Monthly Archives: April 2020

He Walks with Us

Biblical Text: Luke 24:13-35

It is probably fading from memory, but in the generation passing there was a favorite hymn by lay people that was most despised by clergy – In the Garden. It is the proto-Jesus as my boyfriend song. But it is one that I’ve often thought there was a challenging and orthodox reworking available in its bones. What it expresses is the presence of Jesus with his people. It is expressing the power of the resurrection. Its verse “he walks with me and talks with me…” is the core of what could be. Because that is the core of this text. All resurrection texts speak to the historical reality of the event. They all also proclaim the power of the resurrection to bring us eternal things. What the Road to Emmaus does is show us how this kingdom comes in weakness. While we can’t see him, Jesus walks with us. For a long time, until our faith is strong enough, he walks with us. The reign of the living Christ is one that comes in weakness. Through preaching and teaching. In Word and Sacrament. Things that accompany us. As we are prepared for the full weight of the resurrection to come to us.

Virtual Bulletin – April 26

April 26, 2020 – Third Sunday of Easter

Devotion & Prayer Thought

The very first thing I wrote about all this was, “we are all going to get this”. And I think this is still the great unexpressed truth. Yes, all might be an over expression as herd immunity is reached somewhere around 60% around which it becomes harder to push it higher, but close enough. Then when you realize that this is really SARS-2, SARS-1 was also a corona virus, and that there is not a vaccine for SARS-1, and that these types of viruses return yearly, and that while your immune system maintains some recognition we can get the flu each year because of small mutations…saying that we are all going to get this still feels right.  This is now a fact of life more like what polio used to be if nowhere near a deadly, although dangerous enough. And being a fact of life means that it is not really a physical problem but a spiritual one.

The 23rd Psalm always contained two lines that caused us post-Salk folks to scratch their heads. “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and “prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”  Constant opposition requiring perseverance is not our felt experience. Without downgrading our suffering, simply because it is still ours, it has been different than folks in most times and places who experienced physical risk all the time. And we are completely unprepared spiritually for this reality. We are using muscles that haven’t been flexed in a couple generations. And part of this is adapting to the reality that this virus may simply be the restoration of the pre-Salk situation.  Even if we do develop a vaccine, is it not likely to be like the current vaccines for flu -vaguely effective, but it keeps coming back? Not Salk like?

So part of the Spiritual task before us is to restore perseverance.  The new normal really isn’t what our “experts” think about.  Dramatic changes to ways of life. The new normal is more akin to the Cold War. Yes, nuclear bombs could be here in 20 mins. But only unstable neurotics focused on that constantly. The rest of us lived with it.  We walked through the valley. That is what we are relearning in the face of a virus. It is going to take some longer than others. Many have zero spiritual resources to do this.

It requires faith. A faith in the benevolent providence of God, even when seated in front of your enemies. A faith that God intends good. “Goodness and mercy will follow all the days of our life.”  Even as death stalks the valley. And a faith that this existence is a preparation. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

We have lived in a time theologically focused on love. And Paul does say the greatest of these is love. But love is the great eschatological virtue. Today, it abides though faith and hope. Faith and hope to keep walking. To dine in the face of your enemies knowing that “bane or blessing by his cross are sanctified. Peace there is that knows no measure. Joys that through all time abide.”

Baby Steps

So, knowing fully that many aren’t there, I’m still going to open a conversation of what things look like as we make baby steps out of our frozen fear.  The first thing is the recognition that we are not all going to become unfrozen at the same rate and pace. Like the old sodium lights, you can turn them off and they went off, but turning them on took some time to warm up. And that is fine, because we have to learn to walk this together. Also, I’m not putting hard dates on anything here, because I don’t know that yet, and some of that depends upon politics.

