The Queen of the Sciences

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

                                                                                                Psalm 119:33–34

Greetings in Christ,

There was a time when theology, the study God, was called the “Queen of the Sciences”. It was regarded as the highest study of God’s creation. It was not seen in conflict with the other sciences, but as the source all the knowledge gleaned from these disciplines. It is true that in some instances the Church was opposed to what we now know to be important scientific discoveries, but these were not as common as one would think.

                  It was the Church, especially the monasteries of the Middle Ages, that kept and protected many of the ancient documents of human study and learning. While giving priority to the study of God and His purposes, the Church in large part kept and promoted learning. Yes, some fringe groups of Christians see science and the knowledge it gives as a threat to faith, but the experience of the Church has shown that each new discovery or advance in our knowledge only serves to further glorify the Creator of all things.

                  As both the public school year and the Christian school year begin, let us give thanks and rejoice in our God who gives us the wonder of human minds that inquire after the mysteries of His Creation. What is taught and what is learned in one way or another, draws us closer to the One who has made this amazing universe.

 

On America's Promise

Greetings in Christ,

Tomorrow is the July 4th holiday in our country. It is our national celebration of who we are as Americans and the nation we have built. The promise of our revolution has not always come to all our citizens as easily or as fully as it could have, but we are a work in progress, striving to be what we established in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

As you take time to celebrate and enjoy our unity as Americans, let us focus on the things that we hold in common and not obsess on the differences among us. The ideals around which we agree are those that can make our nation even stronger and greater while bickering over those areas where we disagree weakens us a nation.

It is popular in some circles these days to keep the hype up about how terrible those who disagree are as persons, but this is a behavior that can only serve to tear down, not build up. This is certainly not Christian behavior. If I disagree, it does not mean that I treat those with whom I disagree as outside of God’s grace and mercy. Remember, Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies, even if they persecute us. It is only the weak and fearful who must abuse and humiliate those who disagree with them. 

It is our strength in Christ that allows us to pray even for our enemies and to seek ways to break down those barriers that people all too often seek to erect between one another. It is the Christ-like life that calls us to this and it can be a part of who we are as Americans.

 

 

On Words

Greetings in Christ,

 

“In the beginning was the Word….” John 1.1

I have always loved the beginning of St. John’s Gospel. He writes with a poetry in those opening lines that seeks to touch the wonder and mystery that is the Incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. He writes of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life by which all may come to the Father. We are allowed to glimpse the glory of the Father through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Through St. John’s words the beauty of the holiness of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are shown to us.

The beauty of St. John’s words in his Gospel remind me of what wonderful gift words can be for us. We can express our deepest emotions, our greatest joys and our most painful sorrows. We can share our love for God, for others, for our Lord’s creation and the hope of eternal life through words.

We can read and hear in the words of others the beauty they see in the life God has given them. Through their words events, places, people and ideas can come to us and enrich our lives in ways that we could not know on own. Through the gift of words we can read and know the experience of humankind throughout the ages. We can know Jesus through the gift of the words in the Holy Bible.

It is because I love words and the beauty they can give that the careless use of words in our electronic, online world so often saddens me. We seem to be more and more thoughtless and insensitive as we fling words around with no thought as to the damage they can do. People write and say the most shameful, harmful, vulgar and cruel things to one another, often to people they don’t even know. They are taking the beauty of words and letting them become a means of harm, and yes, evil.

As Christians, who know the value of words because of the Word who became flesh for our salvation, it is important that we use all our words well. We use them to give glory to God in all that we say or write. If are not certain that the words we are about to say or write will reflect the love we have received from Christ, then we would do well to reconsider using them. Let us use our words to give glory to the Father, to proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ and to bless our neighbors.

 

On Christians and Government

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Romans 13:1

Jesus as He was about to ascend into heaven told the disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. St. Paul echoes this truth in his letter to the Christians at Rome, that governing authority comes from God. Though it may be hard for us to grasp at times, every government’s authority to rule comes from God.

