Pastor sent out a letter on Thursday March 19th. If you have not received it, here is a copy of it.
Comments on current events or comments on something Pastor has been thinking about.
Pastor sent out a letter on Thursday March 19th. If you have not received it, here is a copy of it.
John 9:1-3 (EHV) “As Jesus was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that God’s works might be revealed in connection with him.”
The Holy Spirit wants us to know the disciples had the wrong focus. They wanted to know why this man was born blind. What was the reason? Where could they point their finger? Jesus shows amazing restraint. He’s responding to disciples who were more concerned with where to point the finger than how to help the man. Jesus could have sternly reminded them just how sinful the world is. He could have wagged his finger at their sin and how it’s like a 4×4 beam coming out of their eyes! Instead Jesus says, “that God’s works might be revealed.”
In the blind man’s case, God’s works were revealed when Jesus saves him from all sin and its effects including blindness. The fact that the world is sinful and that it causes terrible things like being blind from birth should be self-evident to the disciples. Jesus’s amazing focus is on what a merciful God is going to do about it! He’s going to send a savior! That’s why he’s here! Jesus wanted them focused on him, the great work of God that is revealed.
The Holy Spirit also wants us to know, that in all circumstances where we see the effects of sin, such as the wu-flu or corona virus, that this happened so that the God’s Work might be revealed in us and for others. This is so important for us today. Calamities like the Wu-flu or coronavirus are going to come. Yes, there’s evil and sin in the world.
It presupposes that we’re surrounded by evil, evil like natural disasters and disease that can take out huge swaths of the human population. We do know from the Bible, and as we studied in Revelation, that we should not be surprised when this happens. It has happened in the past and will happen in the future. But Jesus has us focused not on the sin and its evil, but on God’s merciful response to it. The worsk of God that might be revealed in this situation: are revealed to you and through you.
We have a duty to our neighbor. After all, isn’t that why we are here? That we might show the light that we have to others? Love your neighbor. Remember Jesus’s two greatest commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Our natural inclination when we are dealing with a crisis such as this, is to think of ourselves. This is not entirely sinful. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:29. “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.”
However, you and I should know that our sinful nature is gonna take this to the NTH degree. With our sinful nature, our God could easily become us. We must take action, because it’s only us after all! We must take care of ourselves at all costs! We must make sure we aren’t shorthanded! Buy all the Toilet paper! Hoard all sanitizer! Our focus could easily be all on ourselves, and forget about others. Our sinful nature would have us focus on making sure we have what we need at the expense of what our neighbor needs.
Then, there’s the devil.who wants us to be afraid, worried, and nervous. He wants us looking inward. And with all this fear and anxiety, he would have us forget and lose Christ. The devil would have us forget and lose the great work of Christ loving us, dying for us, making us children of God, children he promises to take care of, not just spiritually, but physically as well.
One response is NOT to let the devil or our sinful nature win. Just because they hate it when we help someone else, we might just say, “Just to spite you, I’m going to think of someone else!” You want me to fear that I’ll run out, just for that I’m going to provide for my neighbor!” Another response: It is pleasing to God to love my neighbor. Jesus says if I take care of even the least of these, I have his appreciation as if I did it to him. In doing something pleasing to God, I also know he will bless me for it. There are promises attached to loving my neighbor too, such as Psalm 41: 1-3 “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”
Consider in terms of a burning building. If a building is burning, we don’t rush in without any protection on our part. We take precautions. To do otherwise would be to put God to the test, like driving in a NASCAR race without a seat belt. On the other hand, we don’t just let the building burn reasoning that if God wanted to save anyone in there, he would put the fire out.
We take all the necessary precautions and then we would enter into the flames, because we are God’s hands in this world.What does it look like? Think of the health care industry. Consider but your job, which provides for you and your family, is also God revealing His work in you. So don’t be afraid to go to work. Yes, take the necessary precautions. You know what they are. Consider the great work that God would have you do by loving and caring for the sick, knowing that God will watch over you too in this needed calling in our community.
As a pastor, I’m asking if you are sick or your immune system is compromised, don’t be afraid to care for your neighbor by staying home. And please call me. Let me know. I know you care for me and don’t want to bother me or expose me to what you might have, but know also that the devil would like nothing more than to drive a wedge between you and the spiritual care a pastor provides. I am willing to visit. I’m not afraid. I’ll take necessary precautions, but I have been called to serve you with God’s gifts, and you can bet God will be with me as I do so.
