Moving On Over

February 16, 2009

I’m no longer blogging at this site.  I’ve moved to http://erikullestad.blogspot.com/

(For those who do the rss thing, here’s the new feed — http://feeds2.feedburner.com/blogspot/erikullestad)

Why move?

I’m tired of explaining the “godsnowhere” gimmick to people.  I need a break from WordPress, which is an awesome blog site (probably the best), but the features are limited if I don’t self-host my website (which costs money)…and requires a certain level of tech-savvy that I don’t have.

I’ll be doing the same kinds of things at the new site.  I would be much obliged if you’d join me over at KOINONIA.  Thanks…


Two Favors

February 6, 2009

I don’t ask much out of you, my faithful godsnowhere reader.  But, just this once, I’m asking two favors of you…

 

#1 – Watch Friday Night Lights

I think this is the best show on television (which isn’t saying much because I don’t watch any other shows on TV, other than Sesame Street and Sid the Science Kid).  The best thing to say about FNL is that it’s real.  Really real.  Like, the realist real you can really imagine.  The football scenes aren’t overly choreographed.  The depiction of football’s place in a random Texas town, from what I’ve read, is dead-on.  Even the interactions between parents/children, teachers/parents, coaches/parents, parents/parents, and teens/teens are brutally authentic.  You could do a lot worse on a Friday night…and probably not a whole lot better.  It’s only 3 episodes into the season, so it’s easy to catch up on.  Sadly, it seems that FNL might be in its last season, which means that 21 Jump Street, My So Called Life, and Boomtown will have a new comrade at the Table of the Criminally Underappreciated.  That is unless you start watching!

 

#2 – Read About the Gospel According to Willie

Emily did a great job recapping a random encounter we had with a homeless dude in New Orleans named “Willie the Bike Man.”  Take a few minutes to read her story and listen to the audio of our 2am songfest.

(Note, the recording was made on my BlackBerry Curve 8330; played through the speaker on the phone; recorded through the air with Garage Band on my MacBook; converted to an mp3 file; paired with pictures of homeless people on YouTube.  Hopefully we can get a more “pure” version of the original digital file, once my phone & computer start playing nice with each other.)

 

 

Now, was that so difficult?  I didn’t think so…


Music Video Divina

February 3, 2009

Chris Scharen, my new favorite scholar / theologian, introduced a new term to us at the Extravaganza — music video divina.  (Similar to lectio divina.)  We used the U2 / Green Day video “The Saints Are Coming” as our focal point.

Some additional input on the intended meaning behind the video (from Wikipedia):

A music video for “The Saints Are Coming,” directed by Chris Milk, was released on video site YouTube on October 27, 2006. The music video shows the two bands playing at the Abbey Road Studio and at the Louisiana Superdome (though the footage from the live performance at the Superdome has been overdubbed with the studio version of the song), intermixed with news footage of the displacement of residents after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The second half of the video shows an alternate history in which George W. Bush redeployed troops and vehicles from Iraq to New Orleans to help victims of the hurricane, with the military personnel fulfilling the titular role of the “saints.” According to Chris Milk, this was done to “make a commentary on the Katrina disaster … from the standpoint of how things can and should be done in the future.”[4] The video ends with military support vehicles fading out as the camera pans to a sign that reads ‘Not as seen on TV’, alluding to the criticized response to Katrina while also parodying media deception on rescue coverage. The video had more than two million views on YouTube five days after its initial upload. Various critics, including some YouTube viewers have commented on the logistical impossibility of the hypothetical movement of certain pieces of military hardware from Iraq on such short notice as well as the actual functional capabilities of the aircraft digitally edited into the video.

Amazing.  Powerful.  Prophetic.


I Swear

January 23, 2009

An interesting post over at Stuff Christians Like about Jesus followers who use swear words.  Since I’ve never uttered a single curse word in my entire life (ha!), I have nothing to worry about.  

According to Christianity Today, evangelist Tony Campolo told many audiences in the 1980s, “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a (shit). What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said (shit) than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

I agree with that idea and dig Tony Campolo. Children dying is a whole lot worse than swearing. And I have friends that are incredibly unloving, the second most important commandment, but would never, ever swear. So I think it’s easy to get wound up too tight about swearing. At the same time though, if I swear and then get called on it by a friend, I’m not sure saying, “Yeah well kids are starving,” is going to be a great excuse for me.

