Message from Bishop Gronberg
Partners in Mission:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” — John 9:2
One of my great joys is when I visit congregations and get to sit in on Christian education classes/bible studies. Whether led by lay or rostered leaders, they always provide fascinating insights into the topic, which often happens to be the scripture for the day. Last Sunday I had such an opportunity as they discussed the assigned lectionary reading from John 9 for the day. John’s telling of these stories always strike me as being of the sort where he might say, “I told you that story so I could tell you this story.” And in this case John makes Jesus into something of a Lutheran Law/Gospel preacher.
When the disciples are confronted with a human being with a real problem — physical blindness — they assume there is a theological reason. Someone must have sinned for this man to be born blind. And in being born blind, he was relegated to a life of begging in the streets. In their world construct there must be a reason for this calamity, as they see it, to befall this man and by extension his family. And in so doing they look to the individual, the man, or his parents, as being those that must have sinned. The Law is clearly punishing these people for their iniquity.
Yet Jesus’ response to the man’s infirmity is not to preach to him the law but to heal him. To bring gospel hope and healing, to bring light, into his physical darkness. In that moment Jesus demonstrates that it is not the man or his family who need to be reminded of the Law but those quick to judge, including his disciples and the pharisees (the church folk), who need to be reminded that the Law applies to them as well. That they, who can physically see, have been blinded by a system that makes them unable to see God’s light in the healing of this man. That God’s mercy and grace are only for some, not all.
In the adult education class I attended last Sunday it was heartening to hear as the members of the class struggled through these realities. How such a seemingly simple thing as Jesus healing a man of blindness can take us deep into our own reality and our need in Lent to be reminded of this. That we live with and participate in systems that are, like the disciples, quick to judge others as sinful. To make decisions about others based on fear and frankly a desire that someone else be “lower” than us. Yet Lent comes to wipe all that self-promotion and our systems of justification away. We too are often blind. Blind to the suffering of neighbors, willfully not seeing those in need, choosing some to be in and others out based on a number of criteria we know all too well. But the law, when properly proclaimed, reminds us that we too live under the reality of sin. Yet into our blindness comes Jesus’ grace and mercy. Unmerited, given freely by the light of the world.
A blessed Lent to you all. As we experience the weight of sin on us and our neighbors, I pray we also can begin to see more clearly the light that sets us free. Free to live and serve for the sake of others.
In Pursuit of Justice, Equity, and Inclusion: Jesus, Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin, and You
From our partners at Wartburg Theological Seminary:
FREE Webinar: Tuesday, March 28
Join Pastor Lamont Wells, Wartburg’s Strategic Advisor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, for a session that will explore biblical narrative(s) and cultural experiences of demands for justice that will help inform our collective call to respond to local and global inequities. The participant will learn history, faithful methods and strategies to bring healing to divided communities. Drawing from spiritual practices including non-violent civic engagement as a way to create “beloved community” and open the pathways for freedom and justice for all.
Available via Zoom, the public forum is both for members of the Wartburg community and for all others interested in this topic. All are welcome.
Pastor Wells is the executive director of the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities (NECU). Wells previously served as program director for ELCA Campus Ministry, providing leadership to the Lutheran Campus Ministry Network. Wells is also national president of the African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA).
FREE Webinar: Addiction and Women
From our partners at The Center of Addiction & Faith:
Thursday, March 30, 1pm Eastern
When it comes to addiction and treatment, one size does not fit all. Women often face a unique set of challenges, a history of trauma, and barriers to effective treatment. Join Caroline Beidler, the author of Downstairs Church: Finding Hope in the Grit of Addiction and Trauma Recovery, as she shares her personal journey and lessons she’s learned along the way in creating space for women in recovery. We’ll discuss some of the historical challenges women have faced as well as important principles to keep in mind when developing outreach and programming to support women. Caroline joins Pastor Ed Treat and CAF Board member Timothy McMahan King, author of Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us.
Caroline Beidler is an author, recovery advocate, and founder of the storytelling platform Bright Story Shine. With almost 20 years in leadership within social work and ministry, she is currently the Membership and Outreach Manager for the Association of Recovery in Higher Education. She is also a team writer for the Grit and Grace Project and blogger at the global recovery platform In the Rooms, along with founder and visionary of the annual International Women’s Day Global Recovery Event presented by the SHE RECOVERS Foundation. Caroline lives in Tennessee with her husband and twins where she enjoys hiking in the mountains and building up her community’s local recovery ministry.
