Review: What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather


This past couple of years have helped highlight how divided we are as a nation. It seems to appear that you have to be either on one side of the political debate or the other. There is no room for middle ground. Yet, it is this middle ground that we must meet and enter into conversation with one another. It is only in our Utopian dreams that we are all going to get along and conflict will not exist.

In summary, this is a major part of Dan Rather’s presentation, along with Elliot Kirschner, in their book, What Unites Us. There is a common ground that we can all stand on and begin to vision what the future of our county looks like. There is not one right solution and at times there are valid points that can come from both sides of the aisle. Where our leaders are tending to fail their country more and more is in their believes that they have the only right solution.

Rather discusses what Patriotism looked like during World War II and his early years as a reporter. He shares his experience with Watergate and what it means for him to be a true patriot and love the country that he grew up in. Too often, we mix patriotism with the idea of nationalism. The United States was not created in the scope of nationalism. It was created in the hopes and dreams of founders that were seeking freedom and a better life for their families. Somewhere along the line this message got misinterpreted.

The United States is the nation that it is because of our diversity. The many cultures and identities that have came together to form a country that should be welcome to all. Rather does not wax poetically at this, he simply calls for a rationality to return to public discourse.


Are You Ready to Believe?


April 15, 2018

Luke 24:36b-48

Emotions are powerful!!! However, being emotional, is often seen as weakness. We are encouraged to keep our emotions in check so that we do not appear weak. Whether that emotion is one that brings tears or anger, there are individuals that will chastise us when we show either of them in the workplace. At times, those emotions are justified and are calling us internally to pay attention to what is happening.

Jesus was no stranger to emotion. He cried when his friend Lazarus died, and we know that he showed anger in the Temple when he overturned the tables of the money changers. It seems quite often, the emotion that emanates from the disciples is one of fear when they struggle to understand the divine that is in their presence.

In this morning’s gospel, we learn that Jesus, “opened [the disciples] minds to understand the scriptures” (v. 45).  This is after various times when they were left understanding nothing about the things Jesus said.  We too may feel like that when we read scripture. The sermon is one way for you to get a little better understanding of scripture, yet it is usually one sided. Christian education is a great way to enter into dialogue with one another over scripture and various topics.

A way that you can do it on your own is through Lectio Divina. If you are not familiar with it, Lectio Divina is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation, and prayer. In Lectio Divina, we welcome the word of God to live among us and listen and pray. There are four movements to Lectio Divina. We will quickly move through them this morning, not too quickly though.

  • Lectio (“read”): perhaps several times. Meditate on it as it is read.
    • What do I notice?
    • What feelings does that word or phrase bring up in me?
    • What might God be saying to me through my reaction, the emotion that is drawn?
  • Meditatio (“meditate”): Listen for the Holy Spirit, how is it moving you?
  • Oratio (“pray”): enter into dialogue with God. Listen.
  • Contemplatio (“contemplate”): A chance to just be silent and still

I pray that as we walked through that process you were able to listen and perhaps hear something different in the word that you may not have heard before. It is even better when you can spend more time with the word and an extended dialogue with God.

Each of us heard different things. Different words and phrases that spoke to us. Different emotions that developed within us. As I do this weekly with our Sunday lessons, it usually leads to the culmination of my sermon. This is the word that I need to hear from God at this present moment, and also one that the Spirit guides me to speak to Trinity Lutheran as well.

The disciples first response when Jesus appears to them in this passage is not much different than when they encountered the divine previously. Even though they heard of the previous two times Jesus appeared after the resurrection, they were startled nonetheless. They may have been joyful, but their disbelieve was still present.

I wonder if it was too soon! In their mourning, they did not want to see Jesus yet. Jesus reappearing to them means that they must get up and leave that upper room where they have been sulking. They must start living out the calling Jesus has placed on them to proclaim the good news and baptize. I wonder if they are ready to step up to these tasks and Believe. There seems to be a bit of reluctance and dragging of feet.

Whenever we are pushed out of our comfort zone, it creates an uneasy feeling and causes us to drag our feet. Change will do this. Change means that things as we knew them are no longer the way they used to be. The disciples no longer had Jesus to lead them on their journey through the countryside and beyond. The change of having to go out on their own and become leaders is startling and terrifying.

While there are similarities and skills I can take from my previous career in retail management, I will admit that the calling of a pastor brings much more anxiety. I had the answers when working for large corporations and was given directions to follow. That does not happen in the church. Each of our churches are in different context and different ministries are required in each of those contexts. It takes time to learn those contexts and the communities that we minister.  Many of you may have experienced similar situations in your careers or if you have moved from community to community.

It is easy to just sit back and hope that everything will take care of itself. There always comes a time that we must step up and believe what has been told to us and what we have seen. Jesus wants us to be transformed as we encounter the living word.

Before Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand scripture, he showed them how human he was. He encouraged them to touch him and feel that he is real. He is standing right there in their presence, not as a ghost, but in his physical human form. He has flesh and bones just like them. After that, he eats. Once again, to show them that he is physically with them. In their heightened anxiety, he brings them peace. That is the grace of God at work. When the disciples are exhibiting the most human emotions of fear and anxiety, Jesus comes to them bearing peace. A glimpse of the kingdom to come. He shows them that he is truly real and once again sits down to eat with them.