 

Apparently, I’m one of few people that I’ve talked to today that hasn’t heard that Tony Campolo story.  Either way, it’s a compelling discussion.  I wonder how many swear words I’ll hear while hanging out with Lutheran youth ministers next week…


Something Fishy About Sea Kittens

January 21, 2009

I wrote a Faith Lens study for the ELCA Youth Ministry website this week.  Here’s what I came up with…

 

 

Faith Lens

January 21-28, 2009 – Something fishy about “sea kittens”

Warm-up question: What’s the strangest name you’ve ever heard for a pet?

There’s a new creature swimming in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Well, sort of. The folks at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have launched a campaign to rename fish “sea kittens.” The strategy is one of several attempts by PETA to discourage people from eating certain kinds of meat. Past projects included referring to McDonald’s and Burger King as “McCruelty” and “Murder King,” and the 2003 “Holocaust on Your Plate” slogan, which compared some farming practices to tactics employed by the Nazis in World War II.

PETA launched the Sea Kittens page on its Web site (www.peta.org) with the intent to appeal to children and their parents. The friendly animated characters link to interactive pages where users can create their own sea kitten, read sea kitten stories, and sign a petition. The term “fishing” is replaced with “sea kitten hunting.” Fish are portrayed as intelligent, adorable, and as experiencing emotions of pain and loss.

The Sea Kitten campaign hopes to create awareness about brutal fishing practices. PETA also wants to discourage people from eating fish in general. The petition, which has over 5,000 signatures, asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to “stop allowing our little sea kitten friends to be tortured and killed. Who’d want to hurt a sea kitten anyway?!” The site goes on to declare, “The promotion of sea kitten hunting is a glaring contradiction of FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service) mission to ‘conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats.’”

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel about the “Sea Kitten” campaign?
  • What are some ethical ways of fishing? How about unethical ways of fishing? Would you sign a petition that asks the FWS to “stop promotion of fishing?” Explain your position.
  • As stewards of God’s creation, what stance do you believe Christians should take on this issue?
  • How does changing the name or identity of something alter your opinion, understanding, or view of an issue? (e.g., Sea kitten instead of fish, conflict instead of war, online advertisement instead of spam, hate crime instead of freedom of expression, protective coating engineer instead of painter, etc. Think of some others.)

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 25, 2009.
(Text links are to 
oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

Gospel Reflection

Mark seems like the kind of guy who would rather study Cliff’s Notes (an abbreviated overview) than read an entire book. His gospel is short and to the point. The first chapter (45 verses) tells of John the Baptist’s ministry, the baptism of Jesus, the temptation of Jesus, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the calling of the disciples, Jesus teaching in the synagogue, removing demons, cleansing lepers, and even Jesus’ first preaching tour. So much for beating around the bush!

The gospel text for today tells of how Jesus called his first disciples — Simon and Andrew; James and John. Two sets of brothers. All were fishermen. This is significant for many reasons, not the least of which was the social standing of fishermen. People who caught fish served an important purpose in society, as they provided one of the major food resources for the community. However, fishermen had very little connection with most people, other than their fellow fishers. They kept to themselves. They were dirty and smelly. Many fishermen had no home — they just lived in their boats. They were rough-and-tumble, salt-of-the-earth kinds of people, certainly not the kinds of people that would be thought of as religious leaders!

Yet these were exactly the kinds of people that Jesus wanted to have around.

Jesus called these two sets of brothers to help him show the world that God is a God for everyone; not just the educated, wealthy, religious folk. He turned the word “fishermen” around into “fishers of men” (which we know includes ALL people, not just men). Imagine the confusion that Simon, Andrew, James, and John were experiencing. Not only were they leaving behind the familiar life of fishermen, but they were now going to have to fish for people. This is just the beginning though. Jesus would lead these men on a three-year journey where everything was turned upside-down. Swords would be turned into ploughshares, rough places made plain, lowly are exalted, sick made healthy, and dead were raised to new life.

Though these young men were the same people, they had a new identity. There were no longer fishers of fish, they were fishers of people. In the same way, Jesus changes our identity from “lost, broken, sinner” to “child of God.” It’s amazing how one little name change can make a huge difference in our lives and view of the world.

