and colleagues they have grown to love to accept a call to a new ministry.  I believe these feelings are only magnified when you are serving far from your home country.   Yet Justin and his family are exactly the sort of missionaries the ELCA can be so proud of as they embody the philosophy of our global mission: to accompany those we are asked to walk with whether in Bolivia or now all of South America.

Friendships were begun on our trip to Bolivia.  Relationships were created and that really was the purpose of our visit to Bolivia.  It is my prayer that these will continue and deepen and that whether it is Hope Lutheran in Bozeman, our Montana Synod, or just myself, we will be open to calling of the Holy Spirit to continue our work, prayer, and love of Christ is raising up leaders for ministry in Bolivia and throughout the world.

Like my first trip to Honduras, I returned humbled, blessed, and changed by seeing Christ present in so many ways.  Even today when I reflect on this trip my heart again is strangely warmed.

Steve

 

 

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Bolivia Mission: Wednesday

We awoke to the eerie lack of noise of a very large metropolitan city, La Paz, silent as all street traffic has been banded today as part of a general strike.  It will be a great day to just walk around La Paz and enjoy this beautiful city without the hustle and bustle of street traffic.

Our group gathered at 10:30 to meet with Justin and debrief on what our trip to Bolivia to see the work of the Lutheran Church has been like for us, to strategize some about the future of this companion synod relationship, and plan for Pastor Emilo’s (President of the IELB) visit to our synod in October.

In the afternoon some opted to stay at the hotel.  Jessica was having a private meeting with Pastor Emillo.  Bob, Colleen, Tom and I decided to walk into the shopping district of La Paz just off the main Prada.  Most of these shops attract large numbers of tourists and were open.  Went to a co-op where all the products were hand produced by Bolivians.  We all made purchases to bring back before heading back to the hotel.  On the way we did see a person repelling off the Presidential Hotel and in the pictures I included one of a typical electrical street post which should send shivers down any electrician’s back.

Tonight it will be a light supper before trying to get a few hours of sleep before our 1:30am departure from the hotel.

I will post a reflective piece on what this trip has meant to me in a few days.  For now let me just say it was an amazing experience in an amazing country with amazing people.

Paz (peace)

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Bolivia Mission: Tuesday

Tuesday morning was spent at the offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bolivia (IELB) with a presentation on the church’s work and challenges by Pastor Emilo, the President of IELB.   We learned for the different directorates and how the IELB is using the funds given to by the Montana Synod and the ELCA.  Much of the money is being used for repairs of their school in El Alto and for scholarships there and in Santa Cruz.

We used this meeting as an opportunity to give out various gifts that members of the mission team brought with them including Spanish versions of our ELCA hymnal, postcards, belt buckles, pins, tracts in Spanish, and Montana made soaps.   We were then treated to another “apthapi” (potluck) put on by the staff of the IELB in our honor.  It was  a great feast as the picture shows.

After lunch some left to check out sites in La Paz while Tom, Bob, and myself went Pastor Emilo and few others to attend the world cup soccer match between Bolivia and Ecuador. This was the first world cup qualifying match I have seen and the first professional soccer game that Bob has even seen.  The game ended in an 1-to-1 tie which meant that Bolivia was eliminated as it had already lost on previous match.

We returned to the hotel to join up with the rest of our group to head over to the home of  Justin and Kari Eller who had invited us for there for pizza dinner and to meet their son, Everett. We continued to talk about the Lutheran church in Bolivia and how to handle the announced general strike for Wednesday in La Paz when no traffic would be allowed on the streets.  We were suppose to leave the city to tour a few more sites including the Jessica Crist on Lake Titicaca (which is the highest lake in the world at an elevation of 12,507).  We did have a concern if we were able to leave before the strike started when we might actually be allowed back into La Paz.  Since we have to leave for the airport at 1:30 am on Thursday for flight out of Bolivia, we decided the prudent path would be to take a “snow” day in La Paz, to rest, repack, and take a walk around the city which will be very quiet without traffic.film xXx: Return of Xander Cage

The reasons for the strike is that many feel the census that was taken in 2012 was corrupt as the results indicated that their were decreases in the number of indigenous people throughout Bolivia and that the city of La Paz went down in population.

I will write one final blog from Bolivia tonight and a reflection piece once I settled in and recouped some in Bozeman.

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Bolivia Mission: Monday Part Two

The afternoon was left for resting or walking around the city.  Jessica, Colleen and I decided to make the walk to our local grocery store to pickup more bottles of water and then decided to walk down to the Prada the main street in La Paz and checkout some of the stores.  We returned to get dressed for the 75th Celebration Dinner of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bolivia which was to be held at the hotel Torino.We arrived to a festive celebration which including singing, greetings and congratulation addresses from the President of the IELB, several representatives of various churches including the German Lutheran Church, the Swedish Lutheran Church, from Justin Eller who has been traveling with us this week and is the ELCA’s regional representative for South America and Bishop Jessica Crist.  She brought welcome from the Lutheran World Federation the ELCA and our Montana Synod which is partnered with IELB.  She presented two gifts, an engraved silver plate and handmade quilt by a woman from Wolf Point, MT.

A delicious trout dinner followed by some dancing that got everyone from our delegation involved and ended this festive night.  Let me tell you dancing at over 12,000+ feet in elevation does qualify as very good workout.

We decided then to head over the Hotel Presidente which has a wrap around dining room on the 16th floor for a view of La Paz at night and drink.  We then took taxi’s back to our hotel which cost about $1.50 for the whole taxi.  Sure beats walking the hills of La Paz.

Tomorrow we are off to the IELB offices for some presentations on the work of the church here and how the financial support from the Montana Synod and the ELCA is being used.  The afternoon is free and some of will take in a soccer game between Bolivia and Ecuador.  Tomorrow night we are invited over the Justin and Kari Eller’s home in La Paz for dinner and to hang out. Kari is also a missionary of the ELCA to South America for education and training.  She is writing Sunday School materials in Spanish to be used by Lutheran churches in South America.

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