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February 22, 2016, 9:42 AM

A Traditional Franciscan Blessing 

Some members asked for a copy of the traditional Franciscan blessing that I used as my conclusion to the sermon on Sunday.  Here it is:

"May God bless you with discomfort, at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy. 

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done."

You can find a few different version online as well.  Here are a couple sites that give more background about it:  and....


-Pr. Nathan

February 12, 2016, 4:17 PM

A Note on the Purpose and Scope of this Blog

Before I begin, a note on the purpose and scope of this blog: Because we do not publish a printed newsletter at Holy Spirit, but rather rely on more extensive weekly announcements, I have been working on an accessible way to post a regular “Pastor’s article” for the congregation.  One way I thought of doing this was to post at least a monthly article on this blog tied to our website.  Thus, these posts will often take on the form of a monthly article meant to encourage and inform the people of Holy Spirit Lutheran in Grand Blanc about matters of faith and life particularly in our context as an ELCA Lutheran church in the metro Flint area.  However, I imagine there will be other readers outside the congregation as well, which I will keep in mind as I write--and I hope you will as well. 

In addition to articles that I write, there may also be some links to other blogs and news information that I find meaningful enough to share for your encouragement.  I will structure such links in the context of a short post that explains what the article is about, but make it clear that the link is to the work of another author.

The site also has “RSS Feed” capability, so by signing up for the RSS feed, you should receive an announcement to let you know every time new information is posted.

Finally, please note that this blog is a work in progress.  It may morph in scope and purpose in time; I will do my best to make it clear if or when that happens, but as with all things at Holy Spirit Lutheran, we trust that the Holy Spirit is at work to transform us in ways we don't always see or realize in the moment.  Thanks for reading, and may the words shared in subsequent posts enrich your faith and life!

Peace and Blessings in Christ,

-Pr. Nathan

February 12, 2016, 12:00 AM

What are Those Robes You Wear in Worship?


For my inaugural blog post, I wanted to respond to a question a few people have asked me—“what are all those robes you wear in worship and why do you wear them?” 

First, some general terms, the robes are more formally called “vestments” (not to be confused with “paraments,” which are the fabric coverings in the color of the day for the altar, pulpit, and lectern—if there is one).  Vestments are kind of like uniforms for worship.  If you know what the different pieces mean, they identify the role of the individual wearing it in worship.  A vested individual in worship has some leadership roll—anything from preaching and/or presiding at a sacrament, to reading singing or carrying specific items in worship.  These vestments carry on centuries of tradition within the church, and in their structure and design can communicate the theology of the church. 

Not all congregations use them or use them consistently.  Since the liturgical renewal movement in the 1960’s more protestant congregations have returned to using some vestments that were less commonly used (often simply because of cost, or because of association with other denominations).  From a Lutheran perspective, there is no mandate to use or not use certain garments.  It is a decision usually left to the leaders within the church, and more often than not, the access the church has to such vestments, which are often custom artistic creations, and thus can be quite expensive to acquire.   

So, what are the most common vestments, and what do they symbolize?

The alb is a white, full length robe that derives from the white baptismal garment.  It symbolizes purity, light and the resurrection (recall Matthew 28:3 and the description of the angel at the tomb: “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (NRSV)).  Albs also have a connection to the white tunic worn in the Greco-Roman world and were worn by clergy until the 11th century when the surplice (see below) became the principle vestment for worship leaders for daily worship.

The stole is a long band of fabric worn by clergy as a sign of ordination.  It is symbolic of the yoke of obedience to Christ (See Matthew 11: 29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (NRSV)).  It is placed upon a pastor’s shoulders at ordination, and has been worn regularly since the eighth century.  Stoles are worn in the color of the day, over the alb by ordained ministers.  Traditions that ordain deacons often distinguish between the two roles in that a deacon’s stole drapes on an angle over one shoulder and across the body.

The chasuble is the vestment worn to identify the presiding minister when Eucharist is celebrated. In Lutheran settings, you will only see one person wearing a chasuble even if there is more than one ordained pastor present.  It resembles a poncho worn over the alb and stole, and its full, flowing appearance is a reminder of the abundance of grace in Holy Communion.  It has been used since the eleventh century, but was modeled off of a traveling tunic that goes back to Greco-Roman times.  The Chasuble is sometimes worn throughout the service, in other settings, the presiding minister puts it on during the offering as worship transitions from proclamation of the Word to celebration of Holy Communion.

(Left is an image from my brother, Erik's installation service at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cumming, GA.  He is wearing a chasuble.  Other clergy are wearing albs and stoles.  The Assistant to the Bishop on the far left is wearing a Deacon's Stole)


The cassock is a black full length garment with long narrow sleeves, usually buttoned in front from neck to ankle. It is not really a vestment, but rather a garment originating from the daily clothing of priests and monks in the middle ages.  From it, other uniforms have come such as a judge’s robe or the academic robes worn by professors when such roles were often filled by educated priests in Europe.  The cassock is still worn with a surplice by some clergy for daily office (Morning and Evening prayer) services.  In some traditions, monsignors, bishops and archbishops wear purple or red piping on their cassocks.

