The Pastor's Perch

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Opening Up

For more than a year, I was unable to visit our members in long term care, independent living in communal locals and generally shut-ins at home. This past week I was able to visit almost all of our shut-ins, and much joy and peace was shared. 

One person called me later to tell me how wonderful it was that we finally got reunited after 13 months of separation. It is odd seeing people who have changed and may have had additional health issues and other things that have happened to them over time. Some commented that I had changed also. 

My list of shut-in's has changed over a year, since the Lord had called home about ten members, and some have died even after I had restarted my visiting of those unable to be visited. Several died whose families did not call for funerals or memorial services for various reasons, so I never got to see them at all. This is not as important as them believing and trusting in the Lord who never separated from them. He was with them all the way home, and He was the One who called them from this vale of tears--we are understanding this concept more and more--to His paradise in heaven, where they await the Lord Jesus' making all things new.

In the Lord's ministry there is no distance, there is no separation, but a life of close connection and comfort. 

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Gracious God, our heavenly Father, Your mercy attends us all our days. Be our strength and support amid the wearisome changes of this world, and at life’s end grant us Your promised rest and the full joys of Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

God is Good all the Time

When asked why we initially closed worship last year, effectively for two and a half months, I would tell people, to protect people and show respect for government. At first, people balked at this notion, taking me for a quaking violet (I cannot see the color, so...) and a good little follower of rules. I was seen as parson something or other, who would fold at the drop of a hat. 

When we reopened June 7, others questioned the wisdom of such a move. Then we added Holy Communion later that month, with all the proper things in place. In none of this did I force anyone to do anything, but was patient and both prayed for and allowed the Holy Priests to use their wisdom to serve those in need of God's riches. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Deep in my heart, I knew we would reopen. But allowing for others who fear and rightfully so, I did not protest. But I had other plans, ones that forced me to be a televangelist. I have gone over this before, so look back into last year's spring or summer blogs for that.

When larger churches protested the reopening of bars and not churches, even taking local governments to court, which were not reopened quite yet, they spoke for the smaller churches in ways we could not effectively and financially do so.

In the present, we seek more opening of things but will remain patient as the collective wisdom of our leadership with God's guidance will prevail. Without doing much more than trusting in the Lord and keeping in prayer, we have been allowed by God to continue to serve our community, our locale and those who find themselves among us by the grace of God.

Psalm 8:1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

Vaccinations

For the longest time I was unable to get vaccinated. Part of it was that I was a non-essential person in the eyes of the state, but I also was not aggressive, just because I am leery about being vaccinated while fighting other more pressing health issues. I then thought that it would be best to not be vaccinated as it seems that herd immunity was driven more by herd mentality and not science. 

But then the people I wanted to visit would ask me if I had been vaccinated, and they seemed uncomfortable that I was not and visiting. I have been visiting throughout the whole covid time, so if I were to get sick, I probably would have already, unless I were immune for some other reason. So, to help the weaker brother or sister, I actually got aggressive this past Monday morning, and was given the first dose two hours later. Too bad the booster three weeks from now comes at a very bad and busy time, but we suffer much for others.

A couple days and a sore shoulder later, I am back to my blah self, boring others with my incredibly dry wit and Hoosier humor. Having said that, I guess it bears saying that following the advice--not the herd--of others, I can with clear conscience relate that I, too have become part of the herd, if just for helping others accept me into their homes. I apologize if you are offended, but nothing saves from anything, except the blood of Jesus, and that ultimately is what saves me....and you.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Colossians 1:13-14 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 9:14 How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Lord Jesus, we are saved by Your blood and only in You do we have salvation and peace with God, by the forgiveness You offer us. Make us wide unto salvation even as we live out our days. Amen.

Of Hitlers and Stalins

Last week, a dear saint made me aware of how we sinners can not only comply in mass murder but also participate in it. How do Christian nations allow such evil within? Are we in such straights right now? How do we get out of this mess? 

This is very depressing, and when sinner-saints stand up to it, whether actively, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who sought to end Hitler's regime, or passively, such as Eric Liddell, the great Scottish Christian teacher, who was imprisoned and tortured, dying in a Japanese internment camp, we see the evil that seems to run rampant, destroying and killing so many. But in the end, the Lord seems to sort out and keep together a very fragile world. The Holy Church will not bend her knee to anyone but her Lord, the Bridegroom Jesus the Christ.

It is not by arms or might, but by the Spirit that God's will is carried out among the nations, including those who do not seek the Lord and His will. COVID, communism, fascism, racial injustice, ethnic cleansing, rank materialism and all sorts of evil continue unabated, and where do we turn? 

Psalm 20:6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. 8 They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

Psalm 91 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Please read the entire chapter of Mark 13 to hear how Jesus prepares us for the days in which we live.

