The Carletonian published its first issue of the year on Friday and their lead article was Northfield’s heroin story, along with an accompanying interview of a former addict. (This first issue is not yet available via their online service but these photos I took of the paper are large enough to make the text readable. Click to enlarge.)
Two other Northfielders have publicly weighed in on the heroin issue recently. Left: Dale Snesrud, former co-owner of the Olympus Athletic Club, wrote a letter to the Northfield News titled Holy discontent with heroin. Right: Craig Ellingboe, Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, preached a sermon title “Holy Discontent” on Aug. 26 that Dale references in his letter. Keep reading for the full text of their remarks.
During a recent Sunday at St. Peter’s Church, Pastor Ellingboe delivered a sermon titled “Holy Discontent.” It touched my heart so that at one point, I almost thought I had to leave. In the Aug. 22 edition of the Northfield News, there was an article about a young man from our community and from St. Peter’s Church. It alleged that he robbed a bank i n Faribault. I consider myself a friend of this family.
In the past couple of months there have been other articles in the paper about drug abuse and arguments about the extent of this problem in our community. Our police chief got ripped for possibly overstating the problem in our community. School officials were quick to defend themselves. I am sure there are a number of adults that have passed through this young man’s life that had the opportunity to help, prevent or knock some sense into his head before his life took these turns, myself included.
Our school system says it’s not that bad. Well, let me tell them that only one incident like this is not acceptable. This also is not the only incident. There have been kids that have OD’d. We have had suicides and a number of break-ins in related to this problem. I want to challenge the school district to be pro-active. Drug education is not sufficient. Real drug prevention is what is needed. Not only by the school district – but also by the parents and everyone that touches the lives of our young people. I want to challenge the Northfield Ministerial association. There should be drug awareness programs in every church where parents can comfortably contact someone at the very first sign of any drug involvement from their kids. Our community leaders and law enforcement need to truly demonstrate tough love to our kids.
Holy Discontent – Lord, I have it. This incident could be my grandkids or yours. It’s time for everyone in our community to catch “Holy Discontent.” Get involved; be concerned about our young people. There are so many blessings waiting for our young people and our community. Kids have so much to offer – all they need is to understand how important they are to their parents, to their school, to their church and to our community. Holy Discontent – become involved and make our kids become aware of how important they are and how much we all need what they have to give.
The other day I was at the nursing home and read this Gospel from Luke. I said to the people gathered there, “It sounds to me like this woman had rheumatoid arthritis. I’m no doctor, but I’ll bet that really hurts. It says she had been ‘crippled for 18 years.’”
8 of the 12 people I was talking to had some form of arthritis. “I’ll say it hurts,” said one lady and she showed me her fingers, that were bent out of shape. Another told me of her husband who had used gold treatments for a few years before he died.
I thought of another lady named Mabel Lund, who was 85 years old, and spoke at a going –away party for me and Mary and family a number of years ago. She was a saint of the church and a former elementary teacher and one of the funniest people I’ve known in my life. She was the lady who when she stood up to speak said, “Hoover, Hoover, Hoover.”
I thought maybe, at her age, Mabel was starting to lose it. It made no sense at all.
I said, “What did you say?”
She said, “Craig, my arthritis is acting up, so I said, ‘Hoover, Hoover, Hoover.”
“Why do you say that, Mabel?”
“Because,” she said, “I’m hurting all over, and that’s the biggest dam I know!”
Today’s lesson is not so much about arthritis or healing or even dealing with unclean spirits. It is rather about the Sabbath, and doing what is important, and Holy Discontent.
Jesus is taken to task for healing on the Sabbath. Healing was considered doing work, and work was forbidden by Jewish law on the Sabbath. Let’s look for a moment at the context. The gathering storm of the walk to Jerusalem and the Cross is on the horizon. Herod, who once looked at Jesus with curiosity, will soon be looking to take His life. The crowds are getting larger and the disciples don’t understand what is to come. So, Jesus returns to the themes of suffering, sacrifice, and service with renewed intensity.
Like a scene from a movie, the scene unfolds. A woman hunched over with her illness walks through the temple. She does not ask for healing—perhaps she was merely there to worship. Can you see her, looking down at the feet that are the feet of the crowd. One pair of feet steps directly into her path. She cannot go around for the press of the crowd: A pair of hands reaches out to touch her… A voice, gentle but commanding, says, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” Immediately, she straightens up and begins to praise God. With a sound like the cracking of knuckles, she unwinds and straightens and the years of pain drop from her face. And, there are tears…not of pain, but of joy.
