nothing unusual about walking the mile from our house on Arlington to Immanuel
on that 1988 January Sunday morning when the air was painful to breath. I thought the ache in my chest was a bit
different but there two services and a Bible Class to cover. Friday, I had
skied along the Black River and needed to change my ski wax due to warming
temperatures. No problem.
morning, I made the church walk again, and again the pain. “I’m think I’m having a heart attack,” I
announced. But Cathy Embke and my
partner Pastor Bob Reinhardt were busy, and no one paid attention, neither did
I. So, after a morning of teaching
confirmation etc., I walked home for lunch a slight uphill grade. Across from the Kibbel house I stopped, I
thought, “Maybe I should stop at the Kibbel’s for a bit.” But the pain subsided, and I slowly walked
the rest of the way. After lunch another
walk, mostly on the downgrade, back to church.
Once again, the pain. A Member of
the congregation was in the office and I asked whether he could give me a ride
to the clinic.
Once at our
doctor’s office they said, “Sit right there and don’t move.” Eventually I had to move and get to a phone
to call home. I told Adam and apparently
sometime after Becky got home from teaching at Granton he remembered to come up
from the basement and tell Becky, “Dad is in the hospital.”
A week or so
later I was having surgery with multiple by-passes. I was 47 years old. Our family doctor came in and asked how I was
doing, “Not bad for someone who has had his chest split open with an ax,” I
That was thirty-one
years ago and two more ax wielding’s with a few stents between 2 & 3.
me that God has things for me to do yet.
I wonder what it could be… I read
of classmates dying, I wonder, “What is wrong with you people anyway?” To quote my 13-year-old granddaughter who
told Becky today, “I’ve sure got a good life.”
this weekend is for healing. “Almighty
and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities and stretch forth the
hand of your majesty to heal and defend.”
I want to expand “our infirmities” beyond our physical ailments. One of our infirmities as a nation is that
our unity is on infirm ground. We have
built up walls between each other which are costlier than any wall of concrete
or steel. These walls divide us one from
epistle lesson St. Paul writes repeatedly of one body in Christ. (I Corinthians
12:12-31) How will we hear his words? We
were all baptized in one Spirit into one body.
Filled with same Spirit Jesus went to his home town, Nazareth, to
proclaim the good news to the poor and the year of the Lord’s favor. In the presence of the folks with whom he
grew up he spoke gracious words; yet his home town folks ended the day trying
to throw him off a cliff. We are in
danger of throwing Jesus off the cliff again when, though we claim to be
Christian, we let our political views overshadow and negate the mercy of the
One who truly lives and rules.
We pray this
weekend that the everlasting and all – powerful King of the universe reach out
His royal hand and heal us and defend us against our own inclinations to
denigrate others because we are certain we are right. We pray this, “through Jesus Christ, Your Son
OUR LORD, who lives and reigns with You, almighty and everlasting God, and Holy
Spirit ONE GOD, now and forever.”
God’s plans is a most frustrating and often fruitless effort. Particularly in the light of Isaiah 55:7-8,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” God told Jeremiah to write to the Israelites
taken into exile, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans for wholeness and
not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Yet, those people of God had suffered the destruction of their way of
life and were forced to walk several hundred miles across barren ground to the Tigris
– Euphrates Rivers.
in the garden of Eden when giving birth to new life would come through
increased pain and work became a toil.
In his book “The Problem of Pain” C.S. Lewis quotes his friend George
McDonald, “The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer,
but that their sufferings might be like His.”
That’s the position that St. Paul also takes.
suffering come from living in a fallen world, and for a Christian it only makes
sense in the light of Christ’s sufferings for our salvation. And yet, it is troubling when we are in pain or
those we love are suffering, especially when it might go on for a long
time. We think of Psalm 23 as
comforting, that the Lord is with me as I walk through valley of the shadow of
death. Yet that valley may not be a
peaceful dale, but a long narrow rocky gorge prone to flash flooding as is the
case in the middle east. In the end the
psalm acknowledges that God prepares a banquet table in the face of my enemy,
death. Christ spoke of our new life in
terms of a great wedding banquet. The
Gospel lesson from last Sunday foreshadowed that when Jesus turned 150 gallons
of water into fine wine. Holy Communion
is a preview of that great feast.
