“Finding God at the State Fair” by Paul Strawn

02 Sep

Today is the last day of the very popular Minnesota State Fair (you still have several hours to get in on the action!).

We went on opening day, a couple of Thursdays ago, and I thank my son Sam for taking the pictures you see in this blog post.

The great piece which follows on finding God at the State Fair was written by my pastor, Paul Strawn, in our church’s September newsletter. I hope you enjoy it!:

A common question, it seems, is how people discover whether or not God is working in their lives. Assumed is that God exists, but He only interacts with people now and then to achieve what He wants to achieve. Of course believers, like the prophets, even like Jesus Himself, have better access to God, are more consistent in their interaction with God, and so enjoy more of God’s attention—so such thinking goes. God is therefore like a basketball coach, or a band director, or a teacher, who cannot help and advise everyone all the time, but must focus his or her attention on individuals, one person at a time.

So many…. How to get God’s attention?

The trick? How to get God’s attention! Proximity would appear to help. When I was in band in high school the flutes and clarinets seemed to dominate the attention of our director, mostly because they were sitting right in front of him! In basketball it was the talented, the tall, that garnered more of the coach’s time. Perhaps in business it is the workers who are of greatest importance to the success of a project that enjoy the lion’s share of the boss’s attention.

Ultimately, no matter what the method used, the quest, the desire, for help, for attention from one who is greater, or higher, or has more authority and power than we have is understandable. And so understandable as well is the question as to how to get God’s attention, so that we can have Him work in our lives for us in some way! In any way!

The funny thing is, God is working in all of our lives, every single day. And in countless ways.

Need proof? Go to the state fair. There you will see how God works through all those around us to provide for us daily all that we need to support this body and life. Wherever you turn at the state fair, from the hog barn, to the miracle of birth center, to the radio and television venues, to the science building, to machinery hill, to the heritage center, to the world market, to the education building, the 4-H building, etc. you will discover how our loving heavenly Father works each day to sustain us with food, clothing, medicine, education, work, in short, everything we need! Thought about in this way, it truly is overwhelming!

How do we understand this? Martin Luther used the idea of the “masks of God,” that is, whenever we receive what we need to live from another person we are receiving it from God, wearing the mask, as it were, of that person, of our friend, or coworker, or parent, or even a stranger. When someone at a food stand hands us a treat, it is God who is doing so. When we are being taught how to tend bees, it is God who is doing so. When we are helped to find something we are looking for, it is God who is helping us find it.

Yes, I know, the state fair can seem like a bit of excess, of all sorts of people making all sorts of effort to somehow separate us from the few dollars that we have in our pocket. And what do we get in return? Sunburn, sore feet, and a few extra pounds that will take weeks to work off!

But what really is going on there? Is it not an annual opportunity—really the only opportunity I know of—for us to be reminded of just how many ways our loving heavenly Father takes care of us? Psalm 145 is, at the end of the day, simply true: “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.”



Posted by on September 2, 2019 in Uncategorized


2 responses to ““Finding God at the State Fair” by Paul Strawn

  1. delwyncampbell

    September 3, 2019 at 2:20 am

    Rev. David Luecke talks about the difference between the traditional parish and the urban church environment. This article presents the theology that works perfectly in the former, but would be “speaking in tongues” in the latter. Sadly, an urban child knows that eggs come from the dairy aisle, bacon and ham come from the deli or the packaged meat section, and vegetables are found either in a can or in the frozen food aisle. In other words, we have “become like God” producing, packaging, and paying for, “our daily bread.”
    On top of that, from an early age, our children learn that it is the “all-beneficent” government that provides them with everything that they need, from education to protection, and, for those who are “entitled,” provision and a place to live.
    God is only of value to the extent that He can “give you a hundred-fold return on your tithes and firstfruits” or deliver a miraculous healing or give you an emotional experience that takes you out of yourself (ecstasy). This is the Gospel that is so prominent in so many inner-city places that have crosses on their roofs, and “Jesus” on the marquees. It’s exciting, it’s entertaining, and it’s enthusiastic.
    By contrast, we offer an image of God that is quiet, predictable in how He comes to us and gives of Himself to us, and offers, not an escape from the cross, but companionship and support through the cross. It takes a lot to learn to hear the “still small Voice” amidst the cacophony that surrounds us on Sunday morning. Perhaps that is why some, in hopes that they can draw attention to the Word that God speaks, give in and embrace the noise. “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” and sometimes it might feel that we are worshipping a dead letter, as we accept the moniker of “the frozen chosen.”
    I know, by faith, that God stands even behind the grocery store, behind the EBT Card, behind the social worker and the politician, because He is the God Who delivered Israel out of Egypt, and delivered me out of the kingdom of darkness. So I pray, each morning that, in spite of what my eyes see and my ears hear, in spite of the size of the crowd at the hot new church-rock dancehall place around the corner…
    Someone once told me, “we are a Lutheran island in a bapti-costal sea.” I hope that people will eventually get tired of floundering about, but I wonder whether people are less impressed with our beautiful stained-glass windows, stately towers, and massive oaken doors than I am. Maybe to them it just looks “old.” After over 75 years, maybe that’s all they can see…

    Pastor Del Campbell

    • Nathan A. Rinne

      September 3, 2019 at 10:38 am

      Thought-provoking comment pastor. I’ll pass it on to my own pastor.



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