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A Transformational Year

A Transformational Year

Transformation
Hartwig HKD
Transformation

As I reflect on the fact that I have now spent 29 years on this planet, I have realized that my life has been anything but boring. I am at the point in my life where I can see where I’ve been and imagine what I want my future to be. I have my share of regrets and but overall I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve graduated from high school, earned a bachelor’s degree. I’ve spent 3 years living and teaching in Slovakia. I’m 2/3 through my master’s of divinity program (I didn’t even think grad school was for me). I am spent a year working as a Chaplain and I’m off to start my internship with Grace Lutheran in Petersburg,WV. I’ve been able to meet people and go places others have only wished about. I am truly blessed.

There are still things in life I want to do. I want to travel, I want to have a family, most important I want to know I’ve made a mark in the universe. I am looking forward to completing my training as a Lutheran pastor. I look forward to sharing my life with somebody and being a father. I look forward to having a legacy.

As I look back on the year in particular, It has been marked extraordinary transformation. I feel my eyes have been opened. In my ways I’ve feel I’m finally a man, rather than a scared little boy. I’ve had quite a few bumps and bruises as I’ve spent the year looking at my self. Coming to terms with the flaws of my family, the flaws in myself. I have learned to embrace myself as a flawed man striving for God. I’ve had to learn to love me as God loves me and reclaim what I want for myself as a man.

This revelation has been because of 2 things, my work as a Chaplain in my CPE residency and the break-up of a significant relationship.

My work as a Chaplain at Palmetto Health has been very demanding. I have experienced pain, suffering, joy and sorrow that most people never get exposed to. I’ve seen people die in the trauma bay, I’ve been with families as loved ones die, I’ve walked with patients who were critical and now are healed. It has been basically an emotional rollercoaster. It has been an exhausting year. My work as a Chaplain is in coordination with a chaplain training education CPE. This process involved intense group work that digs deep into understanding who you are to better serve and be with patients. There have been moments this year where I have discovered things about myself I didn’t like. I have had to learn to love parents as flawed humans being rather than the perfect examples of life I have held them up to be. I think the biggest thing I’ve had to do is dig deep and learn to love me for who I am rather what everybody else says. I spent the first half the year living into patterns of self-sabotage. Allow myself to live in shame and fear. I don’t want to do that anymore. I do have a choice and I’ve learned to recognize those patterns in my life and now I can do something about it. I can choice who I want to be rather than blaming my parents or my circumstances.

The second thing this year that has had major impact was the break-up with my girlfriend. I was in a very emotional place when she decided to end our relationship. She was a source of strength and joy especially as I was trying to rediscover who I was and coming to terms with understanding myself. I was devastated. I can blame her for a lot of things (which is unfair on my part) but in many ways her ending our relationship was a catalyst for me to figure out who I really am and learn to love myself rather than relying on somebody else. I went through anger, sorrow and feeling like I was unloved and unlovable. For a while I resented her but I figured out it was easier to continue loving her from a distance than to hate her. I still care for her deeply. Despite her reasons for ending our relationship, I still think we could have had something great. I know I’m flawed but I know she made me a better person. I think about her most moments of the day. I still love her more than she’ll ever realize but maybe my love wasn’t enough for her. I’m still hoping she’ll figure it out. I hope she can learn to lower her guard and let somebody’s love be enough.

God has used this year despite all its deep valleys to make me a stronger person, to mold me into a man who is ready for the challenges the rest of my life will bring.

Zombies, Star Trek and Jesus

Zombies, Star Trek and Jesus

#zombie #startrek
Arrian Wells
#zombie #startrek

The other day I was watching an interview with LeVar Burton, Bill Nye, and Larry King. They were talking about the future of education and what it means. They asked him about what Star Trek means He mentioned that with all the popularity of dystopian future, Star Trek was a beacon of hope that our future might just look a little better than it is right now. Then Bill Nye mentioned Zombies.

Anyway, this thought connected well what I have been reading in “To know as we are known.” In the book Park J. Palmer talks about how young people are increasingly optimistic about their own personal futures but pessimistic about the world around them. He states “They believe as, I once did, that they can ‘win’ whole everyone around them is losing.” In terms of Zombies, If survive a zombie hoard what’s the point if I end up alone, I’ll end up a zombie anyway. There are numerous sources that state the Zombification of America is a result of the over commercialized, materialistic and consumeristic culture. We have become self absorbed and self obsessed. The Zombies are meant to be a metaphor for modern society. What do you think? Maybe that’s why it is so popular and people relate to it. It is no longer a metaphor but a reality. The problem with our obsession of a Zombie apocalypse is that we slowly begin to dehumanize one another and start to see each and every person as less than human. Frankly I want to obsess about a future in which every person is more human not less.

