Dear Fellow Travelers:
For those of you who missed hearing about our high schoolers’ mission trip during worship this past Youth Sunday, I’m sorry for you. Our youth provided a magnificent review of their experience encountering the grandeur of nature in Colorado, discovering the joy of selfless service and witnessing the power of faith in the lives of those who have little.
Four hundred years before the birth of Christ, Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from Nepal, lived in a palace built by his father and designed to keep him from encountering mortality and suffering. At the age of 29 he snuck out of the palace to see his kingdom. On his ride he encountered an elderly man and a corpse. His chariot driver explained how all people grow old and eventually die. Further down the road he saw someone racked with disease and another begging for bread. The prince was perplexed by their ability to smile and enjoy life despite obvious hardship and poverty. Seeing the world as it is without the protections of wealth and status changed his heart. Siddhartha snuck from his palace and embarked on a spiritual journey that explored the extremes of self-denial and hedonistic indulgence, discovering peace in a middle way that found no satisfaction in material things but enlightenment through the elimination of desire. This is the briefest possible biography of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
I mention this story because I’ve been musing about what changes people’s hearts. How do people move from boredom to enchantment, selfishness to selflessness, from a life of security to a life of faith? The story of the Buddha came to mind while our mission trippers recounted their journey from the security of La Grange to the harsher forests, farms and streets of Colorado Springs. And while I am not suggesting a new great world religion will be founded by one of our TUXIS trippers, I do believe their experience provided an opportunity to be awakened to a world greater than themselves.
I also believe dimensions of their awakening may have been superior to that of Siddhartha. Unlike the Buddha’s path, which arrived at an enlightenment through the diminishing of self by the elimination of desire, their experience was a more Christianly encounter. Unlike Buddhism which inspires earthly detachment, Christianity demands earthly engagement; selfish desire is diminished by a wakening to the needs of others in community, a profound enlightenment discovered through love of neighbor.
There was an implicit challenge in the testimony of our TUXIS trippers: When’s the last time we left the security of our protected palaces to allow the harsh realities of the world around us to change our hearts? How often do we express the power of God’s reckless love so we may discover the enlightenment known only to those who diminish their desire when they love their neighbor as themselves?
Touched by the testimonies of our tenacious TUXIS trippers, I remain,
Greetings Participating Partners in Prayer:
Following the attack on mosques in Christchurch New Zealand, I wrote a letter of solidarity to the Administrative Assistant and congregation of the Orland Park Prayer Center. FPPLC’s confirmation class received a gracious welcome and tour of the facility and were given the opportunity to observe Asr, afternoon daily prayer, of the community. The following is an open letter to the Administrator and congregation.
I grew up among people who held a paradoxical relationship with Jews. On the one hand, most of the adult men in my childhood congregation were veterans of World War II, and many found great meaning for their service in the liberation of the Jewish people from the brutal tyranny of anti-Semitic Nazism. On the other hand, because the Jews had rejected Jesus, we were confident they were going to hell. There was also a third hand that colored our understanding of Jewish-Christian relations, and that was a reading of Biblical prophecy that insisted the formation of the nation of Israel was a prerequisite for the second coming of Jesus, something we were weekly enjoined to hasten.
Dear Penitent People:
As we approach the season of Lent, it is important to note that the day before Ash Wednesday in much of the world is known as Fat Tuesday, owing to the historic tradition of not eating fats and sugars during the season of penance. While the celebration known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is a ten-month tourist celebration in New Orleans, in many countries the days of Carnival begin the Thursday before Lent and culminate on Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday.
Dear Broken Brethren:
As Pope Francis gathers with Roman Catholic bishops in the Vatican this week in a summit designed to address clergy sexual abuse of minors, I have had several conversations with individuals suggesting that the Catholics have a big problem. While I hope the magisterium experiences some breakthroughs in discipline and oversight through an event largely organized by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, it would be a serious mistake to suggest this is somehow an issue confined to the ranks of Roman Rite clergy.
Clergy sexual abuse of minors is not a problem that will be resolved by permitting priests the stability of marriage. To be sure, the recent revelations of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding their own clergy…
Dear President Party Participators:
Here we are with another three-day weekend.
