Pastoral Note #4 – Friday, March 27th

I’ve seen some of you this week.  I’ve talked to more.  There has been some sadness; the Bayer’s neighbor passed away.  There as always in such times has been some fear and anger.  It is amazing the small things that can be an excuse to let it rip.  We should attempt to kind when someone is at tilt, because we are going to hit that point as well sometime.  But it has also been a time of some honest reflection I feel.  Not much from anything going by the word “news”, but by individuals.  It feels a bit like what the word apocalypse originally meant – a revelation.  The veil that we often keep over our deepest thoughts, the ones that we only half know ourseves, has been lifted a bit.


This coming Sunday is Lent 5.  The texts for the week and the Introit are lit.  (The link to the service for those online is below.)  A valley of dry bones.  Lazarus from the tomb.  In other words death.  Yea! In the midst of plague, a week of dead things. (/Snark off.) But there is an important spiritual insight that this helps us think about.

The fancy word is atonement.  You were probably taught in confirmation that atonement is at-one-ment, how we are made at one with God.  And the theory of the atonement that we normally work with is substitutionary.  The wages of sin are death.  Because humanity sinned, death came into the world.  A payment had to be made against that.  A payment that none of us sinners could pay.  So Jesus, the sinless Son of God, made that payment on the cross.  It is a Good Friday centric understanding.  It is also a simple historical understanding.

I don’t know how many of you are Sci-Fi or Star Trek fans, but one of the tropes of that genre is that the future can be a cause of the past.  I’m not commenting on the reality of that trope, but there is a psychological reality to it.  Hebrews 2:14-15 turns the causality around for a second.  Instead of sin bringing about death, it is death that brings about sin and our state.

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. (Heb. 2:14-15 NLT) 

Did you catch it?  Because of our fear of death, we have lived as slaves, slaves to sin.  Because we feared death, we reached for everything possible, as if the one who dies with the most toys wins.  Or more likely, like our Silicon Valley folks today, we think mystically if we’ve got all this stuff we can buy off death.  Even back in the garden in that innocent state it is our very dependence upon God that causes fear.  Eve, God is not a good guy, he wants to keep you down.  Take the apple now, before you don’t have the chance.  It is our fear of our contingency, our fear of dying, that drives much of our actions.  The ones we keep under the veil.  

It is to this fear that Lent 5 speaks.  Can these bones live?  The theory is Christ the Victor.  My favorite line expressing this comes from an Advent hymn, Hark the Glad Sound LSB 349.  He comes the prisoners to release/in Satan’s bondage held/the gates of brass before Him burst/the iron fetters yield.  I’m jumping the gun.  This is the theory of Easter.  Sheol’s gates have been wrecked from the inside as Christ kicked them open.  We no longer need fear death, because the eternal welcome of our God has been displayed in flesh and blood.  God himself died, and God himself rose, and our brother Jesus has given us the victory.

Our victory over death is not an excuse to ignore good advice, but it is a call to put down the worry.  To stop grabbing for every last thing here.  Beacuse everything here is going away.  Some sooner and some later.  But there is a far country, one holding a victory celebration.  And everything we need has already been prepared.

Church Information

Maybe getting the handle on things. So this is the plan right now.

  1. I will be at church on Sunday at 9 AM and 11 AM.  I will stream those services at the same place as this past week ( ).  I will also be attempting to improve the audio, I think I’ve got it. 
  2. Nobody is required to be at church.  If you are in a high risk category, please stay home.  Please join us online.  But if you are healthy and wish to join me at church, that is also fine.  We should be under 10 in each.  Everyone will have their own pew.
  3. The liturgy will be Responsive Prayer 2 (LSB 285).  Here is the link to the service, so if you are online you can participate instead of watching.
  4. If you have prayer requests, we will collect them during the service, but I’d also request that if you can please email or text them to me.
  5. I encouraged folks who didn’t have a hymnal at home to borrow one from the pews and take it home with them this past week.  Likewise if you don’t have one, and you would like one to follow along with, please stop in and grab one for the time being.
  6. I am in the offfice roughly 10AM to 5 PM.  Any time during those hours I will be available for private confession and communion.  My cell is 585-524-7909 if you want to check beforehand.  If you would like outside of those hours, just contact me and I’m sure we can work it out.  (I can also come out, but I thought we might all be tired of our walls, and need another place.)

