from the pastor's desk

Change

It is getting harder to answer people when they ask “How are things going at Church?”

Everything has changed. (Didn’t we talk about this?)

 

We did, but it just keeps happening. Last month “change” even made a mess of the schedule for one of our Sunday Worship events between the time we printed the Messenger and the 2nd weekend of the month! (We had to re-schedule, so you will soon be hearing more about Pastor Phil Blom and the work he is eager to with us.)

 

Then there was the rest of October: scheduled to the max; then I got a few symptoms that made us all think “COVID!” so I was out for several days until the test came back “negative.” (Thank the Lord!)

It threw a wrench into things, none-the-less.

 

It made me think about how fragile our carefully conceived strategies really are. It made me remember the old saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.”  Trying to keep on the plan around here has been like trying to count on the weather to cooperate.

 

Back to “How are things going at Church?” There are new people ready to join Our Savior’s; do we plan a day and skip the cake? There have been plenty of baptisms again; but it has been hard to have them in worship when we need to be careful for the children’s sake about gathering with them in large groups. Confirmation is up and running; but the masks make it hard to have a good discussion. Youth group? Go read Jennifer Hamilton’s article and you will get a sense for the challenges there. We are worshipping in person and it feels good to be together; but there are still things that will not be the same for who knows how long. Some folks can’t get here on Sundays by 9:30, some miss the 8:30 time slot so much they can’t really make the change. Some don’t come because we require masks. Some don’t feel safe yet, no matter what precautions are in place. What will we do for Christmas Eve?

 

“Change” is all over this. Maybe it ought not be so surprising. The world is made with perpetual “change” built in—created as a part of—the system. We grow, we learn, we age, we die. The continents themselves move! Jesus calls us to “change” (repent is one familiar translation of what Jesus says to do), daily, Luther reminded us.  The whole universe is expanding, just the way God designed it to. The tiniest of sup-atomic particles are in constant motion and flux.

And yet we fight it, get confused by it, deny it, resist it. But the tree outside my office window does it all the time; right now as I write, exhibiting the stunningly beautiful results of its change: orange/red/green/yellow/ brown hues in leaves about to fall. Already some of the branches are bare in the cold wind reminding us today that winter is coming, the seasons changing; again. 

 

If Jesus calls us to it, where is Jesus in it? Faith says: “guiding, empowering, sustaining, nourishing, encouraging, healing, directing, helping, loving, saving, _______ (you can fill in the blank, I know you can).”

 

On my desk are two pictures of my wife, Sandy. One tiny one from long before I know her, as a little girl, cuddling a favorite dog; the other, right behind it, a family picture from a few years back, us and our kids Gary and Hannah, all dressed up for a wedding. I never knew the little girl in the tiny picture, and I am still getting to know the wife and mother depicted in the bigger picture. I could never have known her unless she changed; we would not be here, together as family, unless we keep changing. What shaped that little girl with the puppy made it possible for her to be the wife to be the mother she is still becoming, still “changing” into.

 

It must be a reality that we need to change. That must mean we need to change as church too.

 

I guess I am on that journey with you, too.

 

 

Pastor Chris 

Pastor karen's musings

Vision: Yours, Mine and Ours

 

   I’ve been thinking about vision and eyesight lately as I’ll be having cataract surgery sometime in April. People tell me it’s not really a big deal, it only takes about 15 minutes and yes, that is true. However, I have a history with eye surgery so I have a different view of this surgery. Fifteen years ago, I had a visual disturbance and saw my ophthalmologist who sent me immediately to a specialist. She looked in my eye and said, “You will be having surgery tomorrow.” Wow. Turns out, I had holes in my retina (different than a detached retina) which the surgeon was able to plug somehow. I had an eye patch for a few days, my eye looked really gross, I needed eye drops four times a day and had double vision for awhile. Since surgery, I just don’t see as well out of that eye. (My vision was usually 20/50 and last month it was 20/100). My cataract surgery will take 30 minutes (still a short while) because of cleaning out the scar tissue. But I do get a little anxious about being awake and because of my last surgery, I’m a bit hesitant even though I expect this will be much easier. And yes, I will put myself on the prayer chain for that surgery and recovery. I probably will see better after the surgery than I do now so that will be a welcome change. I’m just not too keen about going through the process which will result in better vision. 

   I have also been thinking about how my views of the world have changed. In my teens, I thought issues (such as abortion) were pretty black and white. I have learned over the years that there are many shades of grey and issues are more complex than they initially seem. I had not even heard the term Doctrine of Discovery regarding views of our native brothers and sisters until last fall. With all the civil unrest following the murders of George Floyd and other black individuals, I’ve become more aware of advantages that I have simply because I am white. How many issues am I not aware of at all? The older I get, the more I realize how little I know.

    How will our worship and environment change here at Our Savior’s following this year of not meeting together due to the coronavirus? (On page 1, Pastor Chris referred to Deacon Brenda’s well-written article). Will we simply slide back into doing things the way we’ve always done them because it is easier? Might we realize that things that bothered us before are really not a big deal? Might our awareness/view of issues here change? Might we ourselves be tools for positive change?

    I’m hopeful that my vision will improve once this surgery and the healing process are completed. May we as a faith community emerge from this coronavirus absence more aware of the Holy Spirit prompting us to perhaps “see” issues known and unknown in a new way. And through it all, yes, God is present. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. And with the empty tomb at Easter, we are reminded that “Death does not have the last word.” Good news for all of us; especially those who grieve the deaths of loved ones no matter when they occurred. Thanks be to God.

 

About Good Friday

 

   Every Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. As we confess our faith using the Apostles’ Creed, we state in the second article “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was…crucified, died and was buried.”  And we probably can envision Jesus on the cross with his arms and feet nailed to the cross. Here’s a little more information about that form of execution from articles by Dr. David Terasaka and Dr. Andreas Lambrianides. I would note that it is rather unsettling and not for the squeamish.

  “Crucifixion was invented and used by the Persians as far back as 400 BC. The Romans perfected it as a method of execution which caused maximal pain and suffering over a period of time. Roman citizens were not subjected to this treatment. Crucifixion was discontinued by the emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD.

  The crucifixion site was purposely chosen to be outside the city walls because the Law forbade such within the city walls for sanitary reasons. The crucified body was sometimes left to rot on the cross and serve as a disgrace, a convincing warning and deterrent to passers-by.

   The sedulum served as a crude seat attached midway down the vertical post. When the victim pushed up on his feet, respirations became easier, but the pain in the legs mounted. When the pain became unbearable, the victim slumped down on the sedulum with the weight of the body pulling on the wrists. The victim alternated between lifting his body off the sedulum in order to breathe and slumping down on the sedulum to relieve pain in the feet. Eventually, he became exhausted or lapsed into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the sedulum. In this position, with the respiratory muscles essentially paralyzed, the victim suffocated and died. The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion is stated to be about 2-4 days. Sounds excruciating doesn’t it?”

   Much of Jesus’ life was about not breaking expectations. (Remember, folks thought that the “king” would be born in a royal home, not a stable!) Deuteronomy 21:23 states, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” There was no distinction made between a tree and a cross. No one believed that the Messiah would die under a curse. No one believed that Jesus would hang out with tax collectors and sinners and yet he did. I am glad he did. Remember the quote, “If you draw a line in the sand and are sure Jesus is on your side, you can be sure Jesus is on the other side!” Our faith can certainly challenge us!