In 1968, the United States 90th Congress passed H.R. 15951 An Act to provide for uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays, and for other purposes, usually abbreviated as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The original bill stipulated that several holidays be moved to Mondays, but the one commemorating Washington’s birthday remain fixed on the 22nd of February, a date set as a federal holiday by President Rutherford B. Hayes. However, Illinois House Representative and Judiciary Committee member Robert McClory of Lake Bluff had lost his bid to make Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, a federal holiday. The amendment failed in committee due to staunch opposition by the Virginia delegation. In response to his amendment’s defeat, McClory successfully amended the
Dear Service Selectors:
It’s been a few months now since our Sanctuary Choir Director, Jason Fahrenbach, expanded his repertoire to include leadership of our Praise and Worship Team and became FPCLG’s Director of Music Ministry. The response from both the musicians and the Community Service attendees has been enthusiastically positive, and to my knowledge, the Sanctuary Choir has not felt older child neglect in the transition. To my ear the music in both services is beyond magnificent; we are blessed with many gifted volunteers and professionals who inspire our voices and hearts in divine worship.
There are now two of us who weekly experience both Sunday morning services
Dear Confirming Congregants:
This coming Saturday will be our second annual Confirmation Rally, where we invite Confirmation-aged young people from the greater La Grange community to celebrate our common faith and our unity in Christ. There will be snacks, music, conversation, dinner, games and a few special guests. We hope to link our young people in the knowledge that they are members of a church fellowship that extends well beyond the walls of FPCLG, a common faith, a common heritage, a body of Christ with many expressions of tradition, doctrine and practice. In the same way that we do not baptize our children as Presbyterians, we do not confirm our young people as Presbyterians, but in both rites we announce their covenant relationship with Christians,
Dear Winter Warriors,
As the snow accumulates on our back deck, I’m musing how snowstorms have this amazing quality of timelessness. While we are taught that no two snowflakes are alike, snowstorms, in my memory, are all aligned as one big contiguous accumulation of white wonder. Briefly, I suspend all knowledge of snow’s intrusion into my routine, the repetitious weight of the shovel, the crunchy scraping of a windshield, spinning tires rocking from a drift, and I am lost in the anticipation of flapping arms of an angel, the careful engineering of a fort, red runners cutting into the side of a great hill.
The following remarks were delivered by The Reverend Jonathan Krogh, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of La Grange, IL for the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Day prayer breakfast held on January 21, 10 AM, sponsored by the Caring Place for Kids, Lincoln & Washington Streets, La Grange, Illinois.
In preparation for this morning’s remarks I read the following words in a December 26 New Yorker article by Eliza Griswold entitled “Evangelicals of Color Fight Back Against the Religious Right.” Quoting social activist Sharon Harper: “The whole Bible and evangelical faith, along with Protestant faith and Catholic faith, has all been interpreted through the lens of empire. All of it. All of it has been interpreted through the lens of Caesar. And Caesar killed Jesus. And Jesus was an indigenous, brown, colonized man.”
Jesus was an indigenous, brown, colonized man.
Dear Courageous Contributors:
I’m musing this Monday morning about money. My Friday ended like an old joke: “An accountant, a treasurer and a Presbyterian minister walk into an office...,” except it wasn’t a joke; we were talking about FPCLG’s 2019 budget. You’ll see everything in mind-numbing detail in the Annual Report distributed at the end of February, but in the meantime, I thought you would like some highlights.
Dear Fellow Word Wonderers:
Carved into the oak pulpit desktop of my first church were these words from John 12.21: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” In the context of scripture, several Greeks had come to Jerusalem during the Passover festival, and because of Jesus’ reputation following the raising of Lazarus, they desired to meet the celebrity face-to-face. Assuming Philip to be one of Jesus’ advance men, they put in a scheduling request with the disciple. Philip brought the request to Andrew, and Andrew and Philip came to Jesus, who responded with a Johannian riddle about wheat falling in the ground and dying. We never know if the Greeks got an appointment.
Whiling away the hours surfing the web under the guise of sermon preparation, I tripped over a research study from which behavioral economists had calculated a monetary value for prayer. Ever since reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, I’ve become quite fond of the insights generated by this hybrid discipline, so I explored the study’s findings.
The research was performed by University of Wyoming Assistant Professor of Economics Linda Thunström, who designed a simple test to compare the impact of prayer on people’s generosity. The study participants were divided into three groups. One group read a few paragraphs regarding the impact of Hurricane Harvey three months after the storm and were invited to contribute any or all of five dollars they had received through an online account. The second group, all self-identified Christians, were invited to spend a few moments in prayer for the storm victims, then also invited to contribute from their five-dollar allotment. The final group were asked to quietly reflect on the devastation and how victims might feel who had suffered from the storm’s devastation, and after a few moments of reflection, they, too, were asked to contribute.
