Balloons on Ascension Day

Bob Reinhardt and I hatched an idea for Ascension Day one year at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Marshfield, Wi.  Why not use balloons?  And so, we did.  The service began in the sanctuary and then when it came to the reading from Acts 1, we all went outside, where some helpful assistants supplied each person with a helium filled balloon.  I believe I was reading the lesson and after verse 9, “While they were watching Him, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him away so they could no longer see Him,” I stopped reading, and everyone let go of their balloon.  We watched as our balloons ascended, Jesus like, into the sky.  Well most of the balloons, some were caught on the power lines running by the church.  The street corner in Marshfield was not quite like Mount Olivet to the east of Jerusalem.

As everyone was gawking at the rising balloons, I resumed reading, “As He was going up and they were gazing into the sky, two men in white clothes were standing right beside them.  They asked “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up into the sky?  This Jesus, who was taken away from you to heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw Him go to heaven.”

Then we went back in the church and continued with the service.  I don’t know if anyone else figured out what we were doing, but Bob and I enjoyed it.

It’s Ascension Day and once again we will read of gawking disciples and the two men reminding them that He will be back, implying that there is plenty of the work to be done by his followers right here on this old earth while we wait for the fulfillment of the promise, “I am making everything new,” a new heaven and a new earth.

Memorial Weekend

This morning Becky and I went over to Holy Cross in Collinsville for the 8 o’clock service. It’s always good to see some familiar faces and receive a warm welcome. Attendance was light, but there was two- row- school group from the Green Bay area, present.  Dale and Diane Meyer were also there.  I told Kyle Wright, the pastor, that Dale and I were checking up on him.  He didn’t seem alarmed at the presence of his august predecessors.

The service opened with Herb Brokering’s hymn, “Alleluia! Jesus is risen!”  It continues, “Trumpets resounding in glorious light! Splendor, the Lamb, heaven forever! Oh, what a miracle God has in sight!”  Notice that each phrase is punctuated with an exclamation mark.  Jesus resurrection is big news and if we haven’t gotten the message yet, the chorus follows, “Jesus is risen, and we shall arise: Give God the glory! Alleluia!”  Ah, there is the punch line.  Jesus arose from the dead and so shall we. That’s worth another exclamation mark, Alleluia!   

Becky and I may run down to DeSoto tomorrow morning to visit the Blank family plot in the City Cemetery.  Her grandparents, parents, and brother are buried there, plus others, including a great uncle who was a soldier during WWI and died during the war or shortly after.  We haven’t been there for several years.

Growing up, Memorial Day seemed to be marked with a visit to the Pipe Lake cemetery, the Indianapolis 500, and a morning – afternoon doubleheader between the St. Paul Saints and the Minneapolis Millers.  It seems to me that it was a day when players tried to hit home runs, if not in the Majors, then in Triple A.

I suppose I could add the camping outing to Helmer Myre state park in Albert Lea, MN one Memorial Day.  We got one of the last spaces in a depression.  It rained over night and we opened the door the next morning to discover we were in a pond.  Lots of memories camping.  Not all of them lovely.

Be Careful What You Do Today

I finished reading Proverbs yesterday and should be filled with wisdom, but this is all I’ve got today and even some of that I’m stealing from Garrison Keillor.

Most of us are familiar with Ed Norton the character on the Jackie Gleason show some years ago.  But are we familiar with Ed Norton Lorenz who was born this day in 1917?  He was a meteorologist who came up with the concept of the “Butterfly Effect,” otherwise known as Chaos Theory.  I think Adam was including chaos theory in his 30- year search for a single theory that would explain the universe.  If God created the cosmos, then it stands to reason that one theory stands behind it.  I think that was the principle he was working with.

In any case, Ed Lorenz in a presentation in Texas in 1972, used the following phrase to explain chaos theory.  “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”

If I remember my Philosophy class correctly, I think there was one philosopher who wondered about what a difference it makes in our lives and in the world, if when I go out a door I decide to turn right, go straight or turn left.

In memory of Edward Norton Lorenz, “Be Careful What You do Today.”  

Be Their Voice

My scripture reading today brought me to the last chapter of Proverbs where King Lemuel is speaking with his son,

“Speak out for the one who cannot speak,
    for the rights of those who are doomed.
 Speak out,
    judge fairly,
        and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.” (Prov. 31:8-9)

This is what the king was to be about, the benefactor of the poor, the doomed, the voiceless.  He was not to take bribes or act in behalf of those who were able to benefit him.  He was to look out for the needs of the drown trodden, who could nothing in return except “Thank you.”

