Bishop Michael Rinehart



Bishop of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Isabel Bloom

A favorite local artist from our Davenport, Iowa days is Isabel Bloom. Her concrete-casted and hand-finished figurines were ubiquitous in the Quad Cities. 

Isabel Bloom website

Wikipedia article

At the time I didn’t know that Isabel (nee Scherer) was from Galveston, Texas. 

We left Davenport in 1994. Isabel Bloom died a few years later, at the beautiful age of 93. Although she sold her interest in the business in 1981, she still was helping to create new designs almost until the time of her death. Here’s a photo of her in 1989:

Over more than half a century, she created more than 165 different, cement-cast, big and little sculptures now sold in Isabel Bloom outlets in the Quad-Cities and throughout the Midwest.

She created an angel a year. Her angels were hand-signed on the bottom. Each year, our friends Kent and Carla Aufdengarten gave us one of her angels for Christmas. 

While we were there six years (1988-1994), somehow along the way one got lost. Maybe that one will catch up with us in the afterlife. 

Isabel Bloom Angel 1988:

Isabel Bloom Angel 1989:

Isabel Bloom Angel 1990 (the one we are missing maybe):

Isabel Bloom Angel 1991:

Isabel Bloom Angel 1992:

Isabel Bloom 1993 angel:

We also picked up a fish and a couple of birds during those years. Artists are such a gift. 

More on Isabel Bloom

April 30, 2017 is Easter 3A

Acts 2:14a, 36-41 – Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon (part 2). Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 – I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

1 Peter 1:17-23 – You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Luke 24:13-35 – Road to Emmaus. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

The Road to Emmaus – Walking Alongside

The Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24 is the text appointed for Easter evening in all three years of the lectionary. It is also the text appointed for the third Sunday of Easter in years A and B. Easter 3C (last year) is John 21:1-19, breakfast with Jesus on the beach, where Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” three times.

This text follows right on the heels of the women stumbling across an empty tomb. It takes place on Resurrection day, in the evening.

One of my favorite hymns is on this text, Day of Arising, ELW 374. It is written by Susan Cherwien and Carl Schalk. A few years ago I encouraged the synod to sing this throughout the Easter season. The entire hymn is based on this text from Luke 24. There is also a simple Augsburg Fortress arrangement of this for choir and organ, with which the congregation could sing. Of course, Abide With Me is also based on this story and may be sung, but I personally love Day of Arising.

Day of Arising

Day of arising,
Christ on the roadway,
unknown companion walks with his own.
When they invite him,
as fades the first day,
and bread is broken, Christ is made known. 

When we are walking,
doubtful and dreading,
blinded by sadness, slowness of heart,
yet Christ walks with us
ever awaiting
our invitation: Stay, do not part.

Lo, I am with you,
Jesus has spoken.
This is Christ’s promise, this is Christ’s sign:
when the church gathers,
when bread is broken,
there Christ is with us in bread and wine.

Christ, our companion,
hope for the journey,
bread of compassion, open our eyes.
Grant us your vision,
set all hearts burning
that all creation with you may rise.

Text: Susan Palo Cherwien, b. 1953
Text © 1996 Susan Palo Cherwien, admin. Augsburg Fortress
Tune: RAABE (see RW #149)

I’m not sure why the story has had such an impact on me, but for me, the images are profound.

Emmaus, Luke tells us, is about 60 stadia from Jerusalem, which most people put to be about 7 miles (A stadia, from which we get our word stadium, was a foot race about 1/8 of a Roman mile, a bit over 600 feet or two U.S. football fields.) Wikipedia says Emmaus was 7 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

Luke says “two of them” were going to Emmaus. We are left to conclude that he is talking about two of the disciples, but we are not told which two. Eventually we are told that one of them is Cleopas, reminding us that there are more than just 12 disciples. Clearly this is not one of the 12 listed earlier in Luke 6: Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, a second James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

Cleopas is a Hellenized version of an Aramaic name: Qlopha (קלופא). Some have pointed out that John 19 mentions Mary of Clopas (probably wife of Clopas) as one of the four women (three of them named Mary) at the cross. Perhaps Luke’s Cleopas and John’s Clopas are the same person.

Here it gets even muddier; stay with me. See two paragraphs above in the list of disciples, there is a James, son of Alphaeus? Well, Mark 16:1 mentions a “Mary the mother of James” as one of the women at the tomb. Matthew 28:1 lists Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” as going to the tomb.

