outside the box

We’re always being challenged to “think outside the box.” Easter suggests that we think outside the tomb. No one was prepared for what happened early that morning. All of the explanations for the empty tomb were found inside the box. Only the angels’ message was outside the box: “He is risen.” Hundreds of years earlier, Ezekiel was shown the valley of dry bones and asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” To his credit, he answered, “Lord, you know.” If one only thinks inside the box, the answer must be a resounding, “No.” If some were to assess the spiritual condition of their congregation and hear a voice say to them, “Can this congregation survive?” they might be tempted to give a quick, “No” as well. All indicators point to a slow death as old-timers die off with none to replace them. Or as younger folk go in search of a church home where all of their friends attend. Or as pastors and people become contentious and fail to heed Paul’s warning about devouring each other.

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lutherYes, I know it’s not until 2017, but a recent radio conversation about St Patrick’s day sparked me to think about the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The radio interviewer asked the Lord Mayor of Dublin, “Wasn’t St Patrick’s Day originally a religious festival?” The mayor replied, “Yes, but it has grown to be so much more now.” He proceeded to tell the interviewer that St Patrick was a Welshman who came to live in Ireland. “So,” the mayor said, “St Patrick’s Day reminds us how good it is to be welcoming of people from other cultures. So all people everywhere can join the day’s celebration.” Boy, do they ever! Even the Mexican restaurant where I ate supper on March 15th served green rice and printed “Happy St Patrick’s Day” on their receipts!

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miserable

As I watch the snow falling gently to the ground for the umpteenth time this winter, today’s USA Today tells me I should feel miserable. In fact, of all 35 districts of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, we of the Ohio District should feel the most miserable. Why? Because our district contains three of the most miserable states, according to a Gallup-Healthways survey. Ohio, at number 5, has the 13th lowest life-expectancy (77.8 years), Kentucky has the 6th lowest life expectancy (76 years), and West Virginia, ranked the most miserable state for the 5th year in a row, comes in with a life expectancy of 75.4 years (tied for 2nd lowest). But wait, there’s more! 30.9% of Ohio residents are obese (8th highest), 30.6% of Kentucky residents are obese (9th highest), and 34.4% of West Virginia residents are too fat for their own good (tied for 2nd place). Still not feeling it? Ohio’s median income is $46,829 (17th lowest), Kentucky’s is $41,724 (5th lowest), and West Virginia’s median income is $40,196 (3rd lowest).

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