Saints and Sinners

In good Lutheran terms, I know that I am both “saint and sinner.” I make stupid choices. But I also know that God forgives me when I make those stupid choices too. I try not to swear but sometimes it happens. Lately I have found the word “darn it” slipping out. Tonight it happened when I was saying thank you and goodbye to my 7th Grade Confirmation class and their mentors. I apologized for using the word. It’s the second time it has happened in the last several weeks. Yes, it accidently happened in the pulpit when I was preaching my sermon a few weeks ago. I was mortified that it happened here!

I don’t have a habit of using those words but for some reason, this word has been slipping out. And coming from my mouth, I’ll admit this word seems a little strange. I remember one summer at camp a co-counselor asking me to say the “F Word” because he just couldnt see it coming from my mouth. He was like you are just not meant to use swear words. Which I guess truly is a good thing. But as the word “darn it” has fallen from my mouth I realize that it helps people see me as real. Like everyone else I make mistakes. I use not nice words when I shouldnt etc.

I am thankful for people like Nadia Bolz-Weber who remind me that I need to be who God created me to be. Nadia doesn’t apologize for who she is. Nadia isnt afraid to share that she has lived a rough life and that she, in her words, “swears like a truck driver.” I understand that people think that leaders shouldnt swear etc and I get that. But leaders need to be REAL…to be who they are…to be who God created them to be.

We are all “saint and sinner.” And God claims us in the midst of our sainthood and our sinfulness. God forgives us of our sins and continually calls and claims us as God’s children. Since we were born and throught the holy waters of Baptism, God says “You are mine.” That is an eternal promise; an eternal promise for all “saints and sinners.”


Happy Reformation Day and Happy Halloween dear readers and friends! Yesterday I preached for our Reformation service. I don’t normally post my sermons at this blog anymore because I started a new blog just for that but since people seemed to enjoy it. I thought I would post it here as well. Enjoy your day dear friends!

It’s All About Grace! (A Reformation Sermon)
I don’t know about you but I love being Lutheran!// Now I realize not everyone here today was born and raised in the Lutheran faith. Some of you married into it. Others of you have found yourself here because perhaps a friend or a neighbor invited you here.// However the truth is that as Lutheran Christians, we don’t spend a lot of time focusing on our Lutheranism.// Although on a day like today; Reformation Sunday, it is very difficult for us not to talk about what it means to be a Lutheran Christian.// Did you know that Martin Luther is named as one of the most influential people of the last one thousand years?//

16th century Reformer Martin Luther opened the door to renewal and reformation for the church when he posted his 95 theses on the castle doors at Wittenberg calling for debate. This renewal and reformation was founded on being “saved by grace through faith”; faith in the one who calls and claims us as God’s children.// Through the precious holy waters of Baptism, God calls and claims us as God’s children despite our own failures and shortcomings.// It is all about God’s immeasurable grace!!!!//

In the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism, Luther reminds us of the power and gift of this grace when he writes, “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him,// but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith,// just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.// Daily in this Christian church, the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life.// This is most certainly true!//

Martin Luther wrote these words after he came to understand God’s Word more fully.// As a young man, Luther questioned if he was even lovable. He questioned if he was living up to God’s expectations of him.// But as he began to study God’s word, he began to discover a God who infinitely would love him despite his own failures and shortcomings. He began to see God’s grace pouring through God’s Word.//

Luther Seminary Assistant Professor of Old Testament Kathryn Schifferdecker captures this well when she writes, “Luther knew that God’s nature does not change.// God was, is, and will continue to be a God of great mercy, forgiveness, and love for a wayward people.// It is that people’s (the church’s) understanding of God’s nature that had become clouded in Luther’s day. Like Jeremiah, then, Luther called the people of his day to a new understanding of God and a renewed emphasis on God’s grace and God’s abiding love even for a sinful people.”//

As Lutheran Christians, we are people who are simultaneously “saint” and “sinner.”// The truth is that we consistently fail.// We fail at loving each other.// We fail at being who God has called us to be.// For in the words of Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yet despite these failures and shortcomings, God still shows us God’s immeasurable grace by sending God’s Son to die on the cross of everyone of us.//

And because of that grace, Martin Luther’s renewal and reformation of the church continues to challenge us daily.// The Lutheran church is a church that is constantly evolving; trusting in God’s grace, clinging to the promises of that grace, and knowing that God and God’s grace is the truth that will set us free.// So what does it mean for us; Dilworth Lutheran church, to be a “renewing” and “reforming” church?//