So, do the math. Mix the gospels and an interesting mosaic emerges. Let’s imagine for a moment that Cleopas, Clopas, and Alphaeus are all clumsy Greek attempts to render the Aramaic Qlopha. The “other Mary” (Mt. 28:1) is then married to Cleopas/Clopas/Alphaeus (John 19). They have a son, James, who is a disciple (Mark 16:1 and Luke 6).

It’s all a puzzle, of course, but if this were the case, then Jesus had a second disciple named James, whose mother Mary was at the cross and possibly at the empty tomb and whose father was also a disciple, walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Let me be clear: this is all way too complicated for a sermon. It might make for interesting conversation in a Bible study group that really likes to dig deep.

Here’s the kicker. We are never told the name of the other disciple who is walking with Cleopas/Clopas. I wonder why not. Luke is the most detailed of the Gospel writers. He doesn’t shy away from naming everyone. Why leave this name out? How about this: what if the other disciple walking with him is none other than his wife, Mary? Makes sense. Most artwork paints the second disciple as male, but we are never told, perhaps because John thought it might be controversial.

Full disclosure: I’m not the first to espouse this idea. Sister Marie Paul OSB of the Mount of Olives Monastery in Jerusalem did this “Road to Emmaus” icon in 1990, depicting the second disciple as female. It’s possible. Luke never tells us the name or gender identity of the second disciple.

Here’s another possibility. John left the name out as a literary technique. A nameless disciple allows the listener to imagine herself or himself as the disciple along the road, grieving the crucifixion and encountering the risen Christ. This text makes an excellent guided meditation.

Moving on, Jesus joins them on their walk, but they are “kept from recognizing him.” This is one of those almost Shakespearean moments, where the audience cannot believe that the disciples, with whom he had spent years, did not recognize him.

“So,” Jesus says, “Whatcha talkin’ about?”

This has to have been an astonishing weekend for Jesus, and yet he’s asking them how their weekend went. This is almost humorous. It may be, however, one of the best examples of accompaniment. He doesn’t begin by lecturing them, but instead by asking them about their experience. Jesus walks alongside them, literally and figuratively.

Cleopas and the other nameless disciple simply stop in the road and stare at Jesus with sad eyes. Finally Cleopas, who seems surprised that their walking companion doesn’t know about the events of the weekend, tells him about their devotion to Jesus, their hopes, and his crucifixion. Then he mentions that this morning some women went to the tomb. After discovering the body was not there, they saw a vision of angels telling them he was alive.

Jesus then lays into them, calling them foolish and slow of heart to believe. He interprets the Scriptures from a messianic point of view. The conversation is so compelling that when they arrive at their destination they beg him to stay with them. At dinner he breaks the bread and they recognize him. Then he disappears, at which point they said, “Did not hearts burn when he was talking to us on the road, opening to us the Scriptures?”

This text lends itself to preaching about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There is something about breaking bread that reveals to us the presence of Christ.

I am also captivated by the passage about their hearts burning. There is something of a spiritual fire in that. When we encounter the risen Christ we are very likely to get heartburn. I get heartburn when I encounter spiritually hungry people. I get heartburn every time I travel to a developing country and see people living in poverty, children in need of so much. “When I was hungry you gave me food…” We encounter Jesus in the faces of those who suffer. If you want to see Jesus, find the least of these, those in need.

There is a tremendous opportunity to talk with our people about sensing their call. What gives you heartburn? Make a list. Can you see God in the midst of your heartburn? Can you as preacher preach to your people the heartburn that you have? Can you invite them to talk about their heartburn and what it means?

We follow the risen Christ who gives us heartburn. The only question left is: what are you going to do about your heartburn?

Excursus: Emmaus-style Accompaniment versus Colonialism

Allow me to spend a moment talking about accompaniment and colonialism. This text, where Jesus gently enters their community, asking, not telling, sparks some thoughts about our companion synod relationships. Accompaniment is walking alongside. Colonialism is domination, even when it is unintentional.

Colonialism, in the strict sense, is acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically. The English, French, Spanish, and others established colonies in North, Central, and South America that eventually revolted and fought for independence. The English, French, Spanish, and Dutch established colonies in Africa and other places in the world.

These countries dominated the indigenous peoples of those lands. They brought with them their politics, architecture, culture, and religion. Viewing these things as superior, they sought to “civilize” what they considered to be savage societies.

Even when countries win their independence, their former overlords often still exert considerable influence over them, economically and militarily. While we don’t seek to acquire complete political control over other countries, we often operate with a kind of neocolonialism, that seeks to build wealth by manipulating the economies of other countries. We do so through corporate business policies and military means. There is also still a tendency to view other cultures as inferior.