There are two particular baby steps I want to think about.  The first is the streaming of worship. This is something we originally did out of necessity. I think it is going to be something we keep. We are going to keep it for the immediate future because of different rates of people becoming comfortable gathering. I think we are going to keep it for the longer future because there are those who can’t be present. I have been heartened to see so many names and faces pop up on the screen over these Sundays. This is something that we can do to walk together. The second baby step I want to start thinking about is returning to regular worship schedule. For the immediate future, the two times divide us nicely to abide by the 10 people and 6 ft guidelines. I don’t know if those get extended by the Governor, but right now May 15th is the extent of his guidelines.  Sometime after that resuming a unified 10 AM service would seem correct.

There are other mileposts: the Lord’s Supper, Confirmation/Pentecost, Choir.  Those will come. But today, baby steps thinking together.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Roughly the same as worship, if you wish to be here, up to our normal 3-4, fine.  If our bible study gets crowded all of a sudden, I will throw you out! If you want to join on the Zoom line (same as the worship one) I’ll be logging that in.  We were prepared to read Zephaniah before all this.  It is strangely apt.
  • Confirmation: 

Year 1: We are meeting on zoom for the time being.3PM Tuesdays.Lord’s Prayer.We will be working through the worksheet as I share my screen.Please bring your catechism and a bible.

Year 2: Thursdays at 3:30PM on zoom.We are looking at the final review.Right now, confirmation proper is still scheduled for Pentecost, which is May 31st.I’m hoping that we will be open by then.And I’m working on what to do about the traditional elder board review of confirmands.Watch here.

  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Please join us!

Meeting Thurs. April 30th , on Zoom

LORD’S SUPPER

Until we are back to regular worship schedule, we are foregoing the Lord’s Supper.  If you desire the sacrament in the meantime, private confession and the sacrament are available by talking with pastor.

WORSHIP

Worship will continue to be as per the last month. 9AM and 11AM.  The bulletin will be posted online.  The service will be streamed on zoom.  The doors will be open.  We’ve had about 10 present, every family in their own pew, with plenty of distance.  Any choice is left to Christian Freedom.  Neither way is better or worse.  One big ask, if you have any prayer requests, please send them to pastor, or use the zoom chat line early to send them in.  I’ve got David monitoring Zoom, but to ensure we have good audio means that I’m usually away from the screen.

Bulletin/Worship Link Here – April 26, 2020

Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

BEEF ON WECK … May 23rd … save the date! 

In order to accommodate our new normal, we are setting up the Spring Beef on Weck as a DRIVE THRU.  This means that people will arrive in their cars, place their order and pay all while remaining in their cars.  Their order will be packed up and brought out to them.  Our workers will wear masks and social distancing will be applied in all possible situations.  If you would like to help please contact Mindy (489-4972) or Ellen (201-0756).

The Power of the Resurrection

Biblical Text: John 20:19-31

What is the power of the resurrection? That is the question I was asking myself. And there are a bunch of answers, but this text gives us two clear ones. The peace of God which Jesus comes and brings to every disciple. And the power of the Word to bring joy to hearts. The world gives peace as cessation of conflict. The world thinks of joy as happiness or earthly delight. These are temporal things easily lost. But the resurrection brings eternal peace. And eternal peace wells up in joy. The power of the resurrection brings eternal things in the midst of temporal strife.

Virtual Bulletin – April 19

April 19, 2020 – Second Sunday of Easter

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Sorry, for lack of direction here. This is what I’m going to do for the time being.  Roughly the same as worship, if you wish to be here, up to our normal 3-4, fine.  If our bible study gets crowded all of a sudden, I will throw you out! smiley  If you want to join on the Zoom line (same as the worship one) I’ll be logging that in.  I’ve had a couple weeks with confirmation and LAF, so I think I’m climbing the curve for making that worthwhile.
  • Confirmation: 

Year 1: We are meeting on zoom for the time being.  3PM Tuesdays.  Lord’s Prayer.  We will be working through the worksheet as I share my screen.  Please bring your catechism and a bible.