The leaders of the synagogue, sensing the threat of this man, accuse Jesus of violating the law. But, they speak not to Jesus, but to the crowd. “No one, No one, should work on the Sabbath!” But, Jesus denies them their demagoguery, the phony oratory, their chance to incite the crowd against him. “You, he says, take care of your animals. You lead them to water on the Sabbath. Why wouldn’t you free this daughter of Abraham?”
You and I, my friends, we all live in a world, in which nearly everybody works every day of the week, including the Sabbath. Yet, everyone I know…knows always that there are two kinds of time: At work….the hands of the clock that ticks off the seconds, the minutes, the hours, days, weeks, and years. And, the time that we shall call God’s time.
Many of you are on jobs that have been analyzed by computer programs or time engineers who determine just how effective you are at time on the job. I have a friend who gets paid according to how many cars he can fix in a day. Insurance companies determine how much it costs to take out an appendix to tonsils or to fix a heart. They look at time spent, and time spent in a hospital, recovery time, including the time spent at home. I must ask you today, “How do you spend your time?” Your clock time and God’s time?
One great teacher who helped to start the self-management movement was Stephen Covey, who lifts up the importance of beginning a task with the end in mind. He says, “How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, in keeping that picture in mind, we manage each day to be and do what really matters most.” He suggests dividing time into four quadrants at work and in life:
Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters).
He says, most people spend most of their time in the crises and urgent interruption areas, while the most important use of time should be spent in the areas of Important, but Not Urgent.
These are the areas, I think, that we might call “Holy Discontent.” (Note: Some of the following thoughts are from Bill Hybels in his book, Holy Discontent).
For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. became famous because of what he couldn’t stand. A pastor by occupation, he wound up being one of the world’s great volunteers. The racial oppression around him in the 50’s and 60’s nearly ripped him apart. He couldn’t stand the “Whites Only” signs on drinking fountains and bathrooms and doors to restaurants. He couldn’t stand the fact that blacks, by law, were pushed to the back of the bus or forced to give up seats altogether for white patrons. He couldn’t stand that his people were always at the back of the receiving lie for education, or employment, or housing.
He wanted the lynching of black people to stop. He wanted segregation to stop. He wanted Justice to flow like a river so that his kids could grow up in a world different than the one he was living in. And, in holy discontent, he had a “Popeye Moment.” He said in his soul, “God, that’s all I can stand. I can’t stand anymore.” So, for the rest of his brief 39 years with passion for a new civilization, Martin went for nonviolence, freedom and justice. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the University of Oslo for his tireless efforts to that end. In his acceptance speech, he said these words: “I refuse to accept the idea that ‘is-ness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘ought-ness’ that forever confronts him.”
Holy Discontent is where the Oughtness takes over the IS-ness of Life. The question regarding how we use time is not: “What should I do next?” Instead, it is: “What should I do most of all?” Somebody wiser than I has said: “Where your Passion meets the World’s Need, that is your Mission.” That, my friend, is your crossroads in life. Part of the Christian faith is attending to your own truth. Florida Scott Maxwell put it in these elegant terms: “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done…you are fierce with reality.”
My friends, it is time for us to become “Fierce with reality.”
I read with interest the headlines in a recent Northfield paper. One of our boys from St. Peter’s made the headlines. He hasn’t been active here for a long time. He broke his mother’s heart. He’s going to court to be sentenced. And, though his father is devastated by the news, the dad is being as supportive as he knows how. The young man in question is being convicted of robbing a bank. Why? Apparently, because he is supporting a drug habit. Will he pay the price? Yes, laws and court systems have a way of making that happen.
Recently, another young man, not from this parish, and I got to talking. He said, “Craig, you don’t really know me, but I know you. You’ve got a good church there on the southeast side of town, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I hear that you’ve been talking about the drug problems in town. I hear some people have minimized it, some of the higher-ups in town.”
“I suppose it looks like that,” I said. “Though I think they care.”
“Well,” he said, “a few years ago, my brother died from an overdose. Many of his friends still use. There’s still a lot going on.”
“But you don’t?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “It scares me. I saw what it did to my brother and his friends.”
Well, friends. I suppose you thought I was going to come up with a lot of answers. I’m not. But, I am going to ask you to consider the problem. Drugs and alcohol seem to be one answer for this world with its ever-increasing Anxiety and Depression. But, there’s another answer that could come from a Church like this. If we commit our time not to things as they “Is,” But to things as they “Ought-to-Be.”
One great man once said, “Some people look at things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I should like to look at things as they could be and ask, ‘Why Not?’”
I am ready to commit this church and myself to a ministry that can answer the questions of young people who are asking for help and to their families. I want us to do more than pray about it. I am asking you to invite families and youth to work together to find the answers. Let us move forward with Holy Discontent. Amen.