Children, you’re going to be home for a few weeks. Consider your neighbor, in this care your parents and your teacher. This is going to be an adjustment for them. There’s plenty of temptation here to be lazy or to not do what you are asked. Let the great work of God work through you as you work hard even at home. Be understanding with both your parents and school schedules. A great work of God can be displayed in you as you remember these people are those God has placed over you to prepare you for life.
Not everyone who is responding to this crisis is a Christian, nor will they have your confidence and hope. To look down on someone for their crazy response, to mock them in their fear, the Bible has a term for that: hate, and hatred is murder. 1 John 3: 15- Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers
Not every WELS Christian will handle this the same way. For in this circumstance the strength and weakness of faith will be revealed. We all won’t respond the same way, and that isn’t necessarily sinful if someone responds differently than you do. Someone strong in faith may say, “Whatever will be will be. The Lord has given me a calling and I’m going to carry out the great work of loving my neighbor. If I get sick, so be it. Heaven is mine. God will provide for my family and we’ll see each other again.” A weak in faith Christian may not respond the same say. Let us not mock, ridicule or judge when another Christian responds differently to this crisis than we would. Even if you consider them weaker than you, they are still part of the body of Christ, and we need them just as much as they need us. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:20 “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
I began this sermon talking about focus.
Maybe we focus on the sins of others, focus on how crazy people can be, focus on how bad this world is getting. Let’s realize that the house is burning. Our community is burning. Is not a real fire, of course, but it calls for to action, so that God’s great work can be revealed.
What are you going to do?
If so let me turn to Christ and let His great work in my heart overcome my fear and move me to love my neighbor. Let me also take precautions so that I am not testing the LORD or putting my neighbor into danger. I’ll heed the advice the government has, a government which God has placed over me.
Find ways that you can love and care for him or her, instead of the cruel jokes and judging him or her. Even that neighbor who’s hoarding all the toilet paper.
This is a turning point, time for us to focus on God’s work in us as we are lights in the world God has called us to this moment.
This sermon was heavily influenced by Luther’s letter, “How Christians should act during a deadly epidemic?“
“UNPLANNED” tells the real-life story of Abby Johnson , a former Planned Parenthood abortion facility director who converted to the pro-life cause in 2009. The movie is currently playing at the Marcus Bay Park Cinema and the Green Bay East Cinema.
The movie is thought provoking and is rated R due to two scenes. One scene is a CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) of an ultrasound screen during an abortion. It is a recreation of what Abby Johnson saw: a baby on an black and white 2D ultrasound screen confronted with the abortion instrument, struggling against it before it disappears into the instrument. It is the first onscreen recreation of what happens during an abortion. The second reason it receives an R rating is a scene that re-creates Abby’s experience with the abortion pill, which portrays the pain and bleeding that was involved.
Parents, judge for yourselves whether this movie is appropriate for your child(ren) to see.
I’m excited about our Lenten series this year entitled, “Cross Words!” Each week we’ll fill-in part of a crossword puzzle with biblical terms that will help us on our Lenten journey. The cross word puzzle is not meant to stump you, but aid you in your understanding of what Lent means for you. The clues are all in the book of Isaiah. Come, worship with us and discover “Cross Words!”
Here’s the crossword puzzle:
Despite all the pagan references today, Halloween does not have pagan roots.
The word “Halloween” is an abbreviated form of All Hallows’ Eve’ which is All Saints’ Evening.
In the first three centuries A.D. the lives of the martyrs of the Church were commemorated on special days with one day, “All Saint’s Day,” reserved to celebrate them all. Neopagans and Wiccans like to claim that the source of Halloween is the Celtic festival of Samhain. The earliest mention of Samhain in Irish folklore doesn’t come until the 10th Century A.D., whereas All Saint’s Day has its roots seven hundred years earlier. Finally Samhain was a lunar festival of harvest. That means that the day of Samhain can vary up to a month in difference when compared to a solar year date of Oct. 31/Nov. 1.
We remember our loved ones who have died in the Lord, as well as remember why they are saints. Christians are members of the same family with them, as Christian have historically confessed in the Apostles Creed: “The holy Christian church the communion of saints.” Paul speaks to his contemporaries as “saints” and reveals the reason why in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.”