Dilworth Lutheran church is a “renewing” and “reforming” church by reclaiming what it means for the home to be actively involved in the faith nurture of our children, grandchildren, and all those we love.// Dilworth Lutheran is a “renewing” and “reforming” church by equipping families to take faith home through our Milestone Ministries and Confirmation programs.// Dilworth Lutheran is a “renewing” and “reforming” church by helping our neighbors beyond these walls; whether it be by building a home in Haiti, starting a community garden, or collecting canned goods for our local food shelters.// However the truth is that we are never done “renewing” and “reforming,” we are constantly in need of renewal and reformation. We are constantly evolving and changing just like Luther saw his church as constantly evolving and changing.//

But the beauty is that as Lutheran Christians, even in the midst of continual renewal and reformation, God promises that God will never leave us or forsake us.// God continually shows God’s love for God’s children despite our own failures and shortcomings.// In all actuality, it comes to down to God’s immeasurable grace for all God’s children! Or in the words of my friend Lynn, “Being Lutheran is about grace, liturgy, Scripture, grace, coffee, and one more helping of grace.”//

That immeasurable grace, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ is why on a day like today; Reformation Sunday, I am proud to proclaim myself a Lutheran Christian who fully believes in and clings to that grace not just on this day but every day.// So as a fellow Lutheran Christian, will you join me in proclaiming and sharing God’s grace not just today on Reformation Sunday but everywhere that you encounter God’s grace in this world?// Amen!// (Copyright Tara L. Ulrich)

Proud To Be An ELCA Lutheran!

I am so proud to be an ELCA Lutheran!

It is hard to believe that two years ago today the ELCA passed its implementing resolutions on their Human Sexuality Social Statement. I know that it hasn’t been an easy road at all for the church but it is totally worth celebrating. Some of my favorite people who definetely have the gifts for ministry are now able to serve in the church! PRaise be to God! And because of that I am proud to be an ELCA Lutheran!

This week as I watched the churchwide assembly online, I was saddened to learn that approximately 500 congregations have left the ELCA but then I was even more heartened to hear that of the 10,000 congregations in the ELCA their giving is up. And because of that giving, I am proud to say I am an ELCA Lutheran!

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson asked the gathered body on the first day of the assembly if they were ready to be moved by the power of the spirit. He didnt answer the question but promised that it would be answered by the end of the week. On Friday, he asked the gathered body to get out their voting machines. He gave them three choices: 1. Are we ready to move? 2. ARe we stuck and not going anywhere? 3. Are we already moving? The cool thing was that over 600 people said that the church was already moving! The other 400 were split between the other choices. And because we are already moving, I am proud to be an ELCA Lutheran!

I am proud to be an ELCA Lutheran because we are a place where everyone is welcomed. There is a place for you here!

I am proud to be an ELCA Lutheran because it realizes that we all have been freed in Christ to serve.

I am proud to be an ELCA Lutheran because we understand what it means to share God’s love, grace, and mercy with the world even when it isnt the easiest thing in the world to do!

I am proud to be an ELCA Lutheran because they reach out beyond not just the church walsl but into other countries. I am proud that we continue to walk with Haiti, Japan, the people in Minot ND and the people in Joplin Missouri.

Because of these and so many other reasons, I am more proud than ever to be an ELCA Lutheran! Praise be to God!

How, Why and When Did I Become A Church Nerd?

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am an ELCA Lutheran especially this past week as I have watched (via the Internet live feed) our national church gather in Orlando. When I first started watching the live feed, I found myself confessing to my friends that I truly am a church geek but then I thought to myself, “Why in the world am I a church geek and when did I become one?” And to be honest, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened but what I can pinpoint is when I truly heard my call to serve God in this larger church known as the ELCA!

You see like most people seminary was NEVER in the books for me. It was the last thing I saw myself doing but little did I know that the Holy Spirit would show me differently. As a high school senior, living in small town ND, I was working at our local theatre a couple nights a week. But as I prepared to go off to college, I found myself looking for something that would pay me a little more substantially and that I would enjoy. My uncle suggested I go work at a local ELCA bible camp. I thought what the heck and decided to apply. The interview was the WORST interview of my life……I seriously dont think I looked at the interviewer once but rather looked the whole time at the table. However he decided to give me a chance and I went to work at that Bible camp less than 24 hours after I graduated high school. During the course of the summer, I found myself truly opening up about my mom’s struggle with a mental illness! (She had a nervous breakdown right after my sister was born when I was about three years old) After that summer, I went to college and then that next summer came to work at camp again. In the middle of the summer, we were doing mid-summer evals and the camp director told me he didnt think that I would make it last summer but he hired me thinking he would take me as long as he could take me. Then he proceeded to tell me that he couldnt get rid of me! I worked at that camp for approximately 7 summers!