When we are called to be transformed, Jesus is with us. Jesus is with us in our own anxiety and fears. Jesus is with us in our doubts and uncertainties. Jesus is present to guide us when we have no idea where the road is going. Our emotions are a great indicator that something is about to happen or may not be quite right. They are our own internal thermometer that measures how we are as people of God. Jesus is present with us in all our emotions.

Whether we are fearing that next step that we must take or are joyful of the promotion that we just received. Whether we are depressed over a relationship that just ended or elated over the birth of a child. Whether we are angry with a co-worker whose errors seem to be overlooked or happy that we made our quota for the month. Jesus is present with us all the time to provide us peace. A peace that gives a glimpse of the kingdom to come. A peace that gives us the resurrected Christ.

Let us pray…All comforting God, we give thanks for the times you bring us peace and we are unaware. May we be open to the indwelling of your Spirit and the living word that resides among us. In whatever emotions we bring to you, may you still the waters with a love that knows no bounds. Amen.

Picture: Fish & Pita, Mark Hewitt, April 2012. Pastel 290W x 210H.

The Good News is New Life!


Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Encountering the unexpected is scary! It can be especially challenging when you have preconceived expectations that do not match up with the reality of the truth that you encounter.

I am sure that at one point in your lives you could relate. Whether moving and starting at a new school and having to make new friends, or beginning a new job and getting to know the details of that job. Personally, I never changed school districts growing up, but my children have had the opportunity to go to several different schools. I encountered more change in my professional life. Going to college I had originally thought I would become a CPA. My sophomore year I started working retail, and for some strange reason fell in love with it. Later in that sophomore year, I discovered that I could major in retail management in the business school, thus leading to a decade spent in the retail industry with a handful of location and company changes. I always went in with my own personal expectations, which would be met sometimes, but more likely than not, they did not match reality.

Can you imagine what the women that are waiting for the sun to rise in our story this morning are going through? Did they get any sleep, or are they just waiting for the sabbath to be over so that they can make their way to the tomb.

They have witnessed the journey of Jesus from his entrance into Jerusalem  to his death on the cross. Throughout our gospels, the women are one of the constants that have been with Jesus, supporting him and caring for him in the aftermath of his crucifixion. I imagine the three women in our story are in deep mourning. They are distraught over what they have witnessed these past few days, and they are garnering just enough strength to go do what is necessary to care for Jesus’ body. Their conversation on the way to the tomb was probably minimal. Perhaps, talking about what needed to be done, and especially worrying about how they were going to roll the heavy stone away from the entrance to the tomb. There is a song, Beautiful Things by Gungor, that could speak to their worries and mourning. The song begins,

All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth, could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

They had the expectation of arriving at the tomb with a challenge in front of them. Would the three of them be able to roll that heavy stone away? They are so caught up in these questions and their mourning that they look up and they are there. Yet, what they see is not what they expected. The stone has already been moved! They enter the tomb to be welcomed by a man dressed in white, and the body of Jesus is nowhere to be seen. They are left speechless. It is the words that they hear next that leave them with terror and amazement:

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:6-7

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

In the terror and amazement, they rush from the tomb, only to remain silent. And here is where our reading ends! This is the original ending of Mark’s gospel. Mark leaves it quite open ended because the work of the disciples is never complete. Several verses would be added later so that it would come to a resolution! Our own need to be to tie a bow on it and make it complete! We do know from our other gospel authors that the good news was spread from the women. If the women had not shared that good news, we may have not been here this morning.

Good news is scary! The good news is holy and it brings word to us of the divine. Encountering the divine can leave us in terror and amazement. In their reaction, the women knew fully well what they had encountered in the tomb and it may have taken them a little time to contemplate the words and to share it with the disciples.

Why do we get those butterflies in our stomachs and a heightened anxiety whenever we encounter something new?

Because new life is scary! Just like the good news. It is the good news that brings us new life. That is what the goods news of Jesus Christ is all about. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are brought to new life. It is a life, where resurrection has conquered sin and death. It is a new life that brings hope to a world that is broken and lost. It is a new life that rises through the old. It is a new life that fulfills the promise of God.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Resurrection is not the end of the story! It is just the beginning of new life! A new life that can be scary, but a life that is saturated with hope. A new life that is the seed for transformation for each and everyone of us. A new life that abounds in a never-ending love.

Yes, you can stop what you are doing and be enamored in the awe of the resurrection, but don’t let yourself remain there. What if you were to look beyond the resurrection and begin to live your life the way that Jesus wanted you to? To reach our to your sisters and brothers with the same love and compassion that he did. To embrace the stranger among you and give them shelter. To proclaim the good news of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through not only word, but through your actions in caring for others. This is the new life that Jesus is hoping for in the promise of the resurrection. This new life is beautiful!

Beautiful Thingshas the following chorus:

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around,
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in you

This morning we are reminded of the new life that is found in Jesus Christ. A new life that is for each and every one of us. A new life for those that have been Christians their entire life. A new life for those that have struggled with their faith. A new life for those that have followed in Peter’s path and denied Jesus.

To live life is chaos! To live life in Jesus Christ and the resurrection is a beautiful thing!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!