The church participates in neocolonialism when we interact with people and churches in other cultures, trying to “improve” them or make them fit our western ideals. Are we able to tell when we are imposing our faith or imposing our culture on others? Are either appropriate? When missionaries preached the gospel, they often brought with them their cultural values, insisting women and men dress according to western standards, as well as think and organize in western fashion. How do we move beyond colonialist attitudes to a postcolonialism?

In their book, Wittenberg Meets the World: Reimagining the Reformation at the Margins, Alberto L. Garcia and John A. Nunes describe colonialism and postcolonialism as follows (p. 40):

Colonialism represents a nationalistic ideology with a purportedly civilizing mission, often reinforced by religious framework, legitimating the total or partial invasion and suzerainty of another’s land and people–extending beyond geography to their relationships, souls, intellects, and imaginations–accruing usually to the occupier an economic and/or military advantage.

 Postcolonialism represents a critical and self-critical intervention of colonialism’s invasionary proposals and practices to the extent that colonialist structures are destabilized and transformed and a transfigured identity is reclaimed, asserted and recognized.

What Nunes and Garcia call colonialism, I would call neocolonialism. It is when wealthy, white, western Christians go to poorer countries trying to tell them how to run their country, their economy, their religion, and, in general, to have a society more like ours. We bring with us our materialism, commercialism, anxiety, arrogance, and a host of other maladies.

Accompaniment is an alternative to colonialism. Anyone who has ever tried to help a struggling friend has experienced this. If, in your efforts to help a friend, you sweep in with facile solutions. Just do this. Don’t do that… You soon realize you have no clue about their situation. Like Job’s friends, we can do more harm than good.

It’s so easy to look at other’s challenges and assume we could just fix them, if they would just do x, y, and z. Jesus warns against this and suggests that we focus not on the speck in our neighbor’s eye, but rather on the log in our own (Matthew 7). Sometimes the very best we can do for a friend is to come alongside them, not over them as superiors not trying to magically solve their problems, as if we could, but rather being friends who are present with them as they work through things.

The Road to Emmaus story models just such accompaniment. The resurrected Jesus could easily have swept in and told the grieving disciples to buck up and pull themselves together. Instead he walked alongside them silently, unrecognized. “What are you discussing?” Rather than telling them, he began by listening. Accompaniment always begins with listening. He is able to share hope with them in time, because he walked alongside and listened. At the end of the day, they share a meal together.

Accompaniment in our Companion Synod Relationships

 When we visit our friends in Peru or the Central African Republic, we often get asked, “What are you going to do?” The assumption is that we are going to proselytize and convert, to pass out pamphlets or something. Others assume we are going to build houses or schools. Sometimes we do, if asked. But usually we go to simply be together. We worship together. We eat together, sharing table fellowship. We share our stories and our struggles as churches and people of faith. We learn from one another. And yes, where there is need and request, we respond. We don’t go to tell them how to be church in their context. And they don’t tell us.

I’ve seen colonialism in our companion synod and companion congregation relationships. It’s pretty easy to do unwittingly. Because of the nature of our economies, there is a built-in power differential.

Our companion synods are the Lutheran Church in Peru and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic. U.S. Americans sweep in to Peru or the Central African Republic with dollars that are worth quite a bit in those economies. For us to have these relationships, which they want and we want, we need to subsidize events. Bringing dollars to the table can make people feel superior, and even when it doesn’t, it can leave our colleagues in other places feeling inferior.

We sometimes get asked, why do you go? Wouldn’t it be better to take the money you would spend on travel, food, and lodging and send it to them? I have asked that question a lot around the world. The response is always the same. We need each other. Andre Golicke, the former President/Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic, put it best.

“The most important thing is the relationship. Without that, we have nothing.” You see, it’s not about the money. It’s about the relationship. When we get that, we move into accompaniment.

The World Bank estimates the per capita income in the Central African Republic to be less than $1,000. In the U.S. it is over $53,000; 70% of the CAR population live in outlying areas. The vast majority of them are unemployed. They live by subsistence farming. U.S. Americans sometimes operate on the underlying assumption that people are poor because of their own doing, laziness or something, rather than because of forces beyond their control, like wars, government corruption, globalization, droughts brought on by climate change, and the like.