Please enjoy this Christmas Musing rerun from a collection of Pastor Krogh’s essays first posted in 2010,
Dear Advent Audience:
Through Facebook and other forms of social media, we’re connected almost immediately with all the accumulated wisdom of the moment. (We're also connected to a bunch of meaningless drivel, but I’m not going to dwell on that right now.) A while back, one of my Facebook friends posted “21 mistakes I made as a Senior Pastor”; they were pretty good and include things like, “Putting numbers over faces," "Putting church over community," "Putting accountability over acceptance” and “Putting holiness over humanity.”
Dear Faithful Viewers:
Turning off the TV used to be magical. I don’t mean in a sociological sense, where shutting off the television was followed by a command to play outside; I mean in the technical electronic sense. With the old cathode-ray tube there was that haunting glow of a white dot in the center of the old Philco that lingered for several minutes after the set was disempowered. The focusing magnetic coil was still active even after the power was cut, so that a small beam of rays was still striking the phosphor-coated screen; as a child I remember thinking that was as interesting as the show that had just ended.
I thought about that white dot the other day when I received word that my friend Bruce Pangborn had
I’ve been somewhat amused over the past several years as stores have told their employees they should not say "Merry Christmas," but instead greet customers with "Happy Holidays." This, of course, ignores the fact that the derivation of "holiday" is a linguistic mash-up of "Holy Days"; but because the name of Christ is in "Christmas Tree," for a brief while some stores called them "Holiday Trees," as if shifting the name will maximize sales among Christ haters while not jeopardizing robust receipts from traditional Christians. Perhaps we are all generically Holians?
Last week I had a little extra time between clients at the Evergreen Park Care and Counseling Center and our satellite office at Calvary Reformed Church in Orland Park. 159th Street west of La Grange Road has been under construction for the past year or so, making a left turn onto 104th Avenue impossible, so I drive south to 167th and turn back north on 104th. I provide these directions because, if you’re in the area, there is an unintended tri-faith experience stretching from 165th to 159th on 104th Avenue created by the alignment of a domed Islamic mosque, a Roman Catholic cemetery and Calvary Reformed Church, all constructed in the past 15 years. I’ll leave it for you to determine who wins the architectural prize.
…As lepers, nine of the ten were outcasts. They had lost all community except for the fellowship of other lepers. They were the team of the unclean, forced into communal relationship by a shared curse; they were comrades in quarantine. I say nine because the tenth, a Samaritan, was an outcast before the dread bacterial infection ravaged the protein sheath surrounding his nerves with granulomas that scar the skin and eyes and deaden nerves, leaving one’s body without sensation. Unable to feel pain,…
Sunday is Pledge Commitment Sunday, a moment when we solemnly pray over slips of paper torn from our stewardship brochures, a custom that has me musing over the plight of pledging. There are organizations that research the impact of financial pledging; they are nearly evenly split regarding the usefulness of the practice. Research pointing against pledging claims there is a poor relationship between the annual pledge and actual giving. Fluctuations in household income and expenses work against a flat prediction of contribution capacity; few of us know in November of 2018 that the transmission in the van will fail in August of 2019, or that our company will be bought out in September, forcing a move to Columbus
Dear Civil Citizens:
Well, tomorrow it happens! Election Day! Finally!
Still, I am going to miss all the campaign ads. They really helped me focus on the issues and understand the complexity of governing in these days; they also clarified the depth of experience and the qualities of leadership in each of the highly deserving candidates…said no one, ever!
I mused a few weeks back that there’s something amiss in the relationship between politics and faith, not in the suggestion that our faith should draw us to one candidate or another or how individual politicians may or may not be committed Christians (although I suppose we might see one or two in heaven someday); the problem is how politics commandeers the power of anxiety.
Dear Holy Hosts and Hostesses:
It was the early 1970s, and my big brother was getting married in August in Houston, TX. To save on lodging, my father suggested we rent a big RV and make the drive from Omaha in a single vehicle; according to the pamphlet, the Winnebago Chieftain comfortably slept six. There were indeed six places in the land-behemoth to be horizontal, but they lied about comfortably sleeping.
This year I asked our Session and committee moderators to prepare their budgets before we moved forward with our stewardship campaign. In previous years we’ve asked for your pledges first and then struggled to fit a budget into that amount. Some of you remember the days when Session returned to the congregation asking for a second round of pledges because they were not comfortable trimming expenditures to match projected giving; records indicate that a few generous souls met the challenge, and the year moved forward. For 2019, I was thinking we could use the budget to inspire our pledging; but after 30 years, I must confess, I’ve no idea what works.