Year 2: Thursdays at 3:30PM on zoom.  We have finished out “comparative religion” course.  We are going to turn to the final review.  Right now, confirmation proper is still scheduled for Pentecost, which is May 31st.  I’m hoping that we will be open by then.  And I’m working on what to do about the traditional elder board review of confirmands.  Watch here.

  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Please join us!

Meeting Thurs. April 16th and 30th , on Zoom

LORD’S SUPPER

Until we are back to regular worship schedule, we are foregoing the Lord’s Supper.  If you desire the sacrament in the meantime, private confession and the sacrament are available by talking with pastor.

WORSHIP

Worship will continue to be as per the last month. 9AM and 11AM.  The bulletin will be posted online.  The service will be streamed on zoom.  The doors will be open.  We’ve had about 10 present, every family in their own pew, with plenty of distance.  Any choice is left to Christian Freedom.  Neither way is better or worse.  One big ask, if you have any prayer requests, please send them to pastor, or use the zoom chat line early to send them in.  I’ve got David monitoring Zoom, but to ensure we have good audio means that I’m usually away from the screen.

Bulletin/Worship Link Here – April 19, 2020

Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

BEEF ON WECK … May 23rd … save the date! 

In order to accommodate our new normal, we are setting up the Spring Beef on Weck as a DRIVE THRU.  This means that people will arrive in their cars, place their order and pay all while remaining in their cars.  Their order will be packed up and brought out to them.  Our workers will wear masks and social distancing will be applied in all possible situations. If you would like to help please contact Mindy or Ellen.

Devotion & Prayer Thought

An aquaintence asked a great question this week. Did Death come into being as a result of the fall, or was death transformed into an enemy as a result of the fall?  That is a very deep question with lots domino effects that go much deeper than a short devotion.  We have a default answer, or at least we have one that we would jump to if we remember our catechism, but I’m not so sure the biblical answer is an either/or.  This might be one of those times the bible would simply say “yes” which scrambles all our human logic.  The way the Apostle Paul talks in Romans 6:23 (“the wages of sin is death”) would be that default, death came into being.  And that leads to our default justification.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by his death.  But the Bible also speaks about this in the other way.  One of my favorite texts comes from Hebrews 2:14-15. 

 Because God’s children are human beings– made of flesh and blood– the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

Here the problem is not death itself, but our fear of it.  And it is not death, but the one who holds it, Satan, that is the problem.  The power Satan, his ability to get us to sin, was through the fear of death.  C.S. Lewis ponders some of this in his Space Trilogy.  His unfallen Martians die, but death is not an enemy.  It is a gateway and those unfallen Martians do not fear it.  They trust God.  Our problem is we didn’t, and now death is our enemy rightly to be feared.  We live, or we lived, as slaves to that fear.  Acquiring everything we can to stave off its shaddow.  The justification worked by Jesus here is triumph.  He broke the power of the devil.  He took death away from him and set us free from fear.

The Easter Season has two great themes.  The first is simply: Stop Fearing.  Christ is risen.  You too will rise.  You can now live like those unfallen Martians trusting in God’s providence whatever he sends you. He has set you free from the fear that enslaved you, because you live in the love of God’s son Jesus.  The second great theme of Easter – faith or trust.  There are lots of rumors about what happened on Easter.  Depending upon what you believe, will change you freedom.  Some have seen – the Apostles, Paul on the road to Damascus, the great mystics and quite a few saints.  We think they are blessed, and they are.  But the greater blessing, because of the greater faith, rests on those who have not seen, and yet believed.  Peter, who saw, puts it this way. “though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy…obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Stop Fearing and believe.  Christ has this.

May the Lord in the midst of tribulation bless our souls to believe in HIs victory which he freely gives to us.  Satan’s arrows broken lie, the gates of heaven are open. Amen.

Come and See; Go and Tell

Biblical Text: Matthew 28:1-10

The recording is the full (2nd) service. The resurrection account in Matthew has an interesting pattern. There is a “come and see” portion. The angel bids the Mary’s to come and see the empty tomb. Jesus greets them and they grab his feet. There is proof of the resurrection. “Come and See”.