After college, I always thought I would be a journalist but working at camp changed that for me. I went with a friend to tour a seminary. When I got there and stepped foot onto WTS’s campus, I felt God calling me there. I knew I wasnt called to be a pastor but felt called to be a part of this wider church and wasnt sure how that would unfold. After starting seminary, I found myself reading a book titled, “From Word to Sacrament.” As I read that book, certain phrases jumped off the page at me, “bridging church and world” “word and service” etc. Suddenly I knew that God was calling me to this new roster that I was reading about: Diaconal Ministry! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God was calling me to wash the feet of all God’s people including people like my own mother who daily struggle with this illness!

This past April I celebrated the 5th anniversary of my consecration as a Diaconal Minister! And that my friends is when I think I truly became a church nerd! It is when I finally saw myself not just as one person but a person who truly could and can make a difference not just in the church building but outside the church walls as well.

I find myself continuing to watch the online feed because I feel it is important for me to listen and ponder what the future of this church looks like. Like Reformer Martin Luther, I find myself wondering how we can reform this church in the midst of this world and context. I find myself continuing to watch because these issues are important to me and to those I care about.

I find myself watching because it makes me feel like I am a part of this national church even though I am not a delegate to the gathering in Orlando!

But most importantly, I find myself watching because we all have been freed in Christ to Serve! Praise be to God! (Sorry for the long length of this blog entry.)

A More Expansive and Inclusive Church

WOW!!! What can I say? The PCUSA (Presbyterian Church of the USA) now too has voted to openly allow LGTB individuals to be ordained in their church. They are now added to the growing number of mainline Protestant churches who are now allowing for LGBT individuals to be ordained in their churches! The largest—the Methodist church—is still arguing over this issue! My first response to hearing this news was “Praise be to God!” As an ELCA Lutheran, I have seen how the ELCA has struggled tremendously over this issue. However I believe that in the long-run we will be blessed by this decision. I have many friends who left seminary because they felt turned away and not welcomed. I was saddened by that because most of them have wonderful gifts for ministry and churches were missing out because they couldnt call these individuals. As I read the article posted on the NY Times, what I read was many of the feelings that were expressed and felt after the 2009 decision at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. (You can find the article here:The PCUSA Now Has Joined the ELCA and Other Protestant Churches on this Big Decision!)And yes, there are still remnents of that decision; people who still disagree and/or will never agree with what happened. And I understand where these invididuals are coming from. In fact, some of them are people I highly respect and value their opinion. However I can’t help but wonder what God or Jesus would say in the midst of all of this. As a woman called to pick up her basin and towel, I am called to pick up my basin and towel and serve all God’s people; no matter who that person is! For me, that is a essential to my call in this church! I know the PCUSA will go through some of the struggles we have been through over the last two years but in the end, I cant help but think that this will make us stronger. As I watch these events, I can’t help but realize that we are being called more and more every day to be a more expansive and inclusive church! What a gift that will be to us and the world! Praise be to God!

Bonhoeffer, MLK Jr. and Me

I’m still really having a hard time wrapping my head around the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. I understand that people need to rejoice; rejoice for those that lost their lives on Sept 11, 2001. I understand that many of us are feeling relief for this evil man who caused the death of these people and cannot hurt them anymore. Yet Im still having a hard time wrapping my head around how I should feel. This morning I sat with some ladies in my Tues morning devos. I spoke my mind and told them how I was feeling; that I just couldn’t bring myself to celebrate over the death/murder of someone even this evil one. I was immediately met by responses that told me that they rejoiced. I don’t shame them or blame them for that at all. I myself just cannot bring myself to celebrate the death of ANYONE! How should I feel? How should I react? I am reminded of Lutheran Theologian Dietrich Boenhoeffer who in the last part of his life wondered if God was calling him to murder and instead ended up in a concentration camp. Recently a quote has been all over fb and it seems to capture how I am feeling in these days. I’ve recently been informed that only the last half of the quote was truly MLK Jr. and that the first half came from somewhere else. I hesistate to post a quote that I am unsure of the source but it is truly capturing how I feel. “”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” I am clinging to these words as I try to discern and wrap my head around the events of the last several days and how I should feel, etc, etc!