Even as the king who would be named Jesus, grew larger in Mary’s womb, so she enlarged her praise of the Lord.  For her son would be a king who would scatter those who proudly imagined they were great and bragged about their own greatness.  He would pull down the powerful from their high thrones.  He would lift up the lowly, for he himself would be lifted up first on the cross and then to the high throne of God’s presence. He would fill the hungry with the good things of life even as he would give his body and blood to satisfy our hunger for a world set in proper order according to God’s will.  Through the king in her womb God would remember to show mercy to the doomed, oppressed and needy.  Those who came before him self-satisfied with themselves but looking for more would be sent away empty handed.  Those who came with empty hands, empty lives, empty hopes were given an overflowing abundance of grace.

From Every Nation Tribe and Language

Yesterday as my grandson’s 5th grade class stood on risers singing, I thought of the verse from Rev. 7, “I looked, and there was a large crowd that no one could count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”  Among those singing and those of us attending, there were women and girls in headscarves, people of Hispanic origin, African Americans and, I assume, immigrants from Africa, people from southeast Asia, and the area of the Indian Ocean.  All immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Yes, there was a minority, descendants of immigrants from northern Europe.

I thought of something I read somewhere about all men are created equal with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I thought of the jinned up paranoia and xenophobia which has been revealed in the hearts of far too many in these days, yes, even those who claim the cross and the resurrection.

Jesus last words were not about maintaining a supposedly American way of life, not words of xenophobia and paranoia, but in the power of the Holy Spirit to “testify of Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the world, Acts 1:8.”   And that is what the book of Acts is about, as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem went out, sometimes forced out to other cultures, peoples and languages.”  They needed to learn to overcome their distain and suspicious of the goyim (That’s you and me).   

Let the Little Girl Dance

In 1960 Billy bland recorded a song which reached No 7 on the charts called “Let the Little girl Dance.”

   As the vicar and I walked out to the closing hymn, “In Thee is Gladness amid all sadness, Jesus sunshine of my heart” (LSB 818)a little girl was dancing in the aisle. Her grandmother pulled her back into the protection of pew so she wouldn’t be trampled by the charging clergy.  But once we passed the girl, 3 or 4 years old, wearing a pink dress was back to dancing and whirling about.  In fact, another little girl from across the aisle joined her.  I said to Vicar Jonathon, “We need more dancing.”

The little girl in the pink dress was doing what we all should have been doing as we sang the hymn written by Johann Lindemann in about 1600.  In mid- 1900 century it was wed to a tune written by a contemporary of Johann’s an Italian priest, Giovani Gastoldi who wrote several dance – like tunes.

I might no longer be able twirl like the girl, lest I end up on my bottom fleshly burl.  But I find it impossible to stand still.  For how could anyone as we dance toward the end of the second stanza?  “We shout for gladness, Triumph o’er sadness, love Him and praise Him and still shall raise Him glad hymns forever.  Alleluia.”

Thus we join the call in Psalm  148, the psalm of the day, to Alleluia the Lord along with the heavens and heights, angels and angelic armies, sun, moon and stars, waters above and waters below, sea creatures and deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist and stormy winds, mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedar, beasts and livestock, creeping things and flying birds, kings and princes, young men and maidens.  Let us all along with the little girl in the pink dress dance and sing our praises to the Lord for “In Thee is gladness.”    

Don’t Stand in God’s Way

We Gentile Christians, that’s everyone who is not Jewish, act as if we have always been in the church.  Not so.  The first lesson for this weekend from Acts 11:1-18, centers around when “the Gentiles also received the word of God.”

The apostle Peter went up to Jerusalem to address critics who thought that Gentile believers should be circumcised as well as follow all the Jewish dietary laws.  Peter tells them of his experience when in a vision a large sheet dropped down filled with all sorts of animals, reptiles and birds.  The voice said, “Get up, kill and eat.”  Peter answered “Oh, no Lord!  Nothing impure and unclean has ever entered my mouth.”  The voice, “You should not continue to call unclean what God has made clean.” 

On the heels of that experience three men arrived at his house and the Spirit told him to go with them to Caesarea, the provincial capital of Syria (Judea,) and to proclaim the word to someone who was apparently a Gentile.  One of us.  Peter addressed his critics, “If then God gave the same gift of the Holy Spirit to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

That’s a good question for us, “Who am I to stand in God’s way, when as God tells the prophet Isaiah, ‘my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts.’”  We also have the word in Rev. 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

May at a One Room Country School

Most years by mid-May grass was growing in the yard of Happy Corners School at the juncture of two gravel town roads.   In a corner of the one – acre plot carved out of Ed Jansen’s field where the snow water drained dandelions bloomed aplenty.  Dandelions were not regarded as a nuisance yet.  They could be used for making yellow tinged cheeks, good for fresh dandelions greens and creating extended chains.

