Pastor’s Blog

Easter Vigil+Easter Lily+Azaleas at St. Stephen Lutheran Church +Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Pastor Andy's Musings


What Does It Mean to Be Human, as God Created Us to Be?  IV

March 20, 2017
Dorothy Day is one of my heroes.  When she died, in 1980, she was 83 years old.  She was  a founder of the Catholic Worker movement.  During most of her life, she worked to serve the poor in a House of Hospitality, a walk-in center for those without a home, or without enough to eat.  The hospitality was a radical Christian practice, no questions asked.[1] Dorothy Day wrote a great deal about her work.  It was difficult work because so many difficult people came into the House of Hospitality!  Many…

What Does It Mean to Be Human, as God Created Us to Be? III – Sabbath Practice (Part 2)

March 17, 2017
Sabbath practice is crucial for us to be human as God created us to be. That’s because we’re able to turn away from the need to accomplish tasks and to be efficient. God offers us the gift of sabbath time because God loves us and wants us to enjoy a different quality of time. During sabbath time, there is no schedule. You are engaged in what gives you refreshment. You’re more relaxed and open when you engage in prayer and the Daily Lectionary during unstructured sabbath time, so you’re more…

The Number “40”

March 8, 2017
The season of Lent lasts for 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 1 this year; and ending at the Easter Vigil, April 15 this year. (Have you ever taken out a calendar and counted the days between Ash Wednesday and the Easter Vigil?  Of course, there are more than 40 days.  Sundays are not counted as part of Lent for those who practice daily devotion.  That's because Sundays are always feast days, days of celebrating the resurrection.  However, on what day do most folks show up for worship?  As…

What Does It Mean to be Human, as God Created Us to Be? II – Sabbath Practice (Part 1)

March 6, 2017
In my first post of this series, I referred to our basic “tasks,” to be human as God created us to be.  They are to receive love from God and to respond by loving God and loving others.  Luther’s explanations of the 10 Commandments give a good guide to what that looks like!  (See Luther’s Small Catechism and Large Catechism.) To do this, I think the pivotal Commandment is the third one: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  Or, as Luther puts it in the Large Catechism: “You…

What Does It Mean To Be Human, As God Created Us To Be? I – Love

February 24, 2017
I’ve been working through Luther’s Large Catechism, in preparation for our Lenten study groups, and I’ve been surprised by how helpful this document is as a devotional resource.  It encourages my prayer and reflection.   Luther’s Small Catechism and Large Catechism both teach us how to be human, according to God desires; as God has created us to be.  What does that mean?  The first thing to say is that we are to love!  But what does that mean?  (As Krista Tippett says, we have devalued the word, “love,” so…

It’s The Day After The Day After

November 10, 2016
On this day after the day after the election, I am thinking about the candidates in human terms. I am thinking about how subdued Donald Trump has been over the past two days.  (I wonder if that's because he's thinking "Holy ****!  NOW what do I do?"  According to interviews, even many of those who voted for him think he's totally unqualified to be President.  But they voted for him anyway, so deep is their frustration and hatred of the political establishment of both parties.)  I am very thankful for…

On the Morning After the Election of Donald Trump

November 9, 2016
We Americans  -- Republicans as well as Democrats -- are waking up to the stunning news that we have elected Donald Trump to be our next president.  What does this mean for our future?  Financial market futures have plunged because financial markets tremble in the face of uncertainty.  World leaders are bracing for the possibility of an upending of global relations and alliances.  Will Trump do what he has said he will do: leading our nation to turn inward, turning away from conflicts in the rest of the world? As…

Unsolicited Advice from a Departing Pastor (Not a St. Stephen Pastor!)

October 14, 2016
Frank Honeycutt is a friend of mine, a pastor and author.  Frank is retiring and his final newsletter column to his congregation is below.  It deserves wide circulation with its wise comments on the basics of our faith journey as follower of Jesus! -- Pastor Andy Ballentine   Unsolicited Advice from a Departing Pastor…by Pastor Frank Well, this is the final newsletter column of my pastoral career. It’s been great to be among you, my fourth parish in 31 years. They’ve all been different, but also share common challenges as…