First, we remember them with thanksgiving. God had entrusted them with the gift of God’s Word, and they passed it on to us. They were faithful in that work, and for that we give thanks to God. The second service is the strengthening of our faith. When we see Peter’s denial forgiven, we also are encouraged to believe all the more that grace truly triumphs over sin (Romans 5:20). Sometimes those who have died before us led very colorful lives, perhaps even sinful lives, but later on were much different people, devoted to the Lord and to his forgiveness. The third honor is imitation. As we remember how they lived their lives in faith, may we too imitate their devotion to God and His Word.
My Brown County Supervisors are discussing whether to have an advisory referendum on whether there should be prayer before their monthly meetings. I first heard about it in an interview Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans gave on WTAQ 97.5FM. In the interview, Patrick Evans invited citizens to express their opinion. As a confessional Lutheran pastor, I feel we should revoke all public invocations in government. No prayer publicly at all in government. It’s an odd position for a pastor to take, I know, but it is in defense of prayer.
As a Christian, I celebrate that I have the freedom and confidence to pray to God. This freedom and confidence is not earned by me, but given to me because of what Jesus has done. The Bible reassures me that God hears me wherever I am–whether the prayer is out loud or only in my thoughts–and God promises to act on my prayers for my good. Prayer is an awesome privilege I don’t use nearly as often as I am able to.
When individuals who hold to the same beliefs about God pray together, it unifies them. Prayer said in a group reminds the group that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and thus, they are not alone. This is powerful, yet this unity is not without its bumps and bruises. I once had a troubled rancher in Montana start up with me after church saying, “I couldn’t say ‘amen’ to your prayer today.” It was the middle of a dry spell, and I had prayed for rain. He was harvesting his hay, and didn’t want the rain to come. It opened my eyes to see how prayer could be seen as manipulative of another’s faith, and that it takes honest work to bring about and keep true unity.
Not all those who go to the meetings share the same views on spirituality. Instead of acknowledging that some express their spirituality differently than others, a prayer at the beginning ignores these differences, perhaps even tramples on the spiritual beliefs of others, in a superficial display of unity. This makes a mockery of the hard work that is needed to bring people together. Finding common ground takes work, and we belittle the work of those who serve in government by mandating a superficial expression of spiritual unity that doesn’t exist before they do the work we have elected them to do.
Even those who are unified spiritually may not be unified politically or be unified on a particular issue. I serve as pastor of members who are of different political parties but yet are unified in their spiritual beliefs. On the flip side, those of different spiritual beliefs can also be unified politically or be unified on an issue as well, but it doesn’t happen by cheapening the power and purpose of prayer.
While I have not been to any Brown County supervisor meetings, I have heard public invocations that were not prayers to a deity but instead were sermons to those listening. It made me uncomfortable, and I understood better what it was like for that Montanan rancher wanting to harvest his hay and hearing me pray for rain. When a person you don’t know prays for you in the public square, you don’t know what they are going to say, and if you are joining in prayer with them, you are giving assent (albeit passively) to the content of their prayer. That’s like agreeing to “Terms and Conditions” where the Terms and Conditions haven’t even been written down yet.
Granted, when I worship at another church of my church affiliation, I may not always know the content of that particular pastor’s prayer, but since I know the confession of that pastor, I’m confident the pastor isn’t going to manipulate us to do something against our confession. He’s not going to pray that God make us all Chicago Bear fans, for example.
If individuals pray publicly at government meetings, what is there to stop someone from manipulating another’s soul through that prayer? Even if you ask clergy to pray at Brown County Supervisor meetings, you are introducing an unstable element that may manipulate the rest. You don’t know what they are going to say or what they are going to advocate, and you are opening up to being manipulated by another or being manipulated by the group who assents to that prayer.
People don’t all share the same spiritual views. When they come together to do the business of governing; let them govern. They can even center themselves spiritually as they wish before the meeting, but when the meeting starts, let it be about the business of governing. God will still be there. As individuals do the business of governing, individuals will show concern for the welfare of others by expressing proposals and opinions, individuals may even pray privately and to themselves (without anyone noticing even) for composure and patience as the meeting goes on, and individuals will vote and make decisions for the good of others.
Eliminating prayer from doesn’t eliminate God from government. I believe He still is at work there even if He’s not acknowledged. Eliminating prayer respects those of different beliefs, and encourages those of different spiritual beliefs to look elsewhere for religious and spiritual conversations that lead to spiritual unity, conversations which I pray are done in honesty and full disclosure.
A trip to the ER for me made me realize I need to take better care of my health. With my Preveza app, I could see the test results first hand, even the part where it describes me as “super morbidly obese” patient, as if that’s my superpower.