Gracious Lord, You have promised to hear Your people when they call to you. Many voices seem to drown You out, voices that lie and entice us. Help us to hear Your still, small voice amidst the clamor of noises, and remind us that You hold the world together, not those who espouse man-made wisdom that claims peace by weapons, environmental actions or anything else among the created order of things. For You made this world and at a time when You are ready, You will make all things new, a new creation, indestructible, indivisible, following Your directive and commands. Give us confidence in opposition to a world that has no business making such boastful claims when there is only One Savior, One Lord, One Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.

Redemption/Reconciliation

Watching stuff on TV or one of the media carriers can be a sheer waste of time. Until you set up your profile and sometimes the profile leads to a show that brings out the more spiritual and less visceral of fiction. Documentaries often fail simply because they have an agenda and they leave out key facts that would destroy their direction and conclusions.

Having said this, I spent a little down time watching some healthy fiction that caused me to hope that media can be useful. In at least four of these shorter movies the characters were moved by higher motivation--even mentioning Christianity, the Lord and God's will in their lives. These were not overtly religious films that were advertised as such, but they conveyed from some important and famous actors such things as honor, selflessness and faith, to name a few. It was very refreshing to see and hear such things. Redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness were hallmark among them, but I also realized that it was resolved after much angst, sorrow and pain. 

It will be for me back to the grindstone and getting ready for the end of school and summer, but time spent with such aforementioned media can be helpful for the soul's Sabbatical, in the wake of Easter and the resurrection of Christ Jesus, who puts such things as forgiveness into play for the Church to bring to bear in a hurting world.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Loving God, you have reconciled us in Christ Jesus and have given us the ministry of reconciliation. We pray for all those from whom we are estranged. Bring healing to strained or broken relationships. Forgive us for the times we have wronged others, whether by ignorance, neglect, or intention. Grant us the courage and the grace to seek their forgiveness and opportunity to make amends. Where others have wronged us, grant us a gracious spirit, that we might forgive even as we have been forgiven in Jesus Christ. Amen.

He is Risen!

We are people of the resurrection. We do not dwell in despair and depression. We do not seek our succor in mere passing fatuous sustenance. Having said all that highfalutin', rootin-tootin talk, I sum it up: Jesus Christ IS Risen! He is risen and that means we are risen also. 

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 

St. Paul's words mean more now as we are people of proof, and 500 people witnessing--not a mass hysteria event--the risen Lord Jesus among them. They probably spent time touching Him, feeling the wounds that healed them of their sin and the effects of sin. Jesus was probably very patient with them as at such an event many pressed forward to not only see the Lord, but also to experience His presence. Picture the resurrected Lazarus, the Widow of Nain's son, the little 12-year-old girl, and all the holy people raised en mass at Jesus' death. Pressing forward to experience the One who gave them life in the midst of death. Imagine the stories: Look, He did it for me; He will do it for you! Imagine some of the people in that crowd who disdained the Lord while He walked the roads of His earthly mission; can you imagine the joy that overwhelmed them because Jesus wanted them to come to faith. No hard feelings here because Jesus is bringing to them grace, peace and mercy. Just like He does to you. Picture a few Roman Centurions possibly there, especially the one who witnessed Jesus crucifixion and death. Now his confession of Jesus as a Son of God shifts to Jesus as THE Son of God.

For those of us weary with the bodies still subject to death, pain, disease, fatigue, this is the greatest news. Paul continues to help us: 

1 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We join today in singing eternal alleluias with innumerable angels in festal gathering, with the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven and with the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and we bring these petitions before You, dear Father, trusting in Your mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

There He goes again..

Remember Ronald Reagan? He had no enemies, and even his adversaries almost loved him to death. Who can forget his sparring match with his Democrat Presidential opponent Walter Mondale, when the latter asked if Reagan was too old to hold public office. It occurred during the presidential debates and it was here in Kansas City that he made this famous rejoinder: 

"I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." 

Even Mondale laughed and it was the best one-liner in a host of one-liners. Nobody got the ca-bosh on the Gipper (Reagan). It was morning for the US. Not that he fixed every problem. Not that he made government smaller. Not that he kept us out of international mischief. But he was so positive, so courageous--who can remember his bedside joke after the assassination attempt--and so much like a dad who wanted his unruly children to get along and walk us out of the Cold War. He was flawed and he told us all so. He believed in America and what she had to offer. I am not going to gush any more. Those days are gone, but we are still here. 

And as God's people in America we remember that it was the Lord who kept the fragile peace together and it was the Church that helped the process of peace and it is not America that benefits alone, nor can it. God has a bigger picture. 

God's picture includes all nations and all tribes and all tongues. And the Ancient of Days was not elected into office, nor does He have any equal opponents and yes, He does give the Victory to His children through the Son of God, victorious on the cross and tomb, rising from the dead and ascending into Heaven, and ruling His Church until the time of His return.

For us it is always Easter, despite diseases, disasters and debacle. It is always "the first day of the week" (Easter) in the face of sickness, sadness and sin. We stand ready for our Lord to return to make all things new on a new heaven and new earth.

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Amen. Come Lord Jesus, Conqueror of sin, death and devil, Victor and Savior of all nations! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Amen.

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