Huh? What did Jesus just say?

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love you neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of God; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

~ Matthew 5:43-45

We have been traveling through the strange blessings of the Beatitudes on our journey through Lent.

We have wrestled with such blessings as poverty of spirit, mourning, and meekness. I don’t know about you, but I am as confused as ever! I can relate to the most common characteristic of the disciple’s response to Jesus teaching as

“Huh? What did he just say?”

Continue reading

From guest blogger Priscilla Eppinger

Kin-dom Solidarity with the Communities of El Tablón

In January, Alex Thornburg and Priscilla Eppinger represented Heartland Presbyterian Church on a delegation visit to our partner communities in El Salvador.  We quickly became aware of the serious drought conditions this country has endured during the past two growing seasons; from the airplane we could see dried-up riverbeds that should have had water flowing in them, and people everywhere remarked on how changes in climate have made the rains of the growing season less predictable.

Continue reading

Listening to Their Stories

We have been listening to stories.

IMG_0675

This is the essence of what we have been doing this week here in the mountains of El Salvador. We visit each farming community called a “Tablon” (a kind of extended village), and we meet with the elected leaders of these communities called a “Directiva” who share the stories of their successes and challenges of the past year. We then proceed to visit people in their homes where we talk about their families, their lives, their problems, their hopes, and their dreams.

Continue reading

Oscar Romero and The Church of the Poor

IMG_0609

Portrait of Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero served as the Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until his death in 1980. Romero is considered a kind of patron saint of El Slavador, and I do not joke when I say there might be more pictures of Romero posted everywhere than there are of Jesus. This is a significant difference than when I was in El Salvador twenty-five years ago when the government harassed and silenced anyone associated with the controversial Bishop. Continue reading

El Salvador Trip 1st entry (the before entry)

I leave for El Salvador on Thursday. While excited about this new adventure, I am now caught up in all my preparations for the journey. I have my checklist of items to bring: warm weather clothes and sunscreen (Eat your hearts out you cold West Des Moiners.); Passport and ID (Why do the pictures make you look so old?); and various toiletries and medications (Including Imodium I pray I will not have to use!). Continue reading

Dancing with Jesus – A Note from Alex

“Dance then wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance said He,

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,

And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He. “

         ~Refrain from “Lord of the Dance”

I have been dancing with you only a month now. My first weeks have been a whirlwind of meeting new people, going to meetings, visiting community organizations, and enjoying Des Moines (Teresa and I have already been to the Downtown Farmers Market and discovered Jethro’s Barbecue). It has been exciting and enlightening and more than a little dizzying.

I am learning how Heartlanders like to dance!

Photo Credit: roseannadana via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: roseannadana via Compfight cc

If you haven’t realized by now, I do love to dance — all kinds of dances from the Two-Step to the Waltz to good old Rock and Roll gyrations. I will even admit to my disco days!

Much of what a Pastor does in the first year of their ministry with a church is to try and discern the dance steps of the congregation. I listen for the music you dance to and the various ways you dance with Jesus, the Lord of the Dance. I have only begun to catch on to how Heartland dances, but I have discerned some of your dance moves.

I have found that you like to dance intelligently.

The life of the mind is an important way you experience and express Jesus in our life together. I have found you like to dance joyfully. There is a deep contemplative spirituality running through Heartland expressing the gift of Jesus in our midst. And I have found you are willing to try new dance steps. That you are part of that progressive theological tradition that claims we are “Reformed, and Always Being Reformed.” I can already tell it is going to be fun to dance with all of you in the coming years.

One of the things I believe deeply is that Jesus is always inviting us to dance in the Spirit wherever we may be in life.

At times this is a joyous dance; at other times is may be a slow, mournful dance; but it is a dance always rooted in Jesus, the incarnation of God’s love among us and in the world. It is a dance that heals brokenness; a dance that brings justice into the world, and a dance that embodies peace amidst divisiveness.

I am excited to be dancing with you and with Jesus, the Lord of the Dance.

Grace and Peace,

Alex