May brought the opportunity to hop on our bikes in afternoon to ride to the Pipe Lake school, or Horseshoe Lake or the Comstock for a softball game.  We were no match for Pipe Lake which had two rooms against our single room school with never more than 15 kids in the eight grades.  Some years the community had not been fruitful and multiplied.  So, there may have been a vacant grade or two for the next eight years.

There came the day when the teacher told us to bring our rakes tomorrow.  That day we raked the full acre of the dead grass and leaves.  Soon, as the afternoon wore on what began as a venture and no class became a labor as our raking muscles tired.  But clean- up day was a prelude to the big picnic at the close of school.

The community had not come together since the Christmas program in December.  Now everyone was there, Bower’s, Catlin’s, Strenke’s, Olson’s, Wangzong’s Richard’s, Kolstad’s, Becker’s, Van Houten’s and Jansen’s.  We all had plenty to eat at this bountiful spring picnic.  And there was ice cream.  Ice cream was a rare treat and we made the most of it.  We “big boys,” all of 12 or 13 years of age, grabbed large coffee mugs and returned again and again until we were fair unto bursting, regretting that we could not eat one more bite.

 Then we got our report cards.  There was always a moment of hesitation.  Did I make it to the next grade?  With the good news of promotion, we were glad the school year was over.  However, personally, after a summer of hoeing and picking beans and haying in the years before we had a baler, I was ready for some vacation, which began with the new school year.

What am I doing thinking about the flamboyant surrealist Spanish painter today instead of the coffee cup on Game of Thrones, the latest tidbit on the newly born 7th in line member of the royal family (Yep, looks like a baby to me. I understand thousands of them are born every day) and whether the Cubs will now run away with the NL Central Division? Well, Salvadore Dali was born on May 11, 1904. I always liked his work though I didn’t understand much of it. But then I like Dylan Thomas’ writing and most of it is beyond me. In 1949 he returned to the church and in the following years painted scenes of Jesus passion. My favorite view of Jesus’ crucifixion is his painting of Christ on the cross floating against a black background with a body of water and a boat below. My one memory from visiting the National Art Museum in Washington D.C. in 1963 was viewing his large painting of the Last Supper. It takes nearly a whole wall of the gallery in which it is displayed. Jesus is seated at a table hosting the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Above him and in background is the see-through body of the Father with arms extended. Dali said it was a depiction of the real presence of Christ, while it also depicts the invisible the presence of the Trinity at the Sacrament. What struck me when I viewed the painting was that if one extended the line out from the Father’s arms, it would be a gesture welcoming everyone on earth to the Sacrament of the Real Presence of the Trinity. The only way to not be included would be to stand beside the painting with your back pressed against the gallery wall. I juxtaposition that experience with our attempt to attend a Good Friday Communion service at one of our churches in the evening, where we were told we could not go to communion because we came to late to speak with the pastor, never mind that we were students studying to be pastors. Ah, the church, the church.

Mother’s Day Weekend

 Recently in the Mutts cartoon (features 2 dogs and acorn throwing squirrels) one character called out on a rainy day, “Rain, rain, go away come again some other day.”  His friend replies, “What if this is the ‘other day?’”

We’ve had a lot of “other” days this spring, including today.  This morning Sarah went with us to see Adam.  We waited for the creaky elevator, gave him his banana and we walked the length of the hall in this facility in the former De Paul Hospital on north Kingshighway.

I’ve been writing a poem for Mother’s Day and searched for a fitting Bible passage.  I ended up with Prov. 31: 26-29.   The following is my slightly amended version.

She speaks with wisdom,

 Instruction is tender on her tongue.

She keeps a close eye on her family,

Never eating her bread idly.

Her children and husband

Sing her praises, saying,

“Many women have done noble deeds,

But you, them all accedes.”

Tomorrow is Good Shepherd Sunday.  In the Epistle, Rev. 7:9-17, we will hear of the multitude beyond number gathered before the throne and the Lamb, who also is the guiding shepherd. This great throng are waving palm branches.  Palm branches recalls Palm Sunday when the crowd welcomed Jesus, the new King David, into the capital city of Jerusalem.  In the Near East Palm branches are abundant and were used as decorations in Solomon’s temple.  The righteous “will flourish like the palm trees.” (Ps. 92:12) In Song of Songs, Solomon says, “Young woman, your figure is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.”  (I guess you could use that quote for Mother’s Day).

Mostly though Palm trees are associated with the Tree of Life (Rev. 22) and victory.  In Revelation it’s the victory of Christ that is celebrated.