We are to pray for our elected leaders, even the ones we didn’t vote for and don’t like. We are to ask God to guide them as they seek to govern and that they do so wisely for all our people. We are, in so far as we can, support our government as they govern on our behalf.

Of course, how human beings use, and more often misuse, that authority is far too clear from even a brief review of human history. Since governments are made up of human beings and human beings are all under the bondage to sin, that sinful behavior will play out when humans have the power of government behind them.

So what is the Christian to do? The simple answer is, in so far as it is possible, we obey the legal governmental authority that is over us. This is, of course, very easy to say living NE Iowa where there is minimal danger from the government. We are free to support or disagree with our government. We may protest government decisions openly and with little fear of reprisal. We may say what we think of any elected official without fear of arrest as long as we do so within the law. It is easy to obey the government here.

But what of those circumstances where our faith collides with governmental authority? What is the Christian to do if what the government demands goes against God? First, we are to be clear that the government’s action is contrary to what God commands us. If the government calls upon us to oppress our neighbors, to support actions that are clearly contrary to the Commandments or even a denial of God, then as a Christians, we are to obey God before men.

We also must be clear that to obey God before men will have consequences. Christians throughout the ages have suffered at the hands of the state for their refusal to obey. We must be willing to do the same if we believe that our government is acting against God. 

With all this in mind, let us give God thanks that we enjoy the freedoms we have in our nation. Let us also pray and work for our government to be even better than it is. Let us pray and work for those freedoms to known by all of God’s children throughout the world.  

In Christ,

Pr. Hatcher

On Careful Listening

Greetings in Christ,

 

“Those who have ears, let them hear.”  

We often read in the Gospels this phrase on the lips of Jesus as he teaching, especially as he is using a parable to teach about the Kingdom of God. We hear people all the time, but to really listen to what they are saying is not always done. Far too often our listening is colored by what we think of the person, formulating our reply to what they are saying, or simple indifference.  The result we do not hear what they are trying to tell us. The vast majority of conflicts between people grow out of failure to hear what the other is trying to tell us.

Careful listening is not easy work. I first must set aside my own thoughts about the person or situation and pay careful attention to what they are communicating. I need to pay attention not only to the words they are using, but to feelings behind those words, their body language, and facial expressions. All those things are communication. We do this naturally because we have learned that those extra signals are important. Careful listening is giving our full attention to all these signals. In simple terms, paying attention to person as a person trying to say something important to them.

The next step is to seek clarity. If you don’t understand what a person has just said, you ask in a gentle manner for them to explain or to help you understand what they just said. By asking you are telling the person you are really listening and you gain a better understanding of what they are saying. The more clearly we understand what a person is saying the more willing they will be to be open in their sharing.

It is also important to remember that we often cannot solve other people’s problems. We can by listening to them help them sort through the challenges facing them, allowing them to discover their own solutions. Also, careful listening can give a person the opportunity they need to just ‘get it off their chest’. We all need to be heard even if there is no simple solution to the problem.

There is much more to careful listening than can be shared in an email. However, listening carefully to others is something we all can do better and will provide benefits and blessings for all.

 

 

On What Children Learn

Greetings in Christ,

Vacation Bible School is on this week in both McGregor and Garnavillo. As with all our efforts to teach the faith it is our prayer that this week is filled with learning and fun for all. It is important to remember that learning the faith takes place all the time and not just in those special times we set aside for instruction.

A child who hears their parents or other Christians talk about the love of Jesus and then sees those same folk acting in an unkind manner toward others is learning. A child who hears Christians praying to Jesus and then hears those same Christians using Jesus’ Name in vain is learning. A child who is worshiping on Sunday morning and later hears criticism of the worship, other members or the pastor is learning.

We want to be careful how we not only speak of our faith to our children, but we want to be certain that our lives reflect the faith we are talking about as Christians. All the learning in Sunday School, Footstep to Faith or at VBS can be undone when adult Christians act in an unChrist-like manner.  