The surplice is a shorter white vestment worn over the cassock for Morning and Evening Prayer. It originated in the eleventh century as a monastic choir vestment. Originally ankle-length, the surplice has gradually become somewhat shorter (knee-length). A derivative vestment is the cotta, a white waist-length version of the surplice.

(To the right is a cassock with a surplice over it.)

There are many other vestments used in the church, but these are the ones that you will see me in most often.  I wear them to remind myself of the theology behind them, and also to remember that there is something both ancient and contemporary about them.  These vestments have helped the church tell the story of Jesus and his sacrificial love for the world for two thousand years.  Finally, I wear them for a uniquely personal reason in my case—because most of them have been gifts to me from my mother.  I design them, and she makes them.  It is one way she has passed down her faith, and her God-given gifts to me, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

-Pr. Nathan


p.s. For more about each of these vestments, see: Worship Formation & Liturgical Resources: Frequently Asked Questions, “What are Vestments and Paraments and Why are they Used?”, from the ELCA website:

Also see, S. Anita Stauffer, Altar Guild and Sacristy Handbook, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000. Pgs. 25-34.

February 12, 2016, 12:00 AM

Seven Ideas for "Doing Justice" this Lent

As we begin the season of Lent, Christian congregations around the world often include a corporate confession that addresses many of the ways we have fallen short of God’s intention for how we should live in relation to each other and all of creation.  At Holy Spirit in particular, we used the confession from Evangelical Lutheran Worship for Ash Wednesday, which I find helpful because it does not say something simple like, “I haven’t loved God or my neighbor as I should.”  Instead, it invites us through the use of multiple petitions to consider ways in which we are explicitly or implicitly complicit in communal sins.  Together, we confess petitions such as:

  • We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit….
  • Our past unfaithfulness, the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives ….
  • Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people….
  • Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty ….
  • Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us ….
  • Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us….  (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pew edition pg. 253)

That is far from an exhaustive list, but one common thread I see in all of them is the theme of injustice—injustice toward God, creation, other people—even injustice toward our own bodies.  So if Lent is about returning to the Lord (Joel 2:13b) and doing what God asks of us, which Micah 6:8b says is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” what if each of us committed to live more justly in the year ahead as a Lenten discipline?

I realize this is easy to say, and often hard to do. When it comes to injustice, it seems like it is all around us, and often little that we can do in response to it.  But there is!  Here are a few things you might consider if you want to be more proactive in “doing justice” this Lent—pick one or more to try:

  1. Commit to participating in 1 local justice concern. The Flint water crisis comes to mind, but it is not the only local justice concern in our area.  Spend some time volunteering at Salem Lutheran handing out water, or time at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan packaging food for distribution to those in need.  The eradication of injustice around us begins by being agents of mercy in the communities in which we live.
  2. Commit to learning about 1 global justice concern. While some may prefer to engage our local community, that doesn’t mean we can forget about issues in the rest of the world.  Pick an international issue such as the Syrian civil war, the refugee crisis in Europe, human trafficking or another of your choosing to learn more about and then pray regularly for that situation.  If you are looking for ideas, check out:  
  3. Get to work in the dirt. Most of the world's population is still regularly engaged in manual labor. They produce the food and products that we buy at the store. So, as an act of solidarity with them, remember to do some physical work. It could be something simple like growing some of your own vegetables or making something for your home—plus it’s good exercise!
  4. If you can’t work in the dirt, remember to support those who do through fair trade and environmentally friendly products.  We provide fair trade products through Serrv’s ( “Divine Chocolate” and Lutheran World Relief’s “Equal Exchange” program ( at Holy Spirit.  However, there are many other fair trade and “eco friendly” products on the market, which are sold at a variety of stores.  If you have the option, consider buying these products.  It supports small businesses and helps lift hard working artisans, farmers and their families out of extreme poverty.
  5. Invite an “outsider” to an event you are hosting.  Maybe it is something small—like inviting someone in your neighborhood over for dinner, or to a family celebration such as Easter or Thanksgiving dinner). How is this doing justice, you might wonder?  Well, it builds community, and helps us show care and concern for those on the margins of our own lives.  Plus, Jesus told us to do this in Luke 14:12-14a, He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed…” (NRSV).
  6. Read one (or more) of the Prophets from the Old Testament. You know—the Old Testament books that we often gloss over, or pick the parts out of that only pertain to Jesus.  You’ve got Isaiah through Malachi to choose from, so pick one, read that book and reflect on how that prophet addressed the injustice or poverty or lack of mercy in his day. Then reflect on how his words pertain to your own life.
  7. Sponsor, support or encourage a child (that is not your own).   As the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus famously said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37 NRSV).  Last fall, Peder Eide invited members of Holy Spirit to sponsor a child through Compassion International (  You might consider sponsoring one through them, or a similar group.  Or you could volunteer as a Big Brother/Big Sister, as a tutor/reader at a local school or as a Sunday School teacher!  If that seems like too much of a commitment, invite a family you know from church to go with you to a sporting event, concert, play or another event that interests you.

These are just a few ideas for you to consider as we begin this Lenten season (my thanks to author Craig Greenfield for inspiring some of these ideas above).  If you have another idea or two that helps you draw closer to God, I encourage you to give it a try.  God’s blessings to you on your Lenten journey!

-Pr. Nathan

November 30, 1999, 12:00 AM

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