13 asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide
your face from me? How long must I take
counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” In Ps 88 the
writer cries out, “O lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before
you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.”
In the end all
these Psalms are spoken or cried in the context of the Lord’s continued
presence and steadfast love in the time when pain and suffering engulf our
Lele said. I was at the eye clinic for
my third follow up on my cataract surgery.
“Awesome,” he said. Now one hardly ever hears that during one’s lifetime
and then to be told that when you’re closer to 78 than 77, when some people
think that because you’re old you don’t have to take care of yourself. I told Dr. Lele that I hadn’t seen this good
since I was a teenager.
That took me
back to the Old Testament lesson last Sunday, Isaiah 62. There the Lord says, “I’m going to give you a
new name” and “You shall be a crown of beauty in my hand and a royal diadem in
the hand of your God.” Wow, new name, beautiful
crown, diadem fit for royalty. Finally, “Your
God shall rejoice over you.” That’s
heady stuff and good to hear. And then
in the Gospel from John 2, Jesus goes to a wedding and turns 150 gallons of
water into fine wine.
stuff is almost more than I can take in.
But the psalmist in 128 says, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways.” Well, if God is
going to give you a new name, calls you beautiful and makes you royalty, you
would have to be a fool not to go for that.
awesome, count me in.
The list of
destroyed communities in 2018 include Paradise, Mexico Beach, Aleppo and so it
has been through history. In 587 BC Judah and Jerusalem fell to Babylon. “How lonely sits the city that was full of
people! How like a widow has she
become…she has none to comfort her…Mt Zion lies desolate. (Lam.)
But God had
promised restoration, vindication, salvation, a reversal of all the desolation.
Yet, God seemed to sit silently watching
according to the OT lesson for this Sunday (Is. 62:1-5). But now enough is enough. “I will not be silent…I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a
burning torch.” Judah and Jerusalem will
be renamed. No longer known as “Forsaken”
and “Desolate.” Rather known as “Delight” and “Married.” Like a newly married rejoice, so God will
rejoice over his bride and she (the land) shall be fruitful and productive.
watchman on the walls of broken-down Jerusalem with one order, “to never stop nagging
me 24/7 until I remember to fulfill my promises and make Judah and Jerusalem a
place of praise in all the earth.” (Is 62:7).
Thus, we too
wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises to us through Jesus Christ. Christ gave his life that he might present us
to his heavenly Father, without spot or wrinkle as his bride, made holy bearing
His name. Even now we await the new heaven and new earth,
into which Christ carries us over the threshold of our new eternal home, where
God is light.
blow from the north
the UCC athletic field
the immoveable headstones
into the church
threading its way
Around the three
houses above us
Back of our
Among bare branches
about the invasive brush
chickadee and cardinal
crows caw while
soar on the biting wind
foot of snow is no more
quite, but still well remembered
16, 1605, Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote the Man from La Mancha,
considered to be the first modern novel.
It’s been several years since I read the novel, but we usually sum up Quixote’s
life as one of uselessly tilting at windmills to restore life as he thought it
should be. Quixote can have relevance
today as we see society if not the whole world going awry and any attempts to
turn things in a better direction as so much tilting at windmills.
Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 43:1-7) for last Sunday pulls us back to
reality. “But now thus says the Lord, he
who created you…he who formed you…do not be afraid, because I have reclaimed
you. I have called you by name; you are
mine.” We are more than a collection of DNAs
born to live out our life in the chaos of an out of control world. God created us in our mother’s womb. God knows us.
We belong to him two ways. As
our creator and through Jesus he has reclaimed us for himself. With that claim go numerous promises.
Are we awash
on a stormed tossed sea? Are we afraid?
