As the pandemic hit our shores, I kept thinking about the last great pandemic, the so-called "Spanish Flu." This came a bit over a hundred years ago, time when modern medical science was just coming into its own.  While browsing through a Barnes and Nobel Bookstore, I came across a copy of John M. Barry's The Great Infuenza - The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History . It's a fairly long and somewhat dense book at over 460 pages, but well worth the read.  Barry spends much of the first part of his book taking us back into the nineteenth century and working into the twentieth, chronicaling the development of modern medical science.  One forgets just how limited and 'backward' medicine was even 150 or so years ago, yet also the tremendous advancements that occurred as we moved deeper into the new century.  It was also sobering to read of the incredible impact this deadly influenza had on the world, more deadly, by far, than our current crisis.  World War I

Old Year, New Year - Memories and Possibilities

 On top of everyone's list of significant events for this past year would be, without doubt, the pandemic.  Seldom does one event impact everyone on the planet.  Mid-March stands as the marker for most of us, the date when our state (and others in similar fashion) essentially shut down in a "Safer at Home" order from our governor.  This came months before the real impact which arrived later in the fall.  Little can prepare you for such a significant upheaval in your personal and professional life.  Fortunately, as of this day, the first day of the new year, our family is still COVID-free.  However, the devastation of the virus did leave its mark, as among the 13 I buried this past year, two of my members died of complications from COVID.  "Comorbidity" is now the word.  They were both in their 80s, so were 'high risk' and I'm sure that the official cause of death may have listed something else. But others around me would also experience deaths of fri

Samhein vs. Christian Hope

 Again, I'm carrying over another post from a discussion board where I post in order to kind of 'archive' some of my thoughts..... Interesting what ends up in a local paper.  I wrote my weekly article (clergy in the area take turns) on "Waiting eagerly for that day," ending with the words: "He is coming to take us home." It was a contrast with the predicted "long, dark winter" of sin and death and our longing for the glorious return of our Lord and the eternal joy that awaits the believer.  On the facing page was an article entitled "Witches mark Halloween with reflections on death as well as magic," by someone from Brandeis University. The author notes that Halloween is "marked as a sacred day known as Samhain in which death is celebrated," a day celebrated by "contemporary pagans." The author writes that Samhain, "one of the eight major Wiccan holidays," or what are referred to as sabbats, is

Halloween, All Hallow's Day, All Soul's Day

 I recently posted the following on a discussion board online, but am posting it here as well for future reference:  In a few days Halloween will be here, the national holiday where folks in my part of the country love to decorate their houses in ways equaled only by Christmas, and have virtually caused a condition of 'orange fatigue.'  I can thank my Celtic forebears for making an otherwise religious occasion into one that obscures anything of the hope of heaven.  I was surprised, however, that the triduum of this festival (All Hallow's Eve, All Hallow's Day, All Soul's Day) is not cut all of one cloth, and not all of the triduum of this festival is necessarily one of joy.  All Hallow's Eve, at least going back to medieval times, treated this part of the triduum as a more somber time.  In a missal from 1927 I noticed that the Catholic church designated purple for the altar and priestly vestments.  In James Monti's book A Sense of the Sacred - Rom

Goals for the Next Chapter

 I believe it is important to set goals. No, we don't always meet them. Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. However, without goals we find ourselves living only for a moment, and sometimes just surviving or trying to 'get through.'  I don't believe I ever sat down and wrote out a complete set of life goals.  Some things 'just happened.'  Yet that makes life interesting.  You don't always know what is coming.  True, it may turn out to be a tragedy. But it may turn out just as easily to be an acc omplishment.  And out of the tragedies may come new opportunities, or new insights. As a Christian I believe with Paul that "all things work for good for those who love God."  Just before turned age 50 I turned a page in my life and decided to go back to school.  It was in the works for many years, but time and money and other responsibilities made it more difficult to pursue until about 10 years ago.  I had two degrees at Nashotah House to choose from:

Pastor, May We Talk About Your Sermon?

  The following was published recently in the ALPB Forum Letter , an edited and expanded version of what I originally wrote as a simple post on a discussion board.  I used it for my online preaching course this summer , and I'm putting it here to archive it for future use, and in the event anyone discovers it and finds it useful for their own purpose.  “Pastor, can we talk abou t your sermon?” by Don Engebretson Pastors differ on the proper and most effective way to evaluate their sermons. They begin by receiving grades on their homiletical efforts by seminar y professors, and they receive further feedback from supervisors in the field. These critiques judge the content and delivery according to academic standard s of biblical content, balance of Law and Gospel, organization by proper outlines, and the technical aspects of public speaking techniques. So pastors-to-be write for their teachers with an imagined congregation in their mind, but they are primarily writing for tho

The Election and the Nature of Presidents

 I posted this in a thread on the ALPB site.  In order to file it for my own use, here is what I wrote: In any election the tendency is to cast the future in apocalyptic terms. Life as we know it will end if ____________is elected. Our most cherished rights will be taken away if _____________ is elected. Such and such president is the absolute worse man ever elected. And so forth. I'm trying to ignore this. I've lived through the terms of 12 presidents, five who were Democrats, seven who were Republican. Four of them managed to get reelected and serve 8 years: two Republicans (Reagan, Bush 41), and two Democrats (Clinton, Obama).  The economy has risen and fallen during those six decades.  Wars were fought and peacetime enjoyed.  Voting and civil rights laws were passed into law for minorities.  We lived through the resignation of one president brought on by criminal acts of men close to his presidency (and some believe by the president himself), one was assassinate