from the pastor's desk

A Normal April

I don’t think it can happen. I am not sure it ever happens. A “normal” April? How can a month that starts out with a “Fools Day” ever be anything even vaguely resembling “normal?”

This year it begs another question: “What is “normal”?” And another: “Were there things we thought were ‘normal’ that we should have abandoned a long time ago?” And another question: “Are there things that are heading towards ‘normal’ that we should be very sure never get there?”

April is almost always deep in the Lent/Easter Season at Church. This year, it is a most excellent occurrence that April begins with Easter. The new life, freshly embraced by recent observances of Good Friday and full-throttle celebrations of Jesus’ Resurrection are impetus for re-thinking, re-planning, re-newing, re-fueling, re___ (you, by now, could add your own suffix to that…)! Easter can, in fact, power our embrace of seeking God’s renewal for all that we do. It can shape what we do as individuals. It can mold what we do together as followers of Jesus the Christ. The empty cross and the empty tomb can become April’s gift to strengthen our faith. The witness of the Women at the tomb and the Angels in attendance and the open crypt door can become a remarkable abundance for lovingly living out God’s mission this April. I suspect we need that encouragement this April, maybe more so than ever.

That leads me back to the “begged questions.” I don’t have answers for you; but maybe we have answers together.

In his interview with Pontius Pilate, Jesus declared “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). The Roman Governor responds to the Truth, literally staring him in the face, by asking “What is truth?” He then condemns the Truth-in-Human-Form to death on the Cross. That Truth rises from death, opens our tombs and changes our truth. Easter changes what normal is.

Deacon Brenda Tibbets, our Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA, Synod Minister for Leadership Support wrote in her most excellent (read it if you can; all PPC members got a copy via email and there are hard copies available in the narthex) March 15 Article, Return to What? Return to Whom?: Yes, indeed, return. We can hardly wait. But this detour through Covid-19 has also provided unique opportunities to really take a look at what was before. Not all things i.e. behaviors or the way we have always done things in the church should be returned to. It has taken a cataclysmic shift in our culture to allow for space whereby the Holy Spirit can bring new vision, new dreams, new courage for a new day.

Easter can help us begin to see that any form of injustice perpetuated by any form of excuse should never have been normal. Maybe we can begin to see that if it ever becomes completely normal for us to be unable and unwilling to respectfully listen to each other in the public square, our world will suffer; we all will suffer.

And while it has always been “normal” for our own opinion, or our own bias (see my article in the March 12th Pine Knot) or our own needs to be more important to each of us than what is factually true; that is one normal that needs to be challenged every time we discern it. The Bible tells us many stories of how God’s normal and our normal, our truth and God’s truth (see John 18 above), our ways and God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8) are too often not in conjunction.

April, Easter, returning from COVID-imposed meditations, and Lenten disciplines can all conspire to help us let God’s Spirit create in us “clean hearts… and renew a right spirit within” us (Psalm 51:10). God is ready to lead us to a new normal. We will need each other to make that real. We will need to listen and respect each other to make that real. The journey is mapped in our Baptismal promises “… to strive for justice and peace in all the earth…” (Affirmation of Baptism, ELW p. 236).

I am on that journey with you.


 

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!