Featured Resources for March
Ever looking for images or music that doesn’t feel or sound “stock” and is available for FREE to use in newsletters, services, and so on? Here are two (of a number) of sites that offer these options direct from content creators!
“Over 2.7 million+ high quality stock images, videos, and music shared by our talented community.”
“The internet’s source for visuals. Powered by creators everywhere.”
Save the Date
An opportunity for Americans to show up for each other and for the country we love
April 17-23, 2023
National Week of Conversation was created for those exhausted by division and hatred. You’re invited to bring your passion for issues in an environment where you can be heard. We welcome all Americans, across our many differences, into conversations that can rekindle relationships and help us relearn how to be the “we” we know we can be.
In April 2023, thousands of Americans will join together to participate in the 6th annual National Week of Conversation. Participants will be able to choose from hundreds of events and conversations hosted by partner organizations as a way to help heal America. Millions more Americans will be inspired by these moments of connection, which will be amplified by media. Connect with people and organizations across the country on topics you are passionate about.
We are not the only ones longing for a more connected society. To connect with others pursuing healing through dialog, visit https://conversation.us/.
Where in the world is?
Across a context as wide and different as NT-NL, the reality of Covid-19 is very different. As such, NT-NL synod staff are doing more in-person Sunday visits for worship and occasional meetings. However, as good stewards of time and travel dollars, we will be utilizing online meeting formats into our new hybrid future. Given the rise of breakthrough infections and in order to protect those gathered, the synod staff will choose to wear masks as is deemed appropriate unless preaching or presiding and sufficient social distancing can be provided.
Apr. 15: Parish Lay Ministry Academy (PLMA)
Apr. 16: Briarwood Service of Thanksgiving and Transition, Argyle, TX
Apr. 21-22: Lutheran Men in Mission Annual Meeting
Apr. 23: 100th Anniversary Celebration, First United, Dallas
Apr. 28-29: NT-NL Synod Assembly, Shreveport, LA
(As she transitions back from her sabbatical, which ended on February 28, visits are being added almost daily that may not be noted in the weekly news through March.)
Mar. 20-23: Bishop’s Associates Gathering, Minneapolis, MN
Mar. 28: First Call Pastors Check-in, Zoom
Apr. 6: Interim/Transitional Pastors, Zoom
Apr. 22: WELCA retreat for the Dallas Area Metro North conference, St. Luke’s, Richardson
Apr. 28-29: NT-NL Synod Assembly, Shreveport, LA
Mar. 22-23: Latino Christian National Network, Dallas
Mar. 27: ELCA Candidacy Development Working Group
Apr. 28-29: NT-NL Synod Assembly, Shreveport, LA
With the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations in our world right now, as we maintain physical distance in social solidarity, please keep in mind these events may be moved online, postponed, or cancelled:
- Mar. 22: Courageous Leadership – Jeff Linman – Living and Leading with Resurrection Faith, Zoom
- Mar. 23: Cultivating Compassion Session 3: Online Practice – Disproportionality, Online
- Mar. 25: Cultivating Compassion Session 3: In Person Practice – Disproportionality, Shepherd of Life, Arlington
- Mar. 28: First Call Pastors Check-in, Online
- Mar. 29: Courageous Leadership – Bishop Mike Girlinghouse – Embracing God’s Future, Part 2, Zoom
- Apr. 5: Courageous Leadership – Choose Your Own Adventure (breakout rooms by topic), Zoom
- Apr. 6: Transitional Pastors monthly meeting, Zoom
- Apr. 8: Public Witness Team meeting, Hybrid
- Apr. 10: LAST DAY to RSVP for Briarwood Service of Thanksgiving and Transition
- Apr. 12: Courageous Leadership – Presenter(s) and Topic TBA – Zoom
- Apr. 15: Parish Lay Ministry Academy (PLMA), Spring 1, Course 2, Hybrid
- Apr. 16: Briarwood Service of Thanksgiving and Transition, Argyle, TX
- Apr. 16: LAST DAY to register for Synod Assembly, Online (NO registrations will be accepted on site)
- Apr. 16: LAST DAY to book Synod Assembly hotel rooms at the guaranteed reduced rate, Online
- Apr. 19: Courageous Leadership – Presenter(s) and Topic TBA – Zoom
- Apr. 25: First Call Pastors Check-in, Zoom
- Apr. 26: Courageous Leadership – Presenter(s) and Topic TBA – Zoom
- Apr. 27: Cultivating Compassion Session 4: Think Again, Online
- Apr. 28-29: 2023 NT-NL Synod Assembly, Shreveport, LA
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit to Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration for upcoming editions of our weekly news.