Monday, November 17, 2014

Commemorating St. Elizabeth of Hungary

On this snowy (in SE Indiana, at least) day, the Church remembers and commemorates St. Elizabeth of Hungary.  The daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary, Elizabeth and the wife of Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia (in central Germany), Elizabeth did not give herself to a royal lifestyle of comfort.  During her marriage, she learned about the order of St. Francis of Assisi.  In response to what she learned, she lived as simply as possible while engaging in many efforts to help the poor in Thuringia.  After Louis IV died from an illness acquired on his way to join the latest Crusade, Elizabeth arranged for the care of her children, reacquired her dowry, and used that money to build a hospital at Marburg.  Here, she worked within the hospital to treat the sick and continued to give from her financial resources to the poor.  She died on November 17, 1231, at the young age of 24.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Commemorating St. Martin of Tours and Soren Kierkegaard

Today, the Church remembers both St. Martin, Bishop of Tours and Soren Kierkegaard.  Their lives, stories, and societies are very different.  We remember them together because both died on the date of November 11.

St. Martin was born in the year 315 AD.  The most popular story regarding St. Martin occurred during his brief military career.  As a member of the ceremonial cavalry unit which protected the Roman Emperor, Martin wore a white cloak which was lined with wool.  One winter day while wearing his uniform, Martin came across a homeless beggar; the beggar was so poor that he was nearly naked during the winter months.  Martin's reaction was one of compassion: he took off his cloak, used his sword to cut the cloak into two halves, and gave one half of the cloak to the beggar.  Later, Martin had a dream in which Jesus, who was wearing the cloak which Martin had given to the beggar, told several angels what Martin had done.  Years later, Martin would be elected as bishop by the people of Tours because they valued him as a model of holiness.  St. Martin is also known for refusing to continue in the Roman military after his baptism, playing a role in a man's miraculous healing, and for intervening on behalf of heretics against whom other bishops were using the civil authorities to prosecute and execute.  Read this summary for a fuller telling of St. Martin's life.

Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish Lutheran philosopher and theologian.  Kierkegaard is credited as the founder of existentialism, although "later existentialists had significantly different agendas than his."  He is also known as a fierce opponent of "cheap grace" and Christendom because he believed that an easy Christian life without pain, suffering, cost, or risk was not truly a Christian life at all.  Kierkegaard is also credited for writing beautiful prayers, poems, and hymns.  You can read more about Kierkegaard in this article from "Christianity Today."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Remembering Three Lutheran Missionaries

Today, November 7th, is the day the Lutheran Church commemorates three missionaries.  Although only one of these missionaries died on November 7th, the Church chooses to commemorate the three of them on the same day because they were called and sent to Southeast Asia.

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg was a German Lutheran who was sent as the first Protestant missionary to India.  Before his death in 1719, he was able to translate the entire New Testament and several books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Ruth) into Tamil, the local language.  He also established two congregations and a seminary to train their leaders.

John C. F. Heyer was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States as a teenager.  After studying theology in both America and Germany, he became a lay preacher in 1817 before his ordination in 1820.  After his wife of twenty years died in 1839, he discerned a calling as a missionary to India, where he served the same community as Ziegenbalg once served.  Heyer spent 15 years as a missionary in India before returning to the United States and settling in Minnesota, where he organized several congregations.

Ludwig Nommensen was born in a territory which often transitioned between Danish and Norwegian rulers.  He discerned his calling as a missionary and was sent as the first Christian missionary to the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  Nommensen spent his career in Sumatra with the Batak people, with whom he translated the Bible into Batak and guided the development of a native Batak church.  The Batak church is now one of the companion synod partners of the Indiana - Kentucky Mission Territory.

We give thanks to the Lord for these three missionaries and for all who answer the Holy Spirit's call to serve the Lord in a foreign land.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints Day

While we will fully observe the day tomorrow in worship, today is All Saints Day.  On this day, the Church remembers all of the Saints from generations past, present, and future.  While many saints have their own day (for example, St. Andrew on November 30th), this day gives recognition to every saint.  While history will not remember the vast majority of saints, every saint means something to Christ and leaves an impression on someone.  Therefore, we observe this day to remember the stories of those who left an impression on us.

One of the ways of marking this day is to recall the saints of the congregation who have died within the past year.  The congregation I serve will remember four members and three friends of the congregation who died since November 1, 2013.  At tomorrow's worship service, we will light a candle for each person as a visual reminder of their passing from life in Christ to death in Christ.

We also remember God's actions to adopt us as God's children and extend to us the promise of resurrection.  These things are encapsulated in this verse:

"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." (1 John 3:2 NRSV)

Whom do you remember?  How will you remember them?