It is easy for well-meaning people from the United States to naively enter that environment and begin telling people how to get a job, make more money, change their government, and so on. People on short-term mission trips think to themselves, “They need a school,” and may even generously collect money for such a cause. The money comes with demands and strings. The charity can become toxic, when it creates a top-down imbalanced relationship based only on money. Donations give donors the feeling they have the power to call the shots. Those who live in the country, however, may feel they need medicine, a health clinic, or food as a higher priority.

Accompaniment means we love our neighbors. We do not go in and tell them what they need. We listen. We don’t offer what is not asked for. It means we are aware of the power differential that wealth creates. We check our assumptions at the door. We enter into the relationship slowly, gently, and with humility. We respect one another as equals. We approach not with the idea of improving them, but improving ourselves. We may bring some financial resources, but they bring a wealth of spiritual riches. The church in the CAR is bursting at the seams. What could we learn from them? We walk alongside each other, as companions on the journey.

Then, at the end of the day, we share meals together, like those two disciples in Emmaus. And hopefully, we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

April 23, 2017 is Easter 2A

Acts 2:14a, 22-32 – Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon (part 1). This man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Psalm 16 – Protect me O God, for in you I take refuge.

1 Peter 1:3-9 – Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31 – When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Doubting Thomas: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Doubting Thomas

One who has hope lives differently.
– Pope Benedict XVI

There is a lot of good stuff in this text:

  1. Doors of the house locked because of fear. How does this track our situation?
  2. Jesus responds by saying three times, “Peace be with you.” How are we blessing the fearful around us with peace?
  3. Doubting Thomas: There are many skeptics. They are legion. How do we not shame them for their doubts, but welcome them, embracing their honest inquiry?
  4. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. This would make an awesome dismissal for the season of Easter. (This is John’s Great Commission)
  5. Receive the Holy Spirit. (This is John’s Pentecost)

Quasi Modo, Holy Humor and Other Random Useless Information

This probably won’t preach, but the erudite might be interested to know that this Sunday is also known as Quasi Modo Sunday, after the introit for the day: Quasi modo geniti infantes,  rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus, meaning, “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation: If it be that you have tasted that the Lord is sweet.” (1 Peter 2:2-3) Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is so named because he is left at the cathedral on the Sunday after Easter 1467.

This coming Sunday is also called Octave Sunday, as it is the eighth day after Easter. In the Eastern Rite, the hymns sung on each of the eight days following Easter had the same tone. The eight days were to be considered as a single day or celebration.

Holy Humor Sunday is an old Easter custom that was started by the Greeks in the early centuries of Christianity.  “For everything there is a season… a time to weep and a time to laugh.” (Eccl. 3: 1, 4)

Churches in 15th century Bavaria used to celebrate the Sunday after Easter as Risus Paschalis (‘God’s Joke’ or ‘The Easter laugh’). Priests would deliberately include amusing stories and jokes in their sermons to make the faithful laugh.  After the service, churchgoers and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, told jokes, sang, and danced. It was their way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ – the supreme joke God played on Satan by raising Jesus from the dead.

The observance of Risus Paschalis was officially outlawed by Pope Clement X in the 17th century. Perhaps people were having too much fun.

Today many churches celebrate the grace and mercy of God through the gift of laughter and joy. Others call Easter 2 Holy Humor Sunday. Some churches decorate their sanctuaries with helium-filled balloons with joyful Scriptural messages, cardboard butterflies (a symbol of the resurrection), smiley faces, and posters emblazoned with messages like, “Christ is Risen!  Smile!”

  1. Doors of the house locked because of fear. How does this track our situation?

How often has fear kept us from the good that God wants for us? How often have I been imprisoned by nothing but my own fear? Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This is strikingly true. Fear is the enemy to any system. If I am playing an organ recital and become afraid of making mistakes, that fear will lock me up, and I will certainly make them. If I am ice skating and am afraid, I will tighten up and not jump freely.

Thinking on a national level, fear, following 9/11, caused us to rush headlong into a war in Iraq. Fear of terrorism has caused us to lock our doors as a country to the world’s most needy.

Fear keeps us from becoming what God has called us to be. It paralyzes us, making risk impossible. A boat may be safest in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are built for. I wonder how fear might paralyze a congregation from starting a ministry into which the Spirit is calling.

  1. Jesus responds by saying many times, “Peace be with you.” How are we blessing the fearful around us with peace?

Jesus’ response to fear is peace. We hear the words, “Peace be with you,” three times in this text today. When something is said three times, it must really be important.