Dear Nattering Nabobs and other News Neighbors:
The other day I saw a meme using a photograph of Walter Cronkite. The text pined the days when anchormen read the news and the nation tuned in and trusted. The comments that followed implied a moral decline among those overseeing broadcast journalism; we were just better people when there were only four networks (I include PBS’ MacNeil/Lehrer news report even though it was a latecomer in 1975). But the death of trustworthy reporting comes with a history.
Ethel “Betty” Bettin Bruechart was an amazing woman, at one point serving as senior editor for The King’s Business, the nation’s largest Christian magazine. She was also the executive administrative assistant for Dr. Lewis Talbot, president of Biola University and founder of Talbot School of Theology in Los Angeles, California.
Born in 1903, Aunt Betty’s talent as a speaker, writer and editor was eclipsed by the powerful men in her life. Her diary is filled with the names of her colleagues, a who’s who of mid-twentieth century American Fundamentalist evangelism. She had corrected the grammar and punctuation of the likes of T.C. Horton, Lyman Stewart, Donald Barnhouse, R.A. Torrey and Charles Fuller, names not recognizable today, but in the evangelism circles before Billy Graham they were household words. Honored
At stake is the nature and power of office. Does the holder of official authority have, by that authority, the right to undermine the very institutional structures and traditions perceived to uphold the power granted to the individual by their office? Additionally, is it possible to maintain respect for the office without a corresponding respect for the individual who has taken the position through means consistent with pre-defined mechanisms and procedures? At what point does an attempt to rein in the behavior and abuse of power require restricting the holder of office in ways detrimental to accepted, even canonical structures? And at what point do the attitudes and decisions of the official become so contrarian and unpalatable that it becomes reasonable to ignore, even subvert, the official’s authority?
In 1712, Anglo-Irish Jonathan Swift, of Gulliver’s Travels fame, published an open letter to government official Robert Harley begging him to establish a panel of experts who, with the force of law, could protect the English language from the deteriorating influence of barbaric misuse (or shoulde that be mifuse?).
Swift’s major complaint was the drift of the past tense, abbreviating the language in ways he felt rewarded laziness. Verbs like kiss-ed and pass-ed (dash added to provide emphasis on the second syllable) were drifting so that uneducated pronunciations like “kissed” and “past” were becoming commonplace and destroying the richness of refinement. It’s difficult to argue with such a learn-ed scholar and satirist as Swift, or is that learned?
Dear Social Construction Workers:
The research of two scholars converged in my head this past week and now occupies much of my musing. The first is religious sociologist Azim Shariff, whose studies posit that religion evolved as human social groups became too large for relational scrutiny. The second is historian Jeffrey Mullins, who studies the scientific method used by revivalists in 19th century America, in particular the tent revivals of Charles Finney.
Shariff proposes that religion significantly evolved about 12,000 years ago when human groups, once tribes no larger than 50 people, became villages and cities where individuals could no longer directly observe the honesty, compassion or trustworthiness of their fellow citizens. People needed a way to identify commonly held values and virtues, and mutual dedication to a judging deity created a shortcut to discerning those who could be trusted.
Yesterday was Labor Day. I’m sorry for those who had outdoor plans; today we’re back to work, and the weather is great.
For those of you a little rusty on your labor history, the history of Labor Day has dark roots in a Chicago police shooting just as controversial as any modern story.
The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions unanimously voted to support an eight-hour work day to be implemented no later than May 1, 1886. The cry, “eight-hour day with no change in pay!” was chanted by nearly a half-million workers nationally who went out on general strike on that day, 40,000 of them in Chicago, the center of the movement.
Today Dani and I celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary, which takes my mind musing back to that very humid day, August 20, 2011.
We had decided to have a small backyard wedding at Dani’s house. A few years before, we had hosted Ashley and Frank’s wedding reception (the same Ashley and Frank who will celebrate their daughter Ariella’s baptism at FPCLG on September 2). They married at my church in Peotone, and we came back to the house for a wonderful evening of dancing, food and champagne. Our friend, chef Mario Palaggi,
The slow cascade of revelations regarding Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Church and Association, fits an all too familiar pattern: rumor and accusation, denial, demonstration of support and counter-accusation, erosion of support, damning accusation, confession and resignations. These may be the seven stages of lost reputation usually associated with star-personality leaders whose empire rests on the integrity of their reputation. Building a church with over 20,000 attendees and an international association that includes over 11,000 congregations, Hybels created a vast network dedicated to