Saturday
Oct042014

Now What Do We Do on Fall Saturdays?

From Debra Rienstra

I would like to point out that the University of Michigan ranks among the top 15 finest universities in the world. Academically. We are talking about academics here. As an alum, I feel obliged to establish this fact at the outset.

Now we can talk about football. Perhaps you have heard about the incident last Saturday during the Michigan-Minnesota game (final score: we do not speak of it), in which quarterback Shane Morris took a hard hit to the head, staggered around, was escorted off the field, and then, a few plays later, to the astonishment of the fans, was sent back into the game for one play. Why none of the coaches or sideline trainer-medical types saw him wobble, or evaluated him for concussion before sending him back out (with an injured ankle, too)—no one can explain, and these mysteries have accelerated the slow, painful implosion of the Michigan football program’s reputation, and maybe the program.

The president of the university is attempting to salvage a situation that was exacerbated by delayed and dissembling communications from the athletic division. Meanwhile, Go-Blue pundits are hoping for the imminent departure not only of head coach Brady Hoke but also athletic director David Brandon, who is increasingly depicted as a mustache-twirling villain. In fact, “departure” may be too mild a term for what may happen to these guys and members of their staff. As my husband keeps telling me, this is Michigan football we’re talking about, and the villagers are sprinting out to their toolsheds for pitchforks and torches. At the very least, Michigan students staged an old-fashioned sit-in Tuesday on President Schlissel’s lawn, calling for Brandon’s removal.

Friday
Oct032014

Relics

From James C. Schaap

What I can't help but notice, almost daily, is that I'm running low on holy water. Truth is, this Protestant has never opened this elegant little bottle, never sprinkled its contents on anything, never tried out its holy potential. It stands atop my file now with a gaggle of other memorables, the blest water within dissipating to wherever sealed holy water goes when it disappears. 

Three years ago I bought this sweet keepsake--two euros--at the shrine to St. Boniface in Dokkum, the Netherlands, a sort of open-faced house of worship that celebrates the life of a priest who may well have been Europe's most famous martyr. He already had a great vitae by the time some pagan Frisians offed him. He'd brought Christianity to the pagans, after all. He's the patron saint of Germany. 

Some historians pooh-pooh his tactics because his methods were extreme, well, primitive. He cared not a whit for what we'd call today the indigenious culture of those to whom he brought the gospel.  

The most famous tale of his saintly life surrounds his felling of Thor's Oak, a huge tree--so saith posterity--whose massive size made it a shrine, as in pagan. Boniface would have nothing to do with heresy, so he cut the monster oak down.  Some say that at the moment he was at it with his axe, a miraculous straight-line wind came along and broke the thing divinely into four chunks. The felling of Thor's Oak was the kind of mighty deed that sped his ascension to sainthood.

But he lost his head in Friesland when a gang of the world tallest heathens martyred him for destroying their shrines.  The date was June 5, the day before Pentecost, 754 A.D.

Thursday
Oct022014

Oktoberfest Beer and God's Love

From Thomas C. Goodhart

As the warmth of September gives way to the cool of October, doubtless do palates begin to change and many begin to crave the offerings which this season brings, for example freshly picked apples from a trip to a local orchard or the pumpkin-spiced flavoured almost anything that “food” marketers promote. But for some this season harkens to something else: Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is the sixteen-day festival that begins in late September and runs until the first Sunday in October. Thus, we are in the midst of it and it concludes this coming Sunday. Officially itself, Oktoberfest, one of the world’s largest festivals, happens in Munich, Germany, the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria. It’s historical roots began in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig—who would eventually became King Ludwig of Bavaria from 1825 to 1848—married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on the 12th of October. A marriage celebration was held for the subjects of the Kingdom of Bavaria which included horse races outside of the city of Munich. These races continued in the following years, as well as an agricultural fair, and eventually a parade, a commemoration of sorts that eventually became named Oktoberfest. This festival continues to this day drawing over 6 million people to it annually. Not only has it remained a local celebration in Munich, but it has been replicated both around Germany and around the world with similar Oktoberfest festivals.

As with many festivals, and especially to those who celebrate the fullness of Oktoberfest now, it is about the tastes of Oktoberfest. The various food cravings this season and celebration harken to are the very traditional German foods of the Bavarian region: pretzels and potato pancakes, wurst (sausages)—especially Weisswurst (white sausage), sauerkraut, red cabbage, and one of my favourites—cheese noodles or Käsespätzle. But the food that is most associated with Oktoberfest is obviously beer.

Wednesday
Oct012014

Church in the Digital World

From Jes Kast-Keat

I am on the upper age of being a digital native. Technology is essential in my life. What's a digital native? Glad you a asked. Let's turn to Wiki, "A digital native is a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater comfort level using it. Alternatively, this term can describe people born during or after the 1985, but in most cases, the term focuses on people who grew up with the technology that became prevalent in the latter part of the 20th century and continues to evolve today." What this means is that as a digital native minister, church is not just what happens on Sunday morning, but church is what happens in the digital world. So let me offer some thoughts that may be helpful for us as we consider what the gathering of God's people looks like in a digital age.

This past week I was interviewed by two people who were interested in the ways I use technology for ministry. One of the people who interviewed me is the ELCA pastor, Keith Anderson, who is writing a book "The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World." He wanted me to share my story of how I started the hashtag #MySixWordStoryOfFaith. In the early summer I invited all of my Twitter followers to help me write my sermon. I was preaching on Luke 24 and was fascinated by verse 48 when the resurrected Jesus tells the disciples "You are witnesses of these things." Essentially, Jesus was telling the disciples "Yo! You are storytellers of the faith. Each of you has a story about your encounter with me and the resurrection. Go and tell people your story!"

Tuesday
Sep302014

Metaphorically Speaking

From Scott Hoezee

This year I was privileged to be invited to join an interdisciplinary group of scholars.  Together we will study the intersections of economics and metaphor and how using certain metaphors may help not only ordinary folks better to understand the function of the economy but might help also economists themselves to frame their work in more accurate ways.  The group has barely gotten off the ground yet, but I can tell already that the discussions will be fascinating. 

One book we are looking at is a kind of mini-classic from just over 30 years ago: the Lakoff-Johnson volume Metaphors We Live By.  Most of the first chapters of this book bombard the reader with a nearly dizzying array of everyday speech that is substantially--and at times completely--structured by metaphors.  These metaphorical ways of describing reality are, in fact, so entrenched in our language that most of the time we are wholly unaware of the fact that we are engaging in metaphorical talk.  True, when we use more obvious metaphorical expressions like, "He's two sheets to the wind" or "She's a tough old bird," we are more conscious of the presence of metaphors.

But what about when we describe a conversation in which we note, "His criticisms were right on target."   As it turns out, for most of us our entire conception of arguments or of argumentative conversations is premised on the meta-metaphor that "Argument is war."   That's why criticisms can be "on target" even as certain other ideas can be "blown out of the sky" or "demolished" or "attacked."  

Or what about the ways in which spatial orientation becomes associated with positive or negative things?