Peace permeates the Christian gospel. At Jesus’ birth the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth…” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” In our penitential rite, the Kyrie, we pray, “In peace, let us pray to the Lord… For the peace from above, and for our salvation… For peace in the whole world…” We offer that word of peace to one another in worship each Sunday, sometimes thoughtlessly. I wonder if we appreciate the power of saying a word of peace to another person. When anxiety is high, for whatever reason, don’t we need to hear a word of peace? And so Paul says to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. What would our day be like tomorrow if we prayed constantly for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts? 

  1. Doubting Thomas: There are many skeptics. They are legion. How do we not shame them for their doubts, but welcome them, embracing their honest inquiry?

Every year, all three years of the Revised Common Lectionary, the Sunday after Easter, we get Doubting Thomas and John 20. I wonder why they felt it important enough to include every year. Perhaps they sensed Easter left us wondering. Nancy Rockwell says, “Like a breath of fresh air, Doubting Thomas enters the over-lilyed atmosphere of Easter.”

I wonder why Thomas wasn’t Thomas with the disciples on Easter evening. Where was he? Why not all locked up in fear like the rest of the posse? Maybe he’s not as afraid. Not so easily spooked. Remember, it was Thomas who urged the disciples to go on to Bethany despite the danger: “Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (John 11:16) Maybe he was the disciple with moxie. This doesn’t sound like the voice of one with no faith.

When the poetic Jesus of John’s gospel (and so many cinematic productions) says mystically, with dramatic sound track in the background, “And ye know the way, whither I go…” It’s Thomas who interrupts, “Wait. Time out. Stop the music. We do NOT have a CLUE where you are going. We do NOT know the WAY, mostly because you’ve been speaking in riddles and Elizabethan English (sic). So why don’t you just cut the mumbo jumbo and tell us plainly what the heck you’re talking about? (My paraphrase) Thomas is a bottom-line kind of guy. #respect

So what if we embraced the Thomases in our communities? What if we welcome in the naysayers and give them their say. Listen. Affirm. “You have a good point there.” Let them experience not our disdain and arguments, but instead our openness and love? Martin Luther: “Only God and certain madmen have no doubts.”

In the three congregations I served, when we were doing our best evangelism, there were lots of doubters. I mean lots. Spiritual seekers looking, and often asking the strangest questions. If you pretend to have all the answers, you’ve lost them. Arrogance and hypocrisy are not of the Reign of God. Kids of stalwart members who confided in me, “I don’t believe in organized religion.” But then they’d go on the mission trip because they knew something important was happening here. Confirmands would “shock” me with their professed atheism, anarchism, or nihilism. Unbelieving spouses of members, who would help with a meal, mow a widow’s yard, serve a meal to the homeless folks living in our building. One spouse told me he was a Buddhist, yet he would come and meditate during worship, then comment on the sermon as he shook my hand. We’re all at different places in our journey toward Christ.

  1. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. This would make an awesome dismissal for the season of Easter. 

Pastor: As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
People: Thanks be to God.

This is John’s version of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The church is always sent. We are healed not to sit, but to serve.

How was Jesus sent? To proclaim Good News to the poor and to engage in a healing ministry in the community. Invite the congregation to read the gospel of Matthew and ask the questions, “Where is Jesus? What is he doing most of the time?” As Jesus was sent to do these things, so are we. It might be a good thing to remind the congregation each week. They are sent out into the world to be a word of peace and hope.

  1. Receive the Holy Spirit. (This is John’s Pentecost) 

This little bit of Johannine Pentecost gets lost in the clamor to deal with Thomas. Pentecost, Acts 2, is part of Luke’s volume 2. For John, the Spirit is given right here, on the first day of the week, Easter Sunday. Easter is Pentecost in John.

Remember, John begins his gospel, evoking Genesis, with “In the beginning was the Word…” In this passage, John again calls upon an image from Genesis. After forming adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2), Yahweh “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” In Hebrew, breath and spirit are the same word: ruach, ר֫וּחַ.

In Ezekiel 37, the Valley of the Dry Bones, Ezekiel prophesies: “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” (37:5) Breath/Spirit is essential for life. Without that breath, we are dust. Ezekiel continues:

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Jesus gives breath/life/power. “They have received the call to go. They don’t have to go it alone,” says Disciples of Christ Pastor Robert Cornwall.

Anyone who has been involved in ministry very long knows how taxing it is. You will run out of steam pretty quickly. In the church, nothing gets done without the power of the Spirit, the Spirit that hovered over the face of the deep in Genesis, that was in the beginning, the Spirit present at Jesus’ baptism, that drove him into the wilderness, that anointed him to preach Good News to the poor. That Spirit still anoints us today.