Pastoral Letter #2

I wanted to give an update on church and virus related things, and to share a short meditation.

Church Related Info

After meeting with the council last night (3/18) there are a few more actions that we will be taking for the time being.

  1. Everything from my pastoral letter still stands.
    1. We won’t be canceling service (although we might be making a change, see below)
    2. Most small group activities (i.e. confirmation/bible study) will continue. 3-5 people are well under any limit.
    3. The other modifications to standard routine (no handshaking, offering collection plate at entrance, individual cups for communion) continue
    4. If you are in an elevated risk group, are sick, or simply don’t wish to risk, please stay home.  Also, I’d ask that you let me know.  I’d like to stay in contact, and I’m not a psychic.  (I will have one additional thing to add below.)
  2. Additional Changes
    1. Choir practice and worship spots will be put on hiatus.  This one hurts, but it seems an appropriate precaution as they are huddled close together.
    2. I’m not sure how it will work for a Sunday, but I have established a zoom channel.  I will log in and stream the service as best I can.  Here is the login link.  I can handle up to 100 people in the channel.  Unless you already have the zoom plug in or app you will have to download it and follow the instructions.  So the first time give yourself an extra 15 minutes.  This is for those in those at risk groups.
    3. That same zoom link will also be active for the congregational meeting to follow service this coming sunday.
  3. Plague Schedule
    1. The official limit is 50 people in a gathering.  While our average is above that, on most Sunday’s we are right around that.  The request is to limit to 10.  We have 18 pews, although this will mean that people will have to use the pews up front.  We could sit roughly 20 people checkerboard style each in their own pew and you’d still have more than 6 feet of separation.
    2. To make a good faith effort, starting Sunday, March 29th, we will have two services (Please, please notice that is not this coming sunday!).
      1. The first will be at 9 AM, the normal Sunday school time.  What I would ask is that if you are a Sunday School/Bible class attender to plan on attending this service.   That gets us 10-12 to start.
      2. The second will be a 11 AM.
      3. For the first time, other than Sunday School folks, I’m not making any assignments.  I’m hoping we roughly divide equally naturally.  If we are unbalanced, we may ask some to move.
      4. We should be able to keep attendance at each of these around/under 20 is my guess.  Enough to be a minyan, but small enough to be prudent in time of plague.
      5. We will return to normal schedule as soon as this passes.
      6. Holy Week is coming up. We will address this in coming weeks.


Since the kids are out of school, I’ve been starting the day at home with chapel service.  We’ve been having our own Matins service.  In part teaching the kids the Te Deum and the Venite. Two chants that every Christian for most of time would have known by heart and known when to sing them. I wish I sang better.  There is accompaniment available online, but we figured out it is just better plowing ahead bad notes and all.  The readings (and the matins liturgy) for the day have been from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  This is a prayer book that is part of our Confirmation curriculum that we provide to students as we study the Lord’s prayer and try to demonstrate examples of an intentional prayer life.  (Here is the CPH link. ).  A physical copy is great, but there is also a digital version that you can get for you phone. ( ).

Today’s Psalm was from Psalm 106.  And like most lectionaries, you get the gospel part.  We got verses 44-48.

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46 He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. 47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

But Ellen didn’t have her own copy of the Treasury and was just using a hymnal and when she turned to the Psalms found out that 106 wasn’t there.  Which got me interested.  I know that imprecatory Psalms, those calling on God to smash our enemies in often gruesome ways, are often left out.  But that turns out not to be Psalm 106.  It was probably left out of the hymnal psalter simply due to length, but it is worth your read.  It reviews the history of the people of Israel, but unlike most histories that would focus on the glories of a people, this one recognizes its faults.  We forgot the wondrous works of the Exodus.  We forgot the manna and quail.  We exchanged the living God for a golden calf or the Baals.  That last episode brought on plague, a plague which ended when Phineas took up action against all of Israel who had yoked themselves to Baal.  Worth pondering what we have yoked ourselves to in the midst of plague. 

The gospel portion provided is a remembrance of the context of God’s steadfast love.  The LORD calls and gathers together his people not because we are so deserving, but because he is love.  He remembers his promises.  He saves his heritage.  He gathers from among the nations.  While we were sinners, he does this.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Lord, deliver your people.