Discussion Questions

  • What would you say if a strange man showed up at your school and said, “follow me, and I will teach you to fish for people?”
  • Why do you think Jesus chose fishermen to be his first disciples? Why not highly educated, publicly recognized religious leaders?
  • How does changing the identity of the chosen disciples (from fishermen to fishers of people) change the way they viewed themselves?
  • Whether they’re called “fish” or “sea kittens,” the animal is the same. Whether these men were called “fishermen” or “fishers of people,” they were still the same men. All that changed was other people’s perceptions of them. What kinds of labels do you put on other people? How do those labels impact the way you treat them, respect them, or trust them? How would you treat people if you gave them all the same label, “child of God?”

Activity Suggestion

Fishing for people is not about sticking a hook in their mouth and dragging them into your boat (the church). It’s also not about sitting in the “boat” and hoping fish will just magically jump into it. Being a fisher of people means two things:

  1. engaging
  2. inviting

Ask everyone to think of one or two people they would like to go fishing for this week. Give each person some construction paper, marker, and a pair of scissors. Have everyone cut out a fish and write the name(s) of the people they want to go fishing for during the upcoming week. Talk about ways to engage these people in conversation about Jesus. Share ideas for how and when to invite them to your church. Encourage everyone to keep their little fish cut-out in their planner to remind them to go fishing for people.

Closing Prayer

God, you have given us a new identity as your children. Help us to trust in your promises, and to share them with others. Amen.

Contributed by Erik Ullestad
West Des Moines, IA


Lessons by Connor

January 15, 2009

Here’s a re-post of an article my dad wrote; originally printed in the January issue of the Northeastern Iowa Synod STAR newsletter.  The stories shared by my dad and the other pastor remind me that young people can do amazing things in our congregations.  Sometimes, all it takes is for adults to get out of the way.  EU

– – – 

This summer, Ruth and I had the opportunity worship with our family and the family in which I was raised.  Seventeen of us filled two pews for the first time in many years.  It was good to be together, to confess and be forgiven, to sing and pray, to hear God’s word and taste the heavenly feast together.

The highlight of the service, however, was the reading of scripture.  A young man, perhaps 4th or 5th grade, came forward for the First and Second Readings for the day.  Though he could barely reach the microphone, he had fully prepared to proclaim God’s Word through these readings.  He did not call attention to himself but rather, by his presence and the inflection of his voice, he pointed us to Holy Scripture.  Each sentence was read with respect and a genuineness that revealed the young man’s faith.  I am certain that I have never heard Romans 8 read with such power and conviction.  (Yes, I’ve already written to him expressing my thanks and encouraging him to become a pastor!)

When I shared my gratitude with one of his pastors, the Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, she offered another example of this ministry of the congregation.

It is usually on the 2nd Sunday of the month that we call upon the children and youth of St. John’s to serve as lectors – those who proclaim the First and Second Readings.  Do not be mistaken – this is not training for when they grow up and become “real” lectors.  These children and youth are full members of the body of Christ and of this particular community of faith, and as such they are also called to proclaim the life-giving Word of God in the assembly.

On the 2nd Sunday of April, one of our 4th grade girls stepped into the lectern for the first time.  She read the introduction to the First Lesson with clarity and composure, paused, then taking a deep breath, she looked up and announced with even more volume and conviction, “People of God, listen for the Word of the Lord!”  Everyone in the sanctuary immediately sat up straighter.  Wandering minds snapped back into the moment, those nodding off woke up, and the preacher let go of her usual pre-sermon angst!  Here was a witness, ready to proclaim the Word “from the housetops,” as Jesus directed.  

And the entire assembly responded with equal strength and conviction: “Our ears are open!

Perhaps you have young people in your congregation who are willing to serve the congregation and God’s word in this way.  In addition to the necessary reading skills, it will be important to find individuals who are persons of faith who are committed to properly prepare for the readings.  I believe that it will enrich the congregation, connect with young people and deepen the faith of the reader.  Much good comes when we encourage our children and youth to share the “Book of Faith” in the congregation.

 

— Steven L. Ullestad

Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod


Tebow the Messiah

January 12, 2009

I caught this photo montage over at The Big Lead earlier today.  It literally made orange Fanta come out of my nose as I tried to keep from laughing.

 

I really like Tim Tebow.  However, by the end of the college football championship game, I was getting pretty sick of Thom Brennaman’s over-the-top slurping of young Tebow.  By all accounts he’s an amazing kid; one who lives out his faith in meaningful ways.  I’m glad he’s sticking around for his senior year (his NFL prospects as a QB are average at best) so he can hone his decision-making skills, develop a more accurate arm, learn how to walk on water, and discover a cure for cancer.