Monday, December 24, 2012

quod non assumptus, non redemptus

Christmas Eve + 2012

Emma drew this manger scene many years ago. She’s sleeping right now as I write this. There is quiet except for the furnace. It snowed 8 inches during the night. Utah powder. The world is indeed a wonderful, beautiful place. But not always and not for everyone. We all will experience brokenness, limits, evil and finally death. This is exactly what happens in the Christmas story.

A Roman Catholic priest once gave me this Latin phrase: quod non assumptus, non redemptus. The words come from the 4th CE and mean: that which is not assumed, is not redeemed.

This is the Incarnation, that somehow God takes on, assumes, all that we are, all that the world is and redeems it all, because Love takes on everything and finally redeems everything. No exceptions. No exclusions. This is the power of Christmas.

Pastor Jeffrey D. Louden
St. Matthew’s Lutheran + Taylorsville, UT + + 801 965 8484 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Of Holy Writing, Fountain Pens and Ancient Laptops

tolle scribe   take and write

The story goes that St. Augustine was converted when he heard the words, tolle lege “take and read” and then picked up the Scriptures.  So this is a riff on that. I love fountain pens, the way they feel in my hand and help me to write. I found this 100 year old “lap top” writing box in a pawn shop in Pocatello for $15. The glass bottles were filled with dried ink. Into the box I have put my pens, collected over the years from my Uncle Gary and Aunt Marge's office equipment store in Grand Junction. One pen, a Mont Blanc Diplomat, a very fine black pen, came from my father. It is inscribed with his name, "Bob." Writing helps me think. Writing with a fountain pen slows me down, reminds me of what is beautiful. Not a bad thing for Advent.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Other Traditions and the Thawing of the Heart

A long ago mentor told me once that every pastor should come to know another tradition. In some small way I have dabbled in Buddhism and perhaps even more in poetry.  Both have enriched me greatly, poetry the most. Recently I came across someone new to me, R.H. Blyth, an Englishman, who after WWII was tutor to the Japanese Emperor, Akihito. Blyth is regarded as the best interpreter of Japanese poetry. Here are some snippets.
"Everyone recognizes that making mistakes is the one thing that teaches us"…. p. 19  Buddhist sermons on Christian texts.  
Whew. Right away I was hooked, for at this stage in my life, I love people who are simple, direct and speak few words and are filled with gentleness. And of course, I know a great deal about mistakes.
Then he quotes from Thoreau, again a favorite of mine,
"My life has been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it."
Finally one of Blyth's poems is especially fitting for the end of the theological year or for any ending...
we that change
hate change
and we that pass
love what abides

Friday, October 19, 2012

imago dei or why I take pictures

Chris and Rod Rowland
Portrait by Jeffrey Louden

I realized the other day, when taking this portrait, that one reason I enjoy taking photographs is at least partly theological…these people are after all children of god, made in the imago dei, the image of God. I enjoy helping them see that…as gift.
I shared this insight with a friend who is also a pastor. He wrote back, " All art is in some way a means of grace; every artist is in some way a "priest", one who recognizes the holy in any and every thing."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


This is my home in Park City, above Jeremy Ranch. It was a kit that was built in 1979. No yard. Moose sometimes next to the  house. A wood stove. Wildflowers and a good garage. Simple. Always something to fix. Great views. Mostly good neighbors. 8808 North Cove Dr.  You are always welcome.

just to say the word
home, that one word alone,
so pleasantly cool


One of the four foremost poets of Japanese haiku tradition, Issa was born in 1763. His poems are full of gentle humor and the tension between life and death and hope.
In some ways our whole lives are the search to find a home or to return to our home or both. At its very best, a congregation can be a home, where one finds welcome and challenge, food and faith.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Living Forward, Understanding Backwards

I'm sitting at home today, working from home, listening to records I haven't listened to for 40 years. My daughter has never seen records, nor seen me listen to them. But she knows some of the songs which I have sung to her from Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel. If you are my age or older, you know the sweet sound of a record, on a turntable, with hisses and pops and a certain "physicality to it all", not a digital download.
The songs bring back memories. Songs and smells, like almost nothing else, have the power to evoke the past. I can see myself, my room, the house where I lived 40 years ago as Joni Mitchell sings on the record above.
As human beings, we live forward. But we understand backward....its true with faith too. Events take on different meaning(s) as we age.
I suppose that is grace, that meaning can change, and that meaning can come to us over all those years, through the gift of memory, through the gift of the physicality of the world.
Pastor Jeff

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Falling Upward + For those in the second half of life

The following is a meditation I received last week by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan in Albuquerque. Perhaps it will speak to you as it did to me.



Remember this: no one can keep you from the second half of life except yourself. Nothing can inhibit your second journey except your own lack of courage, patience, and imagination. Your second journey is all yours to walk or to avoid. My conviction is that some falling apart of the first journey is necessary for this to happen, so do not waste a moment of time lamenting poor parenting, lost jobs, failed relationships, physical handicaps, gender identity, economic poverty, or even the tragedy of any kind of abuse. Pain is part of the deal. If you don’t walk into the second half of your own life, it is you who do not want it. God will always give you exactly what you truly want and desire. So make sure you desire, desire deeply, desire yourself, desire God, and desire everything good, true, and beautiful.
God’s grace is sufficient for the journey!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hidden Roots, Hidden Connections

These are some Aspens near my home, on Iron Mountain. Populus tremuloides....trembling poplars. I love the sound the leaves make in the wind. The largest living organism in the world is found near Fish Lake, Utah. It is a community of Aspens.  Aspens are all connected undersground. The connections are mysterious and complex. They look like individual trees, but they are not.