The second part of the pattern is “Go and Tell”. The angel tells the Mary’s to go and tell the disciples. Jesus as bids them go and tell. When you have seen the power of the resurrection, go and tell.

The final part is the promise. “You will see him”. Today we see by faith, although it is not a faith without proof. The tomb was empty. Jesus had feet. Tomorrow we see.

Take Heart, I Have Overcome the World

This is our Good Friday service. It is the first time I’ve used the Gospel of John for this, and John has his own very different emphasis. Same events, but focus on the Divine Jesus, as opposed to the Synoptics human passion.

It felt right. I was much more Christ the victor than the normal Good Friday. This is the Jesus who know and does so willingly, because it is his will. The world doesn’t get it, and so loses. Just when it thinks it has won, it is finished.

Holy Week Info – Updated

Thank you to all who joined the LAF hosted Maundy Thursday bible study on Zoom.  This year is a bit different.  Our passion services normally tend to follow the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke).  This year we have been following John.  John’s difference on Maundy Thurday was that the mandate was not “do this in remembrance of me” but “a new commandment I give to you, love one another just as I have loved you.”  One of the other differences between the Synoptics and John tends to be that Jesus in John is never less than the divine Word.  If in the synoptics we experience the human Jesus and right along with the disciples come to realize that this one is more than that, in John Jesus is always God (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)  Reading the Passion from John on Good Friday hits all the same events, but the focus on the divine Word puts the Good in Good Friday.  This is Jesus overcoming the world.  The world, the darkness does not understand this, but this is the light shining.  It streams forth from Calvary.  Come join us.  The online info to do so is below.  

Good Friday @ 7PM – Online and at church

I’m not doubling the service times.  Based on historic patterns I don’t think that will be necessary.  We are making some appropriate changes to accomodate the online folks.  This  is one service I think should translate rather well.  (Replaning Holy Week on the fly has been an experience.) You might want to stream this from a dim room for the full effect.

This link is the Good Friday Service Bulletin to participate online,

Easter @ 9AM and 11AM – Online and at church (just as per the previous two Sunday’s)

This link is the Easter Service Bulletin to participate online

Online Info

Here is the link and the info to join the zoom space online.

https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Meeting ID: 645 848 5288
Contact me for the password, or check you email, you should have it there.

Holy Week Info

Sorry for the delay everyone. Here is the schedule for Holy Week as it stands right now.  

Maundy Thursday @ 7PM – A LAF hosted Zoom

The traditional MT emphasis on the Lord’s Supper doesn’t work this year.  But there is good news.  First, the Gospel of John, which is where the Maundy in the name comes from, records the focus of the night differently.  Second, you are invited to explore this difference along with the LAF study and join in some online song, prayer and conversation.

This link is the study material for the evening

We hope to see you all there.

Good Friday @ 7PM – Online and at church

I’m not doubling the service times.  Based on historic patterns I don’t think that will be necessary.  We are making some appropriate changes to accommodate the online folks.  This  is one service I think should translate rather well.  (Re-planing Holy Week on the fly has been an experience.)  I will post the worship materials and send the link out hopefully tomorrow.

Easter @ 9AM and 11AM – Online and at church (just as per the previous two Sunday’s)

I’m aiming to post service materials at the same time as the Good Friday ones.

Online Info

Here is the link and the info to join the zoom space online.

https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Meeting ID: 645 848 5288
Contact me for the password, or check you email, you should have it there.

Temporal and Eternal Glory

Biblical Text: John 12:12-43

I’m uploading the 2nd service today. Call it 5 years in and I’m starting to get a handle on this Palm & Passion Sunday. The gospel according to John is also starting to grow on me. Or maybe I should say that the last six weeks reading John in the midst of events has opened it up in ways I did not completely see before.