Let’s work hard to make certain that our deeds match our words about our love for Jesus.

On the Holy Trinity

Greetings in Christ,

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity. It is the Sunday that we are called upon to ponder the mystery of God who is one God in Three Persons. We will use the Athanasian Creed this Sunday as our confession of the oneness of God while confessing the Three Persons who compose the Triune God.

If you are like me, my mind is already swimming trying to comprehend what I have just written to you and the deeper I go into attempting to understand the Holy Trinity, the more perplexed I become. This does not mean that you and I are incapable of deep thinking, it means that there are things of God that simply lie beyond us.

Luther was reported to have said that if we could comprehend the wonder God places into a grain of wheat we would die for the sheer joy of the beauty it contains. How much more then the Holy Trinity. We have been created by God in His image with the deep desire to worship and adore God. Each thing God does and is for us draws us into Himself and His love for His creation, for us. 

As we are drawn into the wonder and beauty that is God, we encounter mysteries that we cannot comprehend yet know are truth. By faith we know that it is enough for these things to be true even if our ability to comprehend them lies beyond us.

One day we will know the fullness of God in all His glory and holiness, until then we will ponder as we are able the beautiful mysteries of the God who has created us, redeemed us and sanctified us. This coming Sunday we will ponder the Holy Trinity.

Blessings in Christ,

Pr. Hatcher

On Ash Wednesday

Greetings in Christ,

Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. Lent is an essential part of the Church year as it leads us to Good Friday and Easter. Easter is the heart of our faith and the weeks of preparation are not to be set aside. On the surface, Lent seems to be a gloomy time with its focus on repentance and preparation, but it is so much more than that.

If we are to know the deeper blessings of Easter, our Lenten journey is to be central in our lives in weeks before we celebrate Easter. Our journey begins this week with Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is about the truth of who we are as human beings. As much as we would care not to admit it, we are all mortal. The truth spoken to us on Ash Wednesday is the final truth of our physical lives. We will one day be returned to the dust of the of the earth. All who are born will one day die. It is the one inescapable truth that every human being must acknowledge. We can delay it, ignore it, pretend that we will be exempt from it, but in the end it comes to us all.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of this truth, not to depress us, but to point us beyond ourselves to the One who has taken on our human nature, confronted and undone the power of death. Yes, the ashes placed on our foreheads are a reminder that we are dust, but they are also a promise that the One who has shared our humanity has come. By His death and resurrection, we no longer are enslaved by death which has no lasting victory over us.

So come to Ash Wednesday worship, receive the reminder of who we are and the promise of Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead.

 

 

Praying for our Enemies

Greetings in Christ,

 

'You have heard that is was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.’ Matthew 5.43-45

 

Jesus just keeps raising the bar for us in the Sermon on the Mount. He is making it clear that to be a disciple is not merely having one’s name on the membership registry of a congregation. Discipleship means that one’s whole life is dedicated to living in a way that is very much at odds with the prevailing culture. It is at the least very challenging and certainly not a little bit scary.

 

The way of the world is to love those who agree with you, who are like you, who share the same worldview as you and to be suspicious, even hateful of those who do not. Sadly, history has shown that this has been the practice of humanity from the moment we began to form groups. We have chosen hate and violence against one another from the very beginning, from the days of Cain and Able.

 

So, the world wise would say to Jesus, ‘Isn’t this a bit too much, a bit unrealistic, even dangerous?’ Jesus is no pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky dreamer. He very clearly understands humanity and its brokenness. He is not saying that we should be doormats for the world to trample upon. He is teaching us that the way of the Father is not the way of the world. Where the world says ‘hate’ we will say ‘no, the love of God compels us to act in different way.’ We will not return hate for hate, evil for evil. We will take the much harder path of showing the love of God to all. We will pray for those who would be our enemies so that God in His mercy will change their hearts and ours to turn from the useless ways of this world.