In the United States, I think we are at a crossroads between a future in which we dehumanize each other like zombies in hopes of surviving the mess and in the end becoming zombies ourselves or; we choose to live and support one another for a better future. Gene Roddenberry describes this idealized vision of the future.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

Roddenberry’s vision for the future was one in which we acted as a community to celebrate similarities and differences to solve problems. We took delight in one another rather than fight or hate each other. Star Trek however is a fictional utopia. I can only hope it is possible. It is a hopeful future but I place my hope in Christ and the future he has planned for us.

When we look at the Resurrection of Christ, we need to realize that his Resurrection what not just a bodily resurrection but a spiritual one. Christ was no Zombie. Christ was fully human and fully divine. He lived fully and was resurrected fully. The zombie virus is not just physical, it is spiritual. When we look at zombies, they have lost touch with their humanity. They have no ability to connect and relate to others. They have lost their spirit, they have become soulless. They are physically there, but spiritually dead. Maybe that sounds familiar. The Christian message of hope is that as humans we are meant to live in community. Community with God, with one another. In baptism, we participate in Christ’s death and Resurrection. We longer die alone or live alone; we are with Christ, forever! Because Christ died we can live.

Through Christ we are restored to the “Image of God” we were originally created to be. If there is a cure for the Zombie virus, Christ is It. His example of life, love and sacrifice draws all his disciples together in love to do as the Lord’s prayer  tells us to Let God’s Kingdom Come, on earth as it is in Heaven. A future we do not have to fear of is a Zombie Apocalypse because Christ is the victory. The future we hope for is not Star Trek but God’s Kingdom on earth.

Amen!!

Reflection on the Easter Narrative

Reflection on the Easter Narrative

Double_Take
Self-Reflection

As I was sitting and listening to the passion narrative read during the Good Friday service. I began to realize that I am not as familiar with the story as I should be. There were points where I thought; that’s not how I remember it or is that in the wrong order. Of course, the four gospels have different narratives of the Passion but it got me to think. How often do I speak about or refer to the Bible with what I think I know, or from what I remember? How often do I take the time to actually deeply know how each gospel portrays the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I have to confess that I do not read the Bible as much as a should. I often rely on what I think I know. The sin of relying on the memory of Christ’s story is that we can turn the story to fit our needs. We can fill in the blanks spots of our memory with our own version.

As Christians were claim the narrative of Christ but do we really know it? Do we deeply contemplate this story and make it a part of our own story and lives?  I don’t think we do. Throughout the Old and New Testament we are reminded to remember, the Passover is a reminder of God’s grace and mercy on Israel and their deliverance. How often did Israel forget and have to be reminded by Prophets. (Anyone know what that number is? I guess the point is that is was a lot.)

As we celebrate Easter we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That his death as an act of love bought us freedom from sin. We should not relegate his story to mere myth, We should make sure that this story is authentic and accurate. We should not only refresh our hearts of the Salvation Christ brings to the world but also our minds. In the first half of Duet 11:18 it says “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds.” Human memory fails. If the story of Christ shapes and forms our lives, we should know it. It should be the one story we cling to and want to know as accurately as possible. So take a deep look at the Story of Christ, at this death and resurrection. Maybe you’ll find something that surprises you, maybe you’ll have a double take.

I wonder how the world would change if us Christians actually knew the Gospel story rather than assuming we did?

Christmas Sermon 2011 “Our Hope is Christ”

Christmas Sermon 2011 “Our Hope is Christ”

Detail of the Christ Child
PrillyCharmin
The Christ Child

Grace and Peace to you from Our Father in Heaven and Our Lord Jesus Christ whose birth and incarnation we celebrate today. Amen

Our lives are filled with Hope and Expectation. We hope the economy will get better. We hope for Christmas and birthday presents. And we hope for a better future. There are a million things we trust and hope that will happen. As Christians our hope rests on Jesus Christ. On Christmas morning we celebrate with all the saints before us who trusted and hoped in Jesus. Christ is our hope from the dawn of creation and now through his incarnational presence. Christ is the fulfillment of Hope both as his presence on earth in human flesh and through his presence as the church, his body, working in and through us to redeem the world. Christ is the fulfillment of future hope when he will come again to complete his redemption. Hope is in the “Word made flesh and dwelling among us”.

John’s Gospel points us to the very act of creation, and to the God of Creation. “In the beginning” John writes echoing Genesis. He reminds us of how God, by just uttering a word created both light and life. God said “Let there be Light and there was Light.” When God speaks, amazing things happen. God’s Word is Alive and Active. It is through Word that all things come into being. This word was with God and was God. We are reminded in the book of Hebrews how God, in his steadfast love and faithfulness gave hope by speaking and acting through the ancestors and prophets of Israel but that now God gives us hope and speaks directly through the “Word made flesh” in Jesus Christ. This is the hope we find in Christ, that God the “Word made flesh” is here making things happen. Throughout the Gospels, this Child we celebrate every Christmas grew up to the fed the hungry, heal the sick, freed the captives, and restore relationship. He brings light to the darkness and restores life from death.

