By Ross Engel

When tragedy strikes, the thing to do these days is to start a hash tag campaign. It is short, easy to do, and takes no effort or action on the part of the individual. By posting with the right hash tag, everyone else who is using the same hash tag knows that you stand in solidarity with them. Some events even come with their own background pictures that you can use to change your social media profile picture to really show your support. One of the best things about a hash tag campaign is that the folks that don’t know about it or don’t use the hash tag, are an opportunity for the hash tag user to tout some moral superiority, even if they aren’t actually doing what has been hash tagged. Seriously, how many people actually are praying for whatever it is they’ve hash tagged?

By Ross Engel

This is an exciting week in the lives of the future pastors of the LCMS. Both of our synod’s seminaries hosted their annual call and vicarage placement services. These are anxious moments as fourth-year seminarians patiently wait through an evening Vespers service to find out where they will serve for their first Divine Call. Second-year students get to find out where they will be placed for their one year of vicarage (like a pastoral internship). The running joke has always been that calls and vicarage assignments are determined by the throw of a dart at a map of the USA, but I’ve been told that there is much more to the process.

By Ross Engel

The band of brothers reclined at the table. Their conversation was animated and loud. Laughter and smiles, joy in the midst of this Holy night of celebration. The Passover had come and there was much to rejoice in! So many things had happened recently, so there was much to talk about. Their dead friend had been raised. A blind man healed. Demons had been driven out. A parade of palm branches and Hosannas had just been experienced. Yes, there was much to revel in. Curiously enough though, the night’s feast began with their Master washing all their feet like a humble servant. Yes, there was so much to talk about this night.

By Ross Engel

Perched atop the towering, eighty-three foot tall, Redstone-3, Mercury 7 booster rocket, Astronaut Alan B. Shepard had plenty of time to contemplate and pray before his Freedom 7 capsule was launched into the great unknowns of space. The eyes of every American were glued to a TV set to watch this historic event. On Shephard’s shoulders were the combined hopes of a nation. And as he waited for lift-off and becoming the first American in outer space, he uttered a few words that would later become known as, “The Shepard’s Prayer.”

By Ross Engel

They say that silence is golden. Sometimes this can most certainly be true. It can be a real treat to find a quiet place to study or read. A quiet afternoon at the beach with the breeze, the ocean waves, a cigar, and a book is my idea of a perfectly relaxing day. Last week, my wife and I got to enjoy a night out. While the night included a lively Irish Dancing show, our evening actually began with an hour of just the two of us lost in conversation in the quiet corner of a mostly empty cocktail lounge. That silence was golden!

By Ross Engel

When Paul first approached me to be a part of The Jagged Word, his initial request was simply for me to run a campaign that would raise money for seminarians to enjoy a drink with their friends and buy them a book or two to help them prepare for ministry. I was excited to be invited into The Jagged Word family and to have a greater share in this brotherhood. Now, the Bell Ringer fund is a rather simple task. I show up at the two seminaries once a year, try to meet as many of the students as I can, enjoy a few drinks, get to know a few of the guys, and then pick a deserving young man to be the beneficiary of the Bell Ringer fund. (By the way, you can still donate to the Bell Ringer Fund for young Gabe! I’m hoping to raise $500 for this great future pastor!)

By Ross Engel

Being strong and not putting to good use one’s strength, is a waste. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God commands Joshua and His people, be strong AND courageous! But what’s the difference between strength and courage? And how are they related?

By Ross Engel

One of the mortal sins of combat is known as Fratricide. It is the killing of one’s teammate; it is the killing of one’s brother. Perhaps you’ve heard it called “Friendly fire” or an instance of “blue on blue.” It is one of the most horrific parts of war, and as long as there has been combat, there have been accidental incidents of fratricide. The 1989 Tom Cruise movie, “Born on the 4th of July” depicts the confusion that takes place in the midst of battle, “the fog of war,” and the accidental killing of one’s own teammate. The psychological scars of this action would haunt Tom Cruise’s character, real life Vietnam War veteran, Ron Kovic, for the rest of his life.

By Ross Engel

This past January, as has been my tradition for the past six years, I made my way to the annual symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Despite the often sub-zero temperatures experienced during this week of theological education, this has become a favorite event of mine to attend. I get to catch up with dear friends like Paul and Joel and meet all sorts of new people, too. The theological discussion is quite excellent, and the social gatherings are a real joy. Between all the learning, there are meals and cocktails to enjoy at the homes of professors and then banquets to celebrate great Lutheran things ranging from the Higher Things youth gatherings to the deaconess program. There is so much to do, and we always end up with a pretty full dance card.