April 16, 2017 is Easter Sunday

Maundy Thursday – April 13, 2017 

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 – The command to celebrate Passover. This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 – I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – Paul’s understanding of Holy Communion. I received what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread…

John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – The washing of the disciples’ feet and the new commandment to love one another.

Good Friday – April 14, 2017

Merciful God, your Son was lifted up on the cross to draw all people to himself. Grant that we who have been born out of his wounded side may at all times find mercy in him, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 – The Song of the Suffering Servant. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…

Psalm 22 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Hebrews 10:16-25 – I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. New covenant.
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 – Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, let us hold fast to our confession.

John 18:1 – 19:42 – John’s passion: arrest, trial, crucifixion.

Easter A – April 16, 2017

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon. God shows no partiality. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. They put him to death on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day…
Jeremiah 31:1-6  – I have loved you with an everlasting love. I will build you again. Vineyards will once again be planted in Samaria.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Colossians 3:1-4  – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is.
Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon. God shows no partiality. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. They put him to death on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day…

John 20:1-18 – Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb… Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Matthew 28:1-10 – But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.


If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.
–Archbishop Oscar Romero, March 4, 1979

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
—Martin Luther

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
—Paul, Philippians 3:10-11

For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
—Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

No Bones About It

A few years ago, a documentary called The Lost Tomb of Jesus claimed that the bones of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had been found. A tomb discovered in the suburbs of Jerusalem had some ossuaries in it (an ossuary is a bone box) that had the names “Jesus, Mara, and Yoses” on them, which could be translated “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Could this be the Holy Family? Was this a challenge to the notion that Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven? If he had risen and ascended, there should be no bones, right? No bones about it.

The documentary was produced by Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron (The Terminator, Aliens, Abyss, Titanic, Avatar). After raising the Titanic, was Cameron trying to sink Christianity?

The makers of the documentary claimed to have done DNA testing on the bones, discovering that Jesus’ bones and Mary’s bones are not related. So this was not Mary, the mother of Jesus. More likely, said the documentary, Mary Magdalene. Now why would Mary Magdalene and Jesus be buried together? Unless, of course, they were married. (This destroys Dan Brown’s thesis in The Da Vinci Code that Mary Magdalene sailed to the south of France, but never mind).

But wait, there’s more… Jacobovici and Cameron claim one bone box read “Judah, son of Jesus,” which led them to believe that Jesus had a Son – shocking news. Could it be? Could Jesus and Mary Magdalene have had a son together?

Well, as you can imagine, there are quite a few problems here. Usually when archeologists make significant finds, they publish them in professional journals, like Biblical Archeology Review, not on a sensational cable T.V. “documentary.” So this thing smells more like a Geraldo Rivera publicity stunt than a significant archeological find. But this has to be legit, right? Why else would James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici make the program? Certainly it couldn’t just be for the money… Could it?

Another problem: Middle Eastern archeologists say it is very unlikely that a family from Galilee would have a family tomb in Jerusalem.

Another problem: The tomb had 200 ossuaries in it. And the names Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were pretty common names back then. Hebrew University archaeologist and epigraphist Leah DiSegni said it would be like finding a tomb today that said “George” on it and asserting that it must be the tomb of George Washington.

Another problem: The ossuary was not dug up at an official excavation, where a team of scholars could scrutinize it. It turned up at an antiquities dealer.

Another problem: When Cameron and Jacobovici unveiled their limestone boxes, lo and behold, there were no bones in them. When questioned about this, they said the bones had been “lost.” Therefore no DNA testing can be done on them (But, the filmmakers claim that they already did their own DNA testing).

In other words, Cameron and Jacobovici found the same thing the women did in John 20: An empty tomb. It is the empty tomb on which the question of Jesus is founded. Christians do not claim to have special knowledge of Jesus’ demise. They do not claim to understand the resurrection or the nature of life after death. We simply proclaim a hope to which Jesus pointed: that this life is not all there is.

In fact, in the midst of a Nietzschian universe, in which humans are insignificant animals in a backwater corner of the universe, the Christian gospel proclaims the audacity of hope – a world that offers more than we can see or imagine.