 

Some will argue that this is still so very unrealistic, that if we don’t fight against evil it will take over. We have fought evil with evil generation upon generation and it is still active among us. Jesus is asking us to take a different way, to seek the transformation of our lives and of the lives of those around us. It will not be easy, but unless we try, unless we begin, evil will continue its grip on humanity. 

 

So, pray for your enemies, learn to love as Jesus has loved us. Begin there as children of our heavenly Father living in a world yearning for its renewal.

 

Blessings in Christ,

 

Pr. Hatcher

On Listening

Greetings in Christ,

 

I did not watch the Super Bowl last night. It apparently was a pretty good game, but I wanted to see the movie ‘Hidden Figures” in Elkader. This movie was about the contribution made by African American women to the early days of the American Space Program. It was a story that I had never heard of before, but one that I found to be inspiring. There is always more to learn about who we are as human beings, especially about people whose stories are different from ours.

 

One of the things you notice about Jesus as He goes about his earthly ministry is the time He takes to listen to people. He does not just listen to those who agree with Him. As He listens He comes to understand who they are, what their concerns might be and then He responds. He may speak a word of hope, healing, comfort, inspiration or challenge. The goal of Jesus’ listening is to first know the person before He responds to them

 

We are in a time in our nation where the response comes before listening, if folk bother to listen at all. Folk act as if there is nothing they need learn about another person or group and all that needs to be done is to shout their answer to everything as loud as they can. It is as if no one else has a story worth hearing and if they don’t completely agree with our story then they must be shouted down.

 

This isn’t civil behavior and it certainly isn’t the example our Lord has given us. If we are to find a way for all voices to be heard, we need to take the time to listen to others, even if the things they are saying are the complete opposite of what we believe. If we can’t or won’t hear another’s story, how can we expect them to listen to ours?

 

Have a Blessed Week

Pr. Hatcher

On Anger

Greetings in Christ,

 

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  Matthew 5:21–22 (ESV)

 

As I went to bed last night the news came of a shooting at a mosque in Quebec. This morning the news tells of 6 killed and many more wounded. Reports indicate that at least two people have been arrested in relation to this crime. The cycle of violence seems to be unending and there will be investigations that will attempt to bring to account those responsible. No one, regardless of who they are, should live in fear of violence inflicted on them simply because of who they are. 

 

Jesus as He teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount is quite clear about the origin of murder, of violence. Every violent act has it’s beginning with anger growing in the heart. Anger is a dangerous thing in a sinner’s heart for it can grow and spread so quickly that it bursts forth from us in actions we can barely comprehend or control. At the extreme, anger leads to the taking of life, but long before the act is done, anger has paved the way.

 

Jesus teaches us to be attentive to our hearts so we may see early on what is growing there. He teaches us to recognize at an early stage the anger that seeks to undo us, name it for what it is and lay it before the Father. He teaches us to confess our anger to the Father and pray for His strength to dislodge the anger in our hearts. He teaches us to ask that any anger be replaced with His mercy and grace that we might then turn over to Him the anger that would control our lives.

 

Is anger ever justified? Yes, Jesus shows us this as He cleanses the Temple, but He is in control of his anger and it ceases when the need is past. Anger left uncontrolled will rapidly control us and our lives will be consumed by it.

 

Let us pray for the victims of this latest violence, for the victims of anger we do not hear about and that we ourselves might not let anger become the master of our lives.

 

 

On Blessings

Greetings in Christ,

 

‘Blessed are you…’, so begins the part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that we call the Beatitudes. The blessings of which Jesus speaks do not sound like blessings as we think of blessings. ‘Blessed are you poor in spirit, who mourn, the meek, those hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted.

 

We regard a blessing as a thing that is a benefit or good in our lives. We don’t think of poverty of spirit, mourning, or persecution as blessings. Indeed, we would see them as things to avoid if we could. Yet, Jesus tells us that even in these things we can know blessing.  The blessings that Jesus speaks of find their source in God the Father.