Jesus of Nazareth did not just appear as a human. He came into this world as Child, as all human beings do. We affirm, remember and celebrate Christ’s humanity. That Christ lived, and died as human, a mortal being. In Jesus, The author of life becomes flesh so that we might see, touch and know hope through his life and light.

John reminds us later in the Gospel the purpose Jesus’ incarnation and his dwelling among us in the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus came to save us from death and corruption cause by sin. Jesus’ gift of life and hope comes to us by way his death on the Cross. Christ’s birth receives its significance and meaning in the shadow of the cross. God’s ultimate plan for salvation is made known in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christ had to die so that he might raised in new life. Christ had to be human to die. So just as Christ shares our human death and in Christ we share his resurrection. We receive Salvation, which is sharing in God’s own life through Jesus Christ. On Christmas we celebrate the hope found in Jesus’ coming into the world as Child, a human Child, who is light in the midst of darkness and life in the midst of death. “God with us” Emmanuel.

How is that we experience this Jesus who was born 2000 years ago? Jesus is “the Word made flesh” who dwells among us and so through the promised Holy Spirit we are made part of his life. Through Jesus’ death on the cross we are made Children Of God. That is our Hope. To be restored with God and share in his life as he intended. As the Church, the body of Christ we live the reality of Jesus dwelling among us everyday. We are the incarnation of God’s salvation in the world. When we live in Christ, his life and light are given to others. When we hear the Gospel read and preached, Christ is incarnate there. When we feed the poor and hungry Christ is there. When people are Baptized, Christ incarnated. When we worship and share a meal, Christ dwells among us. As the Church, we are the incarnation of Christ in a world that longs to know “Where is God in all of the this?” We speak the word that is Christ and fill the darkness with his light.

Jesus the light of the world stepped down into darkness. Jesus our life, lived and died so that we might live in him. Jesus, our hope, fulfills our expectations both now and in the future. Until Jesus comes again and restores all of creation completely. We proclaim in the words of that the Christmas carol “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Indeed Our Hopes and our fears rest in Jesus. Amen!!!

Cross Cultural Trip to Honduras

Cross Cultural Trip to Honduras

poor honduran home
Jeannie Noble
poor honduran home

I have been selected to participate in a christian mission trip to Honduras with Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. We will be working along side the Honduran people, building, community organizing and providing a medical clinic. We will be working with Heifer International. I am hoping to raise around $2000 to help with the team’s expenses. We would appreciate your support and partnering with us. The dates for our trip will be Jan. 16th-26th, 2012. We are hoping to raise all our funds by December 20th, 2011 , so that we can purchase supplies and get ready for our trip. I would love the opportunity to share with you more about what we are doing.

I decided I wanted to be part of this particular mission team because it is an opportunity to travel as well as building relationships with the Honduran people. This more than a tourist trip it is an opportunity to serve. We will be living and working with Honduran people and I expect to learn a lot from them.The mission trip is also part of a class. The trip is led by our Professor of Ethics Dan Bell. Before and after the trip we will have a variety of discussions on what it means to serve the poor as a Christian both in the US and abroad. The trip is designed to help us engage in conversations with the Honduran people on the issue of poverty. I expect to share a lot with you about what it means to live out the Gospel both here and abroad especially related to poverty issues.

Our team will consist of about 12 people. It is made of up of mostly seminary students but there will be a doctor, pharmacist and nurse accompanying us as well as some local guides and translators. We will travel to Honduras which is the 2nd poorest country in Central America. The country is mostly mountainous and much of the population is rural. We will be working with Heifer International who has identified several rural villages that we will partner with to help on building projects and provide a medical clinical. We will be working with men, women and children in various capacities. Part of  our mission will be joining the Honduran people in worship throughout the project. The villages where we are sent to, are some of the poorest and remote places. They have asked for assistance and we are there to provide for their needs. Your support will help us obtain a variety of supplies including medicines, building supplies and gifts for the Honduran people.

This project is only possible with your support. If you would like to me to speak to you more about our project or visit please let me know. We can use any support you are willing to give, especially prayer. If you would like to help financially please write a Check to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) and Write: Honduras Project on the memo line. Then mail to this address
Mark Molter 4201 Main Street #243 Columbia, SC 29203
If you would like to help with a donation of supplies you can contact me via email molterma@ltss.edu and I will give you a list of our needs.
Thank you for your consideration and please keep our team in prayer.