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.