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The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé 

Jesus can regularly be heard saying “the kin-dom of heaven is like…” and then offering an image, a story, a metaphor to root this vision to a place or experience. It is like a mustard seed, a lost coin, wheat among the weeds, a treasure in clay jars, the leaven that makes bread rise. Kin-dom or reign of God are of course, in themselves a kind of metaphor that reflect the ancient context of their teacher.  These metaphors speak to the audience – an agricultural community of peoples around the turn of the century – as Jesus seeks to stir the people’s imagination for the kind of world God desires them to experience and participate in. 

Sts. Luke and James red front door with peace flags hung up on a string across the front yard.

The Riverside Innovation Hub and the congregational partners we’ve been blessed to learn alongside these past several years, have been about this kin-dom of God work too. I cannot remember ever using this language explicitly with our congregational learning communities. But what we have been talking about and working towards is cultivating more places and relationships that reflect the ways God intends for us to be and be together. We’ve been chasing after that call, one relationship at a time, one walk through our neighborhoods at a time, one story or surprise at a time. 

Kin-dom metaphors may not quite fit our current context, but the idea of a front porch has caught our imagination as a helpful metaphor to encourage the relationship building work we are trying to be about. Relationships that shape stories that shape neighborhoods that look and feel a little bit more like God’s good intentions for a whole, flourishing and connected creation – one neighborhood block at a time. 

On one of these neighborhood blocks – at the corner of Colfax and W 46th St. in south Minneapolis – sits Sts Luke & James Episcopal Church. Also on this corner block exists a front porch of sorts. It wasn’t always there, but a few years ago the folks from this congregation began seeking out places to listen to their neighbors and some hints of an invitation began to stir among them. Continue reading “The Kin-dom of Heaven is like a Front Porch By Kristina Frugé “

Daily Devotions: God’s People [re]connect!

Each year for the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute, daily themes are chosen that are grounded in a biblical text. During the months of training and preparation for the Institute, the college mentors engage in theological reflection as a team and dig deeper into the biblical texts together. Through their leadership development with staff and the Institute chaplain, they read, plan, write, and eventually lead daily devotions for participants using these verses. The following themes and verses are now this year’s devotions. 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Separation

Genesis 3:1-13

Covenant

Genesis 9:8-17

Reunion 

Luke 15:1-10

Breaking Bread 

John 6:1-15

Companionship 

Luke 24:13-35

2022 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to Pastor John Schwehn and Pastoral Intern Tori Remer for their guidance and support as mentorsDevos 2022 Title Image prepared to write these devotions. The hours of conversation, prayer, theological reflection, and support that were given throughout the process is gratefully appreciated. We are proud of our college mentors and their work this spring.

PERMISSION

AYTI offers these themes and devotions for use by our partners. All credit should be given to the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute when using this material. Thank you. 

MISSION OF AYTI

The Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) inspires emerging high school theologians to observe, interpret, and engage their world through Christ for the sake of their neighbor. Our participants learn how to reflect theologically on culture and find meaningful ways to respond to the call from God that happens in this process of reflection. 

To achieve this, we provide an intense, one-week residential experience with a new theme every year. Students read theological texts and experience a college classroom, participate in worship, explore diverse community-based learning, and have intentional small group conversations led by college mentors. Following their week on campus, students write a theological paper on the theme and their paper is published in a journal to be shared with congregations and the wider community.  www.augsburg.edu/ayti

Continue reading “Daily Devotions: God’s People [re]connect!”

“Today” by Kristina Frugé

I was asked to write a blog post this week for the Riverside Innovation Hub that would introduce a series we are calling “Front Porch Stories.” This series will highlight stories from neighborhoods near and far where congregations are creating, cultivating or entering into front porch places where neighbors meet neighbors. Places where curiosity can be nurtured, stories can be shared, and simple connections can spark new relationships. Places where new life and new hope might have some room to take root.  

However, I’m struggling to have imagination for new life and hope today. Instead, death and hopelessness are crowding my heart and my mind, just as they are saturating our communities near and far – our schools, our corner grocery stores, our city blocks… 

A tree with a small number of leaves on the edge of a cliff by the water. The tree has branches like an L with one toward the sky and one branch out toward the water. In the background is a dark forest and fog.Today, as I write, marks the 2 year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, MN. His sacred life – like countless black and brown bodies before and after him – senselessly taken by uninhibited police violence.

Today, as I write, dozens of parents in the neighborhood of Uvalde, Texas have woken up to the first morning of the rest of their lives without their children. Young, beautiful, holy lives whose bodies and futures were destroyed with bullets and brutality.

Today, as I write, families and loved ones in Buffalo, New York prepare to bury their beloved elders, family members and friends. Ten cherished human beings who were targeted, terrorized and massacred by a young man embodying the violent evil lies of white supremacy ideology. 