 

A blessing that based on the things of this life can change or disappear entirely. They too often depend on things that are out of our control or if we do have some say, depend on our emotional, physical or financial state. Then what was once seen as a blessing no longer is and we are filled with sorrow, pain and loss.

 

The blessings that flow from God the Father are ours in all circumstances of our lives. They cannot be taken from us or undone by anything we encounter in this life. Even in the deepest valley of sorrow, loss and death, the love of the Father is ours. It may not be easy for us to see the blessing of the Father in our struggles, but in faith in Him, we can learn the confidence of His enduring presence.

Blessings in Christ,

Pr. Hatcher

On Faithfulness

Greetings in Christ,

 

January is the time for Annual Reports in the life of a congregation. They are often statistics of the events of the parish life in the past year, the number of baptisms, confirmations, deaths, transfers and such. There are questions about the financial health of the congregation and plans for the future ministry. There is value to looking at these things as trends in membership, finances and plans can give an indication of the direction and health of a congregation. What they cannot do is give a picture of the faithfulness of the members as they serve the Lord.

Our faithfulness to Jesus is not measured by the amount of money we give, the time we spend at church, or the plans we have made about the future of our congregation. Our faithfulness to Jesus is a matter of the heart and soul. It begins with a living relationship to the Risen Jesus. The daily walk with Him in our lives is where we deepen our life in His love and mercy. 

Faithfulness takes shape in the prayers lifted to the Lord in the small hours of the night, often for people who will never know that they were being held in prayer. Faithfulness appears in words of hope and encouragement to the neighbor when their lives have taken a turn for the worse. Faithfulness appears as we read our Bibles to go deeper into the mysteries of God revealed to us in His Word. Faithfulness appears in the loving invitation to someone to join you in worship. Faithfulness appears in our longing for the Holy Supper and blessing it gives us in our lives.

Our congregations may be small ones serving in a rural area where like many rural areas the population is aging and declining, but our faithfulness to our Lord remains the center of who we have been, who we are and who we will continue to be.

 

Have a Blessed Week

Pr. Hatcher

On Preaching and Hearing the Word

Greetings in Christ,

I have belonged to a Pastor’s Text Study group for well over twenty years. We meet each Tuesday morning to go over the lessons for the coming Sunday worship. Our goal is to dig as deeply into the texts as we can in order to better prepare the message for the coming Sunday. Most folk are surprised to discover that the average sermon takes between 10 to 20 hours of preparation for a sermon that last 15 to 20 minutes. There are some pastors who can just get up and give a sermon with little preparation, but they are rare.  The pastors I know want to bring a message that helps the hearers come closer to God and that takes effort.

Of course, the Holy Spirit is the chief actor in any sermon. The pastor puts in the effort they can to do as well as possible each week, but the Holy Spirit is the One who brings the fullness of God’s Word, sometimes in spite of the preacher. I am grateful that the Spirit is always at work for I would never presume to get into the pulpit week by week merely on my own. As Luther’s Sacristy prayer goes, ‘if it were left up to me, I would have ruined things long ago.’ Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is at work in the proclaiming God’s Word.

That same Spirit is at work in the hearing of the Word as well. A Christian who is prepared to hear the Word will discover the Spirit at work in them as the sermon is proclaimed. We do well to ask for an attentive heart the the Word may find a place within us. If we come in the expectation of hearing a Word from God we are often surprised by that Word. We would also do well to pray for the one called to proclaim the Word. Faithful preaching is not an easy task and your prayers for the pastor as they prepare and preach will help in their responsibility.

Finally, the Word properly proclaimed will at time give us great comfort and at other times challenge us deeply. We should give thanks to God for both, the Word as a comfort to our troubled soul and the Word that moves us out of our comfort zones to a deeper life in Christ. This is not always easy for us, but once moved by the Spirit, we discover an even richer life in our Lord.