“I am with you. I am Immanuel.” Are we
lost in our life? “I am the Lord your
God…your Savior.” Do we feel worthless
and useless? “You are precious to me, you are honored, and I love you.” Do we feel scattered and alone in a world
which seems to be godless? “I will gather you” from the east, west, north and
south. Does our life lack a real
purpose? “You are my witnesses…I have
chosen you as my servant in order that you know and believe in me and
understand that I am the One.”
other churches Resurrection cancelled all the services this weekend. When Becky drove by, she noticed the parking
lot wasn’t plowed out. Someone messed up. What does one do when church is
cancelled? You go to the grocery store
or St. Louis Bread Company (Panera).
grown up fast since December 25th.
He’s two years old on January 6 and on January 13 he’s thirty and goes
to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. Luke 3:21, “When all the people were being
baptized, Jesus was also baptized. While
He was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit came down on Him in bodily
form as a dove. And a voice from heaven
said, ‘You are my Son, whom I love, I am delighted with You.’”
for the Day (Collect) is addressed to our “Father in heaven…You proclaimed Him
(Jesus) Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.” The prayer immediately moves on to our
baptism. “Make all who are baptized in
His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of
after his baptism, Jesus “full of the Holy Spirit…was led by the Spirit in the
wilderness…to be tempted by the devil.”
We may be inheritors with Christ of everlasting life; however, we live
in this world for decades before that inheritance of everlasting life is realized. After our baptism we may have been taken home
to a gathering of our family. But we are
also thrust into a world which challenges our trust in our heavenly Father and
in Jesus’ death and resurrection guaranteeing our inheritance of everlasting
life. We are tempted to go astray, as
Jesus was. We need the Holy Spirit’s aid
to remain faithful to our calling as children of the heavenly Father and
brothers and sisters of Jesus, the master of our salvation.
this is the day I’ve waited for. On the
day of the winter solstice we are told that it is the shortest “day” of the
year. That’s only partly true. Indeed, within a couple of days sunset starts
going to bed later, so that by today it will stay up about fifteen minutes
later. The trouble is getting sunrise to
rise and shine earlier. You see, after solstice day sunrise pulls the covers up
over its head and stays put in bed for four minutes longer until 7:20. Until today.
At last it’s started to get its lazy bones out of bed to make its
breakfast appearance at 7:19. Now we can officially look forward to daffodil
All this on
a day when we have our first real snowstorm in five years. Even now, though the sun has gone to bed an
hour and a half ago, outside the darkness is unable to overcome the light. Even now, the snow has crept halfway up the
rear tire of my Kia Forte. The pine tree
in the back yard is flocked in white. Weeds,
an old machinery wheel and the top of a wood wind mill my brother made me some
years ago are wearing fanciful top hats in a variety of designs. Its supposed to snow all night. I wonder what new shapes will appear when the
sun rises at 7:18.
I’ve noticed over the years
of studying history, that there are certain families, locations, and periods of
time when particularly influential people emerge and still other times when
there is a lack of talented leaders.
In the 4th century an area known as
Cappadocia in what is now central Turkey produced a family and a friend who
became the most influential teachers and theologians of their time. The church
remembers today three brothers, Basil (330-379) and Gregory (335-395), their
sister Macrina (324-379), and Peter (340-391) along with a friend Gregory of
Nazianzus (329-389). If we confess our faith this Sunday using the words of the
Nicene Creed, the Cappadocian Fathers became defenders of that faith.
Basil, on Holy Communion: “For myself, I
communicate four times a week…In Alexandria and Egypt it is the general rule
for each member of the laity to keep communion at his own house. “He…is bound
to believe that he rightly partakes of it and receives it from him who gave
Gregory of Nyssa wrote
concerning baptism: “Since the death of him who leads us to life involved
burial under the earth. So, everyone who
is linked to him and fixes his eyes on the same victory has water poured on
him, instead of earth, and thus represents the grace of resurrection attained
after three days.”
After her fiancée died, she devoted herself to leading a community
dedicated to ascetic meditation and prayer.
Gregory of Nazianzus became bishop of
Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire. Regarding infant baptism: “Let him be
sanctified from babyhood, and consecrated by the Spirit in his tender years. You have no need of charms or spells. Give your child the powerful and lovely
amulet of the Trinity,”