 

Today, my heart fears that the front porches are too few and that their power to overcome the constant waves of violence and grief are insufficient. 

 

We talk about sowing seeds of love, connection, justice, mercy, and hope. Yet the seeds of violence, evil, hatred and fear have been nurtured far too well for far too long in our places. The two young 18 year old men and their evil ambitious destruction, reflect an ugly truth about the state of our humanity today. The systems tasked with stewarding our public safety reveal the deep roots of a harmful belief that some lives don’t matter. The seeds we have sown are breeding unimaginable violence and yet it’s completely imaginable because of how regularly it visits us. 

Continue reading ““Today” by Kristina Frugé”

RIH Cohort Reflection: Springtime is a Time of Being Slowly Led by the Spirit

Our Riverside Innovation Hub Lead Facilitator Geoffrey Gill reflects on the past month’s cohort meetings with congregations. Geoffrey shares wisdom and learnings from these important gatherings. 


The word spring comes from old English meaning to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow. It’s roots go back to Sanskrit sprhayati “desires eagerly,” and Greek spekhesthai “to hurry up”. (Etymonline)

Spring felt like it took its sweet time this year. It was like expecting a child to be born and then the child is not ready to come out yet. You can’t force these things, you take it one moment at a time and breath. As we breathe into the fullness of spring and our work becomes more and more rooted, it is clear that this work requires us to slow down, to be patient and to move at the pace of a growing flower. It may look slow and arduous at times, and this is the work of sowing seeds; we are like community gardeners for the public church and we are learning that this projectA red tulip in a garden bed. moves at the pace of building trustworthy relationships. You can’t force this to work, and you can’t just bypass any important part because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t understand it. What I’m finding inside of most congregations is this sense of needing things to speed up, there is this deep eagerness to spring forth and jump into action. And on the other hand God is calling us to slow down. Yes, move forward and take action, and don’t move so fast that you can’t smell the spring flowers. Don’t move so fast that you forget or bypass why you’re even doing this work. This time and space of work requires us to trust the flow of the process; to do all we can and then let the spirit do what it’s capable of doing.

So, In-between our large learning events RIH hosts smaller cohort meetings. These meetings focus on the art forms of the public church framework. All of the cohorts met this April. The intentions of these meetings were to build and deepen relational trust, reflect on the process of sharing learnings with the leadership in each congregation and expand more into the art form: interpretation. 

Continue reading “RIH Cohort Reflection: Springtime is a Time of Being Slowly Led by the Spirit”

Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber

This winter was long. April felt like an extended March. There is a whole lot of beauty in the winter and the cold can be hard on our bodies. In the midst of the cold, snow and rain, the last week of April if one paid attention, the green began to emerge. The tulips that I planted last fall began to sprout and I could see bursts of green in the mixture ofTulip leaves sprouting up from the brown ground. brown surrounding my house. I woke up to birds chirping out my window and watched squirrels dig up their nuts for nourishment that they had planted last fall. 

I am an amateur gardener who definitely has lots to learn, but continues to show up in March to plant my own seeds knowing that not all of them will survive. During this Easter season of new life and resurrection, I am trying to pay extra attention to what around me needs nourishing. Which seedlings need water, sunlight, more space or coffee grounds added to the soil? When my tomato seedlings grow too leggy, I adapt by replanting them so the stems are fully supported and the plant can focus on rooting down to allow it to rise up. When my broccoli seedlings are too leggy, after googling why that might be, I realize that they are too warm.  In response, I make a shift so that they are no longer under the humidity dome. Each seedling needs something different in order to grow and eventually bear fruit.   Continue reading “Little Things are Big Things by Ellen Weber”

The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge

While we wait for the Minnesota landscape to more fully thaw out this chilly spring, let me share a memory with you from a much warmer spring day several years ago…

My precocious three-year-old daughter and I were en route between errands, stopping for a quick cup of coffee and goodies, when Marie spotted a giant dragonfly on the sidewalk. We squatted down to investigate. I cautioned her to move slowly so we didn’t scare it away, but her sticky little fingers were already reaching out to touch the creature. It didn’t move. 

“Mommy, what’s wrong?”

“Oh honey, it looks like it’s dead. See the owie?” I said, pointing at its mis-shaped and slightly oozy side of head.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know sweetie. But look how beautiful it is. Look at its lacy wings, look at the bright colors on its body.”

“I like its wings.”  She paused….“What will it do now?”  a black and white dragonfly sitting on two fingers.

“Well, maybe a momma bird will pick it up and feed it to its baby birds so they can grow big and learn to fly.” I picked up the dragonfly and placed it in the grassy median nearby. I continued, “Or it will go back to nature in the grass here and make the dirt healthy so plants can grow.”

“Oh, so it will come back alive?”

I paused…. “Yes. It will. Just in a different way.”