It will probably interest our people to know that only one set of bones of a crucified man have ever been found. Of all the thousands of people the Romans crucified, we have only uncovered one skeleton ever of a crucified man. This is because the Romans discarded the bodies of the crucified in Nazi-like piles for scavengers. One body was found in 1968. His name was Yehochanan. He was between 24 and 28 years old. The spike was still in his ankle. His arms had not been nailed but tied to the cross. His legs had been broken to hasten his death.

Do the existence of these bones negate the hope of his resurrection? What is this fascination with the bones of Jesus? Perhaps it’s our wrestling with the incredulity of the resurrection and our struggle/fascination with the story of the women at the empty tomb.

On the first day of the week at early dawn, the women went to the tomb with spices they had prepared. A friend of mine likes to call these women the Spice Girls, after the 1990’s English pop group. The first witnesses of the empty tomb were these women. The first proclaimers of the resurrection, the good news that still has people like James Cameron riveted today, were these women, who did not cower in the face of the crucifixion. Mary was the first to find Jesus’ tomb, not James Cameron.

The Gospel of John makes little to no effort to prove the resurrection. The gospels were not written for skeptics, but for believers, in churches that had already been worshipping and serving in their communities for years, if not decades. This we know with relative certainty, both with the eyes of faith, and also historically: Jesus was crucified. He died. His corpse was taken down from the cross. He was buried. Three days later, his tomb was found to be empty. There is little here with which anyone can argue. I am aware that there are still some out there who want to suggest that Jesus’ very existence is myth, but they are on the fringe. The historical existence of Jesus is vastly more plausible than the existence of Socrates, and many figures in antiquity.

So, after the empty tomb, the rest is a matter of faith. I say faith, not belief. For Christians, this is not a philosophical question. The mystical presence of Jesus is one of personal experience, or not. When Paul had his vision of the risen Christ, it was a mystical presence, not the triumph of a philosophical proposition.

The preacher must remember that the Easter Sunday congregation is filled not only with believers, but also skeptics who have been dragged to church on this cheery spring day. There is no reason to doubt the story of the women at the tomb. As A. N. Wilson says in Jesus, A Life,

…no first century Jew, wishing to invent a good case which depended to some extent on evidence, would have chosen to contact female false witnesses… If the disciples had chosen to invent the story of the empty tomb, they would have said that the first witnesses were Peter, or James the brother of the Lord, or the rich men Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (p. 241).

In any case, within 300 years, Constantine would gather Christian bishops from around the empire, who would in turn proclaim Jesus to be “God from God, light from light, very God from very God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father, by whom all things were made.” This Jesus, noble martyr, healer of the people, victim of injustice, is exalted as an expression of God’s love (John 12:23, 15:13), as Mark Allan Powell says in Introducing the New Testament.

Even an existentialist theologian like Tillich, following Kant, finally has to admit that the agape love shown in Jesus’ ultimate self-sacrifice results in a transcendence that cannot be explained. This agape love is not finite; it is infinite. This, however, is also a statement of faith.

The more orthodox, traditional N. T. Wright also acknowledges the challenge of the resurrection in modern thought. At the same time, he suggests that postmodern thought offers us a way through. “Where modernism thought it could know things objectively about the world, postmodernism has reminded us that there is no such thing as neutral knowledge.” (From his blog: The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma). Reality is not all it’s cracked up to be. Deeply flawed, we simply must look beyond this veil to see Truth. The resurrection points us to that Truth.

Wright, who believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, acknowledges that there is no consensus in the church or in the Bible on what happens to people when they die. To reduce it to a one-stage journey to heaven or hell is a distortion of the message of hope. Our proclamation must have enough humility to leave room for the unknown mysteries of life.

I’m not suggesting that you preach the poles of Wright and Tillich to your congregation or the world. One cannot hurl doctrine at a postmodern world. We cannot pretend to construct or deconstruct modernity. What we can do is proclaim a story that still has transformative power today, a life-giving story of hope that invites us into a relationship. We proclaim a story, one that still has people looking for Jesus’ bones today.

My Mom

Patricia Rinehart was born Patricia Joan Laycox on May 26, 1936. Mom went to Capital University in Columbus Ohio where she met my dad, Warren. They were married in 1957, and dad headed off to seminary. 

I was born in 1961, the product of a cold winter while my dad was on internship. 

And then there was Paul…

And then Katie. The family in 1972:

Mom got her license to practice real estate, selling dozens of homes over the years. 

Mom and dad at my seminary graduation in 1988:

In 1997 mom and dad retired and moved to Leander, Texas, close to my sister Katie and about three hours from where we would end up a few months later, in Conroe. Mom continued to practice real estate, while dad did interims at Lutheran churches. 