The question of John 12, of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ talk immediately after, is what is glory? There is the temporal glory of the parade, and the eternal glory of the Father. This sermon asks us to consider our lives in light of “things temporal and things eternal”. As a great prayer says “may we so pass through things temporal that we do not lose the things eternal.”

Pastoral Letter – Thur, April 2, 2020

Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.  This note as has become typical has two purposes.  The first is to share a quick meditation.  The second is to share information.

Meditation

Maybe I am losing it, very probably, but there have been a couple of passages on my mind in the unfolding days.  The first is from the larger passage of Genesis 47:13-26, but the specific verse are 20-22, “So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them.  The land became Pharaoh’s.  As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other.  Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on that allowance.”

That is the story of how Egypt became “Egypt”, the original stand in for slavery to the world.  Joseph taxed the people during the “seven fat years” and put that grain aside.  Then in the “seven lean years” he progressively sold it all back to the people of Egypt, first for money, then for livestock, then land, and finally themselves.  The only people who were not slaves in Egypt were the special class of priests who drew a salary from the government already.  Joseph in the bible is always the smartest kid in the room, and everything he does is prospered.  But it is real hard to play Joseph off as a hero.  To prosper with Joseph always leads to slavery.  The Egyptian people were saved by his interventions, but it was their grain to begin with that he taxed away and sold back to them.  His brother’s should not have sold him into slavery, but they always lived in fear of him from then on.  And Israel’s prospering in Egypt lasted until “there arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph.”  At which time they became slaves.  Joseph over his Father’s death bed asks a question and gives a promise.  “Do not fear, am I in the place of God?” was the question.  He’d like them to say no, but the answer was yes.  The promise was the promise of a god.  “Do not fear, I will provide for you and your little ones.”  Which eventually proves false.

It is a dangerous question in these days, but how quickly do we sell our very selves, our God given liberty for the protection of Joseph?  Will we find ourselves in Egypt when all this is past?  Will the priestly class again rule alone as god kings?

The second verse comes from the end of the story, Revelation 18:17. “For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”  It is the lament of the merchants and shipmasters over the final fall of Babylon, the other great biblical symbol of the world.  Yet the saints see this same event and “the loud voice of a great multitude in heave cried out, hallelujah!” 

The world always looks grand full of “gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory…and slaves, that is human souls.”(rev 18:12ff)”.  But it is a mirage.  Its greatness a boast that cannot stand.  Its protection fleeting.  Built on the false exchange of one self for its security.  The LORD does not promise wealth and security here, most surely the cross.  But he does promise victory, eternal victory.  All the Egypt’s and Babylon’s and Rome’s of the world pass, but the word of the LORD endures forever.  And that word is “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb (Rev 19:9).”  That feast never ends.  Even if we do without its foretaste for a while.  Take heart and be of good courage.  The day comes.  Soon.

Information

  1. Services will continue to be at 9 AM and 11AM.  Last week seemed to go very well.  We had roughly 10 here and 10 online in each one.  Proper social distancing maintained.  I wish I could make a better video feed, but I think we got the audio good.  (Please tell me if that is not the case.) This is the zoom link. https://zoom.us/j/6458485288
  2. Here is the link to this week’s service so you can participate from home. https://www.saintmarkslutheran.org/wp-content/uploads/services/April%205%202020%20Service.pdf
  3. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  Next week is Holy Week, sigh.  I’m going to hold those, but I’m not doubling the services.  Regular attendance at those is roughly half of Sunday anyway.  So, if you are here, distancing will be fine.  Everyone will still have their own pew.  And Good Friday I think will translate easily online.  MT is going to be different.  I haven’t worked it out just yet. I will post the services and send the links out next week.
  4. If anyone just needs someone to talk to my cell is (see the email).  And I can jump on that same zoom link anytime. Just give me a buzz.
  5. Confirmation classes have moved to zoom.  LAF is on zoom.  I’m thinking of attempting another bible study, more info to follow.