 

Thanks to Marie’s discovery and observations of the dead dragonfly several years ago, I now find my senses awakened anytime I see a dragonfly. Spotting the black and white iridescent wings of the 12 spotted skimmer or the vibrant green stick body of the ebony jewel wing stirs a hint of exhilaration within me. These sightings have become small but holy moments. They point me back to the complexity and simplicity of Marie’s interpretation of the promise of life present in the dead, lifeless body of that dragonfly. 

While our chilly Minnesota winter hasn’t made room for any visits yet from these fascinating flighted creatures, they have been on mind this Easter. 

To be candid, Easter has always been uncomfortable for me. Back in my youth ministry days, that mostly had to do with the fact that I’d start my Easter Sunday at 6:00am in the church kitchen preparing food with sleepy students for our church’s Easter breakfast youth fundraiser. But over the last few years, I’ve simply struggled to connect with the joyful celebration of Easter worship. The Hallelujah chorus and triumphant shouts that “Christ has risen indeed!” have landed flat for me. Disingenuous seems too harsh of a label, but something has remained amiss for me with the Easter proclamation when life around me – or rather the devaluing of it – seems to reflect something far from the truth of this promise. 

Continue reading “The Promise of Dragonflies by Kristina Fruge”

Mentors for the 2022 Youth Theology Institute

One gift we have each year at the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI), is hiring current college students to train and lead as mentors during our annual summer institute. These students come to AYTI with energy and gifts for serving young people who are curious about how God is working in their lives and the world. These leaders spend the spring semester developing skills for small group facilitation, studying and researching biblical stories to prepare to lead a daily devotion with our participants, and honing their leadership skills to provide a safe and welcoming place for the high school participants during the institute.

2022 AYTI Mentors being goofy!
2022 AYTI Mentors being goofy!

We are excited to introduce to you the 2022 AYTI Mentors. They are such a fun group and we know the high school participants are going to enjoy spending the week of AYTI with them!

Continue reading “Mentors for the 2022 Youth Theology Institute”

Advent Vespers: Amanda Vetsch

Reflection on Psalm 148: 1-2,13

Photo by City Church CA on Unsplash

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;

his glory is above earth and heaven.”

Psalm 128:1-2,13

As we read this Psalm, I’m imagining our voices joining with generations before us, all creation, and the cloud of witnesses, who have and continue to sing songs of praise. I can hear a large chorus with different parts coming in and out of focus. Maybe it sounds like a round, maybe there’s beautiful harmony, maybe some of the parts are really loud and full of energy, maybe others are singing quietly, reverently.

I imagine it sounds like something between a cacophony of noises and a harmonious symphony. When I imagine the songs of praises this way, I’m encouraged. I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to keep the song of praise going just by myself, especially when I don’t always feel like praising God. Sometimes, I’d rather sing a song than a lament. Or not sing at all, and hold space for silence. I’m continuing to learn that praising God is not mutually exclusive, meaning it doesn’t have to be the only song I’m singing. We can: Praise and grieve. Praise and lament. Praise and ponder. And in this season of advent, may we continue to praise and wait.

Amanda Vetsch

Advent Vespers: Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge,’02

Hark! the herald angels sing – stanza 1

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King:

peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

join the triumph of the skies;

with th’angelic hosts proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

 

I experience many emotions throughout the Advent season: anticipation, inspiration, content, curiosity, joy, and awe. Growing up one of my fondest memories of this season was the variety of music. The proclamation that rings out when “Hark! The herald angels sing” is sung in a chorus of harmonious voices, with the piano, strings, and trumpets all playing along, bringing me back to a joyful memory that I can only feel in my body. I can feel it out to my fingertips and up through my center, the feeling of inspiration that something wonderful has happened. The music fills me down to my toes as I reach deep down into my diaphragm for a full breath to proclaim through song, “peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

Continue reading “Advent Vespers: Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge,’02”

Advent Vespers: Jeremy Myers

Psalm 91:9-16 

9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
   the Most High your dwelling-place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
   no scourge come near your tent.


11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
   so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
   the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.


14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honour them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation.

If you camp a lot, then you know tent placement is incredibly important. A slope can cause the blood to rush to your head. A hill will send pools of water into your tent during a rainstorm. Dead branches above might come crashing down on you in a windstorm. Boulders uphill might let loose during the night. Your body is only as safe as your dwelling-place. 

 

Many sleep in tents across our country tonight who are not in safe dwelling-places. They are temporarily homeless or have chosen this tent as their home. They are not safe. There is a scourge that comes near. This scourge is wealth inequity, the opportunity gap, racism, unjust housing policies, and our inability to address the mental health crisis. Yet, even to these, God promises to “be with them in trouble”, “to rescue and honor them”, and to “satisfy them”. 

 

Oh, Lord. Send your angels to those with danger just outside their tents. Bear them up, and may we together tread on the lion and the adder of injustice that threatens them.