They were blessed with seven grandchildren:

My Dad

Warren Rinehart was born in 1933. His father, my grandfather, Howard, worked in a steel mill in Canton, Ohio. Howard married Elizabeth Farber. They were members of Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Canton. 

David Rinehart (my great, great, great, great grandfather) immigrated from Manheim, Germany. His ship, the Duke of Bedford, landed in Philadelphia on September 14, 1751. He was an indentured servant to a Quaker family to work off his passage on the ship. He settled in Somerset County (then Bedford), PA, eventually acquiring land in Tuscaroras County, Ohio in 1813. He and his wife Magdalena had two sons, Valentine and Phillip. His name is spelled “Rinehart” in the 1790 census. 

Valentine (1773-1856) Rinehart’s name is spelled “Rinhart” in the 1820 census, “Rhinehart” in the 1830 census, “Rineheart” in the 1840 census, and “Reinhart” on his tombstone. He had nine children with his wife Elizabeth. The second oldest was Valentine Jr. His oldest son was David. 

David (1807-1886) also married an Elizabeth. His name is spelled variously in different censuses. He claims on one census that neither he nor his wife can read or write. He donated some of his land for a Lutheran church. They had four children, one is whom is my great grandfather, Valentine III.

Valentine III (1841-1904) and Christena (17 years younger) could read and write. By this time the spelling was locked in at “Rinehart.” Valentine III said he was a farmer on the 1900 census. They had eleven children, the youngest of whom was Howard, my grandfather. Valentine III was 60 years old when Howard was born. Howard was only three when his father died age the age of 63. 

Howard (1901-1985) had two children, one of whom was my father, Warren. In the 1940 census Howard said he had an 8th grade education. He listed his occupation as foreman at a cast iron foundry. Howard retired in the 60’s and died in the 80’s, while I was in seminary. 

Howard and Elizabeth Rinehart, my paternal grandparents

Dad grew up in Canton, loving gardening and cooking. Apparently he had a duck. 

Dad studyied engineering at Capital University where he met my mom, Patricia. They were married in 1957.

I was born in 1961, the product of an enjoyable internship year. My brother Paul was born in 1966 and sister Katie in 1969. 

Dad graduated from seminary in Columbus, Ohio 1962. At the time it was known as the Evangelical Lutheran Theoogical Seminary at Capital University. Today, after a merger with Hamma Seminary at Wittenberg University, it is Trinity Lutheran Seminary. 

There appear to be about a dozen faculty, and about 50 in his graduating class. Dad is in the second row, fourth from the left. In the front row, third from the left is Ron Hals, who was also my Old Testament professor. Fifth from the left is Fred Meuser, who would be president of the seminary by the time I arrived in 1984. On the far right is Merlin Hoops (New Testament), and third from the right is Art Becker (pastoral care). For Texas Lutherans, it may be interesting to know that Pastor Willie Rotter of LaGrange is in the back row, sixth from the left.

Dad was ordained at Martin Luther, Canton, in 1962, being called to serve St. Peter’s in Edon, Ohio. 

I believe he was ordained at St. Peter’s, Edon, Ohio, by Norman Menter, Michigan District President. 

Dad served St. Peter’s for two years. Here he is chatting with the groomsmen at his first wedding:

In 1964, he was tapped by the ALC Board of Missions, Michigan District, to start a new congregation in Grand Blanc, Michigan, a suburb of Flint: Holy Spirit Lutheran Church. He knocked on thousands of doors, and even laid the tile in the fellowship hall himself. For 33 years they lived in this parsonage, where dad plied his gardening skills. 

Dad, my grandfather Howard, and my brother Paul in Canton around 1970. I’m in the tree behind them, bored or distracted as usual. 

The family around 1972:

This is mom and dad at my graduation from Trinity Seminary in 1988:


Dad married Susan and me that same summer. 

In 1997 mom and dad retired, moving to Leander, Texas, close to my sister Katie, and about three hours from where we live. They adjusted to retirement well. Dad did interims for about 12 years in Texas, and mom practiced real estate part time. Dad did interims in Caldwell, College Station, Columbus, MacGregor, Palm Valley, Pflugerville, Taylor, Waco, Weimer and more. 

This 2003 photo shows them with their seven grandchildren.

Mom and dad attended my installation as bishop ten years ago. 

Today dad is 84 and struggling with short-term memory issues. Holy Spirit Lutheran in Grand Blanc, Michigan, with around 500 members, continues on in ministry.

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