It’s not the best language to describe a patient, but the hospital has to put some label on, that’s what a hospital does, label a problem and address it. What would you rather have it save doubleplusunthin? So, I’ll deal with my “super morbidly obese” instead. Losing my “super status” will be hard. If it were easy, I’d have done it already.
I have yet to serve a church where evangelism and elder work were easy for members to do. But you can’t do it without love. Not the feeling kind of love, but loving as God loved us.
Yet, the one who calls us is faithful.
I have spent time thinking about hope and fear and grace, mainly because of a quote that I was asked to react to. It was found on an outdoor decoration for sale at a local landscaping store.
“Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.”
The author was a Roman Catholic priest, which, okay, you know where he’s coming from, but I hadn’t thought of a connection between hope, fear, and grace. Have you?
Most of the time, the Bible uses the word hope in terms of the afterlife. One example in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” There are spots where hope is another word for optimism, as Paul hopes that the Jews would convert to Christianity (Romans 11:14), or hoped to spend time with certain people (1Corinthians 16:7, 1 Timothy 3:14). Does our outlook about life change because of God’s grace? I think so.
We are hopeful that God’s word works for the good of the individual, and if it doesn’t God’s Word still works… God says so in Isaiah 55:11 “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
“Extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us” – I’d be careful about a phrase that has grace as something God gives. We can speak Biblically of God giving us grace as long as we understand the Bible’s context that whenever God “gives grace”, He gives first of all because that’s who He is, a gracious God, and the “grace given” means whatever it is we receive is completely undeserved and a free action on His part.
if you think of all grace as some sort of “substance” He gives. Grace as a substance is then something that we can obtain. If grace becomes something we can obtain, than our effort obtains it (even it’s a small piddly effort). Then it’s no longer grace, but something we earn (even if the grace is way better than the effort we put in to get it). This is the trap of Roman Catholic theology, which speaks of grace but defines grace as a substance we obtain. Thus, a Roman Catholic theologian can say, “We are saved by grace” but mean “We are saved by obtaining grace.” This isn’t grace at all.
If fear is defined as anxiety about what’s going to happen to me when I die, then the Bible’s main definition of hope (in Christ being sure of something we have never seen) is the antidote for that. His perfect love for us, culminating in his sacrifice on the cross, drives out fear. 1 John 4:18 “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” I imagine when I die, I may be afraid of the uncertainty of the mechanics of death, but I’ll be thinking of Jesus the whole time and what He did for me, thereby giving me hope that my eternal fate is not punishment. Thus, the valley of the shadow of death –a scary thought– can be walked….
But that’s not the only fear/anxiety….
The father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:23-24 says, “I do belief, help me overcome my unbelief.” The resurrection accounts has plenty of examples of people believing that Jesus rose from the dead but are at the same time afraid or anxious. Why does Jesus say, “Peace be with you” when he appears to them unless they weren’t at peace to begin with?
So, we don’t treat fear/anxiety as a Christian virtue, nor do we say, “No REAL Christian has fear/anxiety.” We address fear/anxiety as potential realities for the person still struggling with a corrupt and deceitful sinful nature. Maybe medications will help the corrupted brain, maybe some helps from a psychologist will enable us to reason with our unreasonable brains. But…
We address them as Jesus did: identifying them and then preaching the Gospel to the soul dealing with them. Christ’s love for me starts with Him loving me, and comes to me as I am, anxieties and fears and all, and forgives me for all anxieties and fears, even those against Him. His love encourages me to pray to Him, sharing with Him all anxieties and fears… As Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest….”
Not even John in 1 John talks about a completely, perfect life free of sin this side of heaven. It’s always the goal to be better, to love more, and to continually drive out fear.
I do like the concept of “controlling a fear.” Controlling a fear, to me, acknowledges that there is a fear yet at the same time separates us from it. “Yes, I am afraid, now how am I going to deal with it?” instead of passively saying “I’m afraid, so I’m going to do what-it-falsely-promises-will-take-my-fear-away.”
So, how would I put fear, hope, and grace in the same sentence?
You can quote me on that.
I started a blog so you could get to know me better, and also as a way to interact with folks throughout the week. Blog posts will be on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings. Monday’s posts thoughts are a thought continuation of the sermon preached the previous Sunday called “Chewing the Cud”, and Thursdays are comments on current events or comments on something I’ve been thinking about called “Reverend Ruminates.” I invite you to check it out and I welcome your comments.