Just so the church. We are part of a community that is mysterious and complex, and as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, it is also a gift.

Congregations, like Aspens and Aspen Groves, wax and wane, grow and decline. Either way, God is present. Who is to know what the Spirit is doing?

Community, like Aspen trees, can grace our lives.  May it be so.

Pastor Jeffrey Louden

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bread for the Body and Soul

A Wind River Early Morning this past month
Photo by Jeffrey Louden

This coming Sunday the Gospel is about bread. Bread is both literal and metaphoric, i.e. we all need bread to sustain us, the bread made from wheat and the bread of human community, the bread of grace. Bread gives hope. Its texture and substance sustain a community. Communities, even St. Matthew's, need fresh bread. Not the white flimsy Wonder Bread made, but homemade bread, with body and taste, kneaded with love.

I spent the past month in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming, from where some of my bread has come the last fourteen years. I worked for 30 days on an expedition in the wilderness with eleven strangers as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School. We persevered, saw beautiful country, completed the expedition successfully. We performed one evacuation. We lived simply. It was bread for my body and soul.

See you Sunday, as we continue our expedition of faith. May you have the bread you need and enough to share with others who are hungry too.


Pastor Jeffrey Louden

Monday, June 25, 2012

Home Town

The Waldo Canyon Fire + Near Manitou Springs, CO
Photo by Mark Copelin (Pastor Jeff's Brother in Law)

My home towns, Manitou Springs and Cascade, CO were evacuated this past weekend because of a fire that is still 0% contained. My parents and a sister and brother in law still live there. This morning I wake up emotionally exhausted, because, well, it is still my home town, where I grew up as a kid, where I hiked and fished with my best friend, kissed my first girlfriend, began to figure out who I was, drove my first car, was confirmed, graduated from High School....the list goes on.

Fire has a way of purifying things. Sure it destroys, but it also opens up and burns away the dross. So this weekend and now during this time away I'll be thinking about what is really important and what, perhaps, needs to be burnt up and away. In the mountains, carrying that heavy pack, with not very many things, I'll be thinking about "home."


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Weeds and the Wild Nature of the Gospel

At the entryway to the church there are two large weeds. I have resisted the temptation to pull them at least for a few more days. In the back of my mind is the Gospel that God is the sower and also the one who prunes and keeps the garden. The wheat and the weeds grow together.

In a few days, I or someone else will "weed" the entryway, just so it looks good. But I live with the tension now.

We cannot "grow" the church. Besides being horrible English (grow doesn't take an object except in one instance: "to grow a plant/garden"), its not good theology. We can however help God plant seeds. We can water the garden. We can spread manure. We can till the soil. And like every gardener and farmer knows, if we are blessed, the plants grow.

Pastor Jeff

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Slip of the Tongue, Fever, Favor, Forgiveness


  1. An abnormally high body temperature, usually accompanied by shivering, headache, and in severe instances, delirium.
  2. A state of nervous excitement or agitation.

On Sunday, I not only "forgot" the words of institution, but at the end of the service, when giving the Aaronic blessing, instead of saying "The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace." I said, "The Lord look upon you with fever...."

Several people laughed and I did too. Laughter is a good thing in worship. Sometimes slips of the tongue are helpful. Fever helps cleanse people of disease. And a little excitement or agitation in one's faith and one's congregation is probably a good thing.

So here's to slips of the tongue, forgiveness, fever and God's favor.

Pastor Jeffrey Louden

St. Matthew's Lutheran
Taylorsville, Utah

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Transit of Venus

Pentecost at St. Matthew's 2012

Today Venus transits the Sun's disk and we can see it here in Utah. I'll be watching it with Emma and a friend of hers at 4:30 p.m. at the top of Emmigration Canyon. You may join us if you wish. Its a rare event, happening twice in a span of eight years every hundred years. Originally astronomers realized that they could use the transit to measure the span of the solar system. Today people will watch it simply because it is stunning. The world is full of beauty, full of transits.
This is my first blog with you all. I'm thinking about transits, about moving, about beauty, about parish life.
What will help St. Matthew's grow? And more importantly, what will help us be as healthy as we can?
Here is a brief list I have made of some characteristics of a healthy congregation:
Healthy congregations are flexible, generous, joy filled, open to strangers, not afraid of conflict, but not consumed by it either. Healthy congregations are not "reactive". Their first response to something new is "Oh!" Healthy congregations tell the truth. Healthy congregations understand that new members are not a source of "income", but a source of God's grace that is "in-coming." Each new member is Christ. They understand that people will join when they sense that there is grace in the community.  Healthy congregations study the scripture and the world.  Healthy congregations accept chaos. Healthy congregations commit to banning these phrases:
"It won't work. We have done it that way before." 
"It won't work. We have never done it that way before."
Healthy congregations are centered first and foremost in worship that is catholic, open, beautiful, diverse, subversive, inclusive. This worship transforms us, centers us, propels out into the world, connects us to each other.
Healthy congregations don't take themselves too seriously. They realize its only church.
Finally healthy congregations are grateful and grounded in that gratefulness.
Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel, for our common journey, for our transit together. We'll see where it goes.
Pastor Jeffrey Louden 

St. Matthew's Lutheran is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We serve the West Valley of Salt Lake City. We were formed from St. Paul's and Atonement Lutheran, becoming St. Matthew's in 1989.