The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Transformed by loneliness

It is to your advantage that I go away....

Nearly 40 years, but I remember it as yesterday. I pointed the nose of that little Piper Cub down the grass runway and pushed the throttle forward all the way. On a cold winter day, the plane seemed to leap into the air as it began its climb. Five hundred feet; turn left; soon another left turn in the airport “traffic pattern”; level off at a thousand feet. And then I looked over my shoulder. He wasn’t there! “Kip” Coleman, my first flight instructor, stood watching me from way down below. It hit me with a wave of panic: “My God, I’ve got to land this thing all on my own!”

On that clear brisk day in March 1969, in the moment of sheer utter loneliness that only a first-time fledgling flyer can fully fathom, I was transformed. I became a pilot! Only in his absence did I recognize the full measure of my mentor’s gift to me: Kip had given me wings and taught me to ride them on my own.

Only in the aftermath of Jesus’ ascension did his disciples finally grasp his gift to them. Only in his haunting absence at table fellowship did they fully comprehend the ongoing power of his sacramental real presence. Just as Kip’s constant prodding became forever embedded in my brain (“Watch your airspeed; put down the flaps now; look out for other aircraft; ease back on the throttle; flare, keep the nose up and land!”), so Jesus’ words to his disciples would never leave them. Seeing the rabbi’s seat empty, Peter and the other disciples took the yoke as the church’s first leaders. Rather than crash and burn, they soared into mission that 20 centuries later continues to transform the world.

In an age of profound loneliness for many—when all of us sometimes feel abandoned and on our own—rather than despair, in Ascension’s wake we can descend into the depths of holy transforming loneliness. Only the lonely can be truly open to the Spirit’s coming. Only the utterly empty will be filled with promised power from on high.

This week's front page features:

Tending souls: Helping parents nurture spirituality in children. (Photo at right.)

An enlarged heart: We find new life in the rhythm of death and resurrection.

'The Little Lutheran': New magazine to help raise children of faith.

Chocolate as bait: Evangelism is sweet at this Maryland congregation.

Also: Nurturing families.

Also: Confessions of a new father.

Also: Relief work continues in Indonesia.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

Discuss your mother memories:

In honor of Mother's Day and to complement the article "With just one word" by Brenda L. Peconge, we're inviting readers of The Lutheran to share their "mother memories" in this discussion forum.

Join the discussion > > >

This week on our blog:

Amber Leberman (right) asks users to take our Web site survey.

Kathleen Kastilahn blogs about the roots of Mother's Day.

Julie Sevig blogs about remembering inspiring women other than mothers.

Sonia Solomonson writes about saying "no" to whining.

Check out our blog > > >

Introducing The Little Lutheran:

We at The Lutheran think it’s important to nurture the faith of the little ones in our midst. We developed The Little Lutheran for toddlers age 6 and younger to help them learn about God’s love for them and the world in which they live. We want them to know Jesus as friend and savior too.

Meet The Little Lutheran > > >

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Share your evangelism tips:

Reader George C. Weirick challenged the staff of The Lutheran: "Tell us about programs that work or unusual or new evangelism methods."

Send us your tips via email, with a brief description (two or three paragraphs), along with contact information for those wanting more background.

The staff reviews submissions and publishes the best as a regular item on the “Currents” pages.

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February issue


Embracing diversity