Article: What Was I Doing in Chicago?

I am back from Chicago where I attended my first Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council meeting.

I now am on the church council for the entire ELCA. I am honored to fill this role for the next two years.

The Lutheran Center in Chicago, IL
The Lutheran Center, Chicago, IL

I am happy to report that it is good that Community Lutheran Church is a part of the ELCA. We are in alignment on a lot of different issues and ideas.

During the council meeting, we discussed and acted on various items including:

  • A report on the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility audit of ELCA governing documents. This will ensure our governing documents for the ELCA are fair to all and not biased.
  • A prayer vigil for peace in the Holy Land hosted by the Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage. We also heard a report from two Lutheran pastors serving in Jerusalem on behalf of the ELCA.
  • An update on the work of and a listening session on the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church. The ELCA is working diligently to be a more engaging church in the near future.
  • An update on and discussion of churchwide organization priorities, including the Future Church: God’s Love Made Real initiative. Our churchwide office is doing the hard work to reorganize to be more effective in the coming years.
  • Reports and updates from home areas and teams of the churchwide organization. We heard from every department within the ELCA.
  • A report from the Conference of Bishops. All of our bishops meet regularly and we heard about their work together.
  • An update on the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Campaign that impacts the Holyland
  • An update on the 50th anniversary of ELCA World Hunger in 2024. Our church has been engaged in combating hunger issues and famine for almost 50 years now!

As you can see, a lot is going on and our national church is actively engaged in the world and being responsive to the needs of others. The ELCA is keenly focused on tasks that we as a local congregation cannot do. They represent us nationally and in the world. I am proud of their work on our behalf.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Hearing From God

In 2015, the smartphone company Samsung came up with an idea for new advertising campaign emphasizing connection through communication.

The commercial revolves around Muaharrem, a deaf man in Istanbul who uses sign language to communicate. Muaharrem spent every day communicating with people in his town the best he could. He may have gotten by in the world but was never able to truly thrive because he never connected with people on a deeper level except his sister who knows sign language.

Samsung set up a scenario (unknown to Muaharrem) that everyone he interacted with that day would communicate in sign language. Absolutely everyone.

At first, it was surprising then it became amazing to Muaharrem!

Samsung had contracted the locals to learn sign language as a promotion for its new technology for the hard of hearing but ended up giving Muaharrem the best gift he could have gotten: the gift of communication and connection in the community.

It may sound a little bit of a “set up” because it was. However, he was still touched by the moment, even though it was for a commercial.

In a different way we might feel disconnected from others and even God when life is difficult.

I want you to know that God is always trying to connect with us! I want to be clear that Jesus speaks to us through different experiences. If our hearts and minds are not open to this, we can completely miss it and wonder if God actually exists.

The Bible speaks to this very idea, For God does speak—now one way, now another— though people may not perceive it. Job 33:14

Let me share with you three different ways God can speak to our hearts.

  1. Reading the Bible. Paul writes, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16

    Simply put, God speaks through the Bible. More specifically, when we read the Gospels, we hear the heart of Jesus when he speaks. In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1-2

2. God speaks through Nature. Paul again writes, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

A sunset, majestic mountains, the waves lapping on the ocean can speak to our hearts to help us connect with the master architect who created it all.

3. God speaks through the Christians around us. Yes, Jesus can speak through others. It happens all the time! Since we are the body of Christ and Jesus is the brains of the operation, he can send messages in and through us. How do we know this? The Spirit of God is given to every believer of Jesus. We all have the capacity to let the Holy Spirit work through us.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

If you are feeling disconnected these days, use these as a guide to hear from God.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: Guess What?

I have an announcement to make…

No, it is nothing bad.

Earlier this fall, our bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod asked if I would be willing to serve on a committee.

A very special committee.

Before I tell you what it is, I want to explain a few details first.

Our church is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which is shortened to the ELCA.

The ELCA is organized the same way our congregation is organized.

At CLC, we have a church council that is elected by the congregation to make decisions on behalf of the congregation in lieu of monthly congregational meetings.

Our synod (which means gathering or assembly in Greek) is organized the same way. There is a synod council that operates a lot like a congregational council.

The ELCA has 65 synods (or geographical areas) in the United States. Our synod covers the territory of Southern Utah, Southern Nevada and all of Arizona.

The national church is organized the same way as congregations and synods. There is a church council that governs the national church.

If nothing else, we are consistent in our organizational practices.

OK, now for the announcement….

Bishop Hutterer of the Grand Canyon Synod (our bishop) asked if I would serve on the church council for the ELCA. I accepted.

I, not only represent Community Lutheran Church but the entire Grand Canyon Synod when the church council of the ELCA meets several times a year to conduct business on behalf of the entire church.

The council meets at the ELCA “headquarters” in Chicago, Illinois near O’Hare airport. Years ago, Rachel and I lived close to the offices of the ELCA and I have been there many times.

In November, I will be attending my first ELCA church council meeting in Chicago and I will be gone during the second week of November.

In 2024, I believe there are three meetings that I will attend in Chicago.

It is an honor to serve the larger church and represent the synod and you! I will tell you all about it when I get back!

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Surrender

During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances.

Prussia was one of the few countries to resist Napoleon Bonaparte’s quest to overtake all of Europe and beyond.

King Frederick William III felt the pressure to defend and lead the people of Prussia. It was also clear he absolutely did not want to disappoint his people and surrendering to the enemy was unthinkable.

After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down and sold to buy supplies for the ongoing war effort.  

For each piece of jewelry received, the king determined to give each donor a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, “I gave gold for iron, 18l3.”

The response was overwhelming. Even more important, the women of Prussia prized their gifts from the king more highly than their expensive jewelry.

The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear gold and silver jewelry instead the simple gift from their king was a badge of honor.

It is also true that when a Christian draws close to their King, they too let go of vanity for something better: eternity.

This true story reminds me of the second verse to the great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

Holy, holy, holy!
all the saints adore Thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

This is a stanza is from Revelation. And it is a reminder than nothing on this earth, nothing in our own lives is as important as the connection we have with Jesus our King.

For me, that means I need to let go of a lot of stuff. I need to surrender those things to Jesus. I may not have any golden crowns but there are things I need to “cast down” or throw away.

When I hold on to things to tightly (physically, emotionally, mentally) the ability to reach for Jesus is severely limited. I need to be reminded to surrender my worries and even my aspirations to Jesus.

Jesus once said this…

Then Jesus said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-24

I want what Jesus is offering because I know it will carry me home to Him one day.

I leave you with the chorus of one of my favorite songs…

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee
My blessed Savior
I surrender all

God bless you,
Pr. Ben