Facing the Dark Beast

Greetings in Christ,

‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.’   1 Peter 5.6-7

Anxiety is a dark beast that stalks many, if not all of us.  It is the rare person who is free from that lurking dread that is anxiety.  Most can cope with the fears that it brings as it seeks to draw us into despair and unbelief. They are able to live their lives and keep the effects of anxiety at bay.

There are many of our brothers and sisters in Christ for whom anxiety is the daily background of their lives.  It is not what they want and would send away if they could.  But it will not leave them nor will it give them peace of heart and mind.  Theirs is a struggle that few of us can imagine nor understand.  It is a struggle that often isolates the person in a personal hell, making the simplest daily task a challenge to accomplish

We have made great progress in helping  people carrying the burden of anxiety, but we can always do more.  We may not have the expertise that allows us to diagnose and treat anxiety and its related disorders, but we can all become more compassionate toward one another.  We can help one another remember that not only are we members of a common humanity, but we are all beloved children of God.  We can encourage one another to cast all our anxieties on God as the writers of the psalms often do.  In so doing, we are helping those who struggle with anxiety to voice before God and others the pain they know in their lives.

We will not all be fully healed in this life.  Our perfect healing of anxiety and all other diseases of body, mind and spirit will come when our Lord’s Kingdom comes in its fullness.  Until then we can help one another by listening with Christ like love, helping one another to lay all our anxieties on the Lord, for he does indeed care for us.

Thou Hast Known Me

Greetings in Christ,

 

Psalm 139:16 (ESV)

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.

 

370,000, that’s how many people are born each day.  It is a number that isn’t real until one of that number is your child or grandchild.  On Wednesday, our newest grandchild will be one of 370,000 babies born that day.  Months and weeks of prayers for a safe pregnancy and delivery will transform into a lifetime of prayers for her life, that it would be a life filled with God’s blessings and joys.

 

Of course, we have no idea of how this Wee One’s life will go, what joys she may know, what sorrows she may experience.  We do not know if her life will be long and full, or if it will be brief and sorrowful.  These things are hidden from us.  Yet they are all known to God who formed her in her mother’s womb.

 

The psalmist, speaking by the Holy Spirit, gives us insight into the nature and mystery of God.  What to our hearts and minds is unknown and unknowable, is as bright and clear as a sunny Iowa morning.  The whole of history from the beginning of all things to the ending of time is laid out before God and known by Him.

 

More wondrously, each moment of each life is known to God.  Long before this newest grandchild was conceived, her life was known to God and she was loved by Him.  As St. Paul reminds us, that before the foundation of universe the love of God was present for us all.

 

It is in that eternal love and mercy that we live our lives, knowing that each day is His blessing to us as each life is precious to Him. May you, and all the generations yet to be born, know this love.

Bright Monday

Greetings in Christ,

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Monday following Easter is called ‘Bright Monday’.  It is intended to be a day of continued celebration of our Risen Lord and a day of personal renewal in the faith.  it is a wonderful tradition that helps to keep alive the joy and celebration of Easter as well as taking the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection out into our Monday world.

We are an Easter People, that is our lives are all lived in the light of the Resurrection and there are no days are not touched by this truth.  It is an ongoing challenge for us to live in the Light of the Risen Lord in an increasingly secular world, but the challenge should not trouble us.  Living fully in Christ has always been the daily task of the Church and the individual Christian.  

I hope you can look for ways to live out the Easter joy on this Bright Monday as well as all the other days of the week, even until the Lord comes again.

On Numbness to Sin

Greetings in Christ,

The temperature is hovering just under -9 degrees as I write this week’s email.  I can see the smoke rising from the homes around the parsonage as the furnaces work against the cold that seeks to invade these dwellings, but is kept at bay by the warmth those furnaces provide.  The cold at these levels is life threatening and most of us would find ourselves in serious trouble with only few minutes exposure to this cold.  Even dressed warmly, we would begin to notice the creeping effects of the cold on our bodies in just a few minutes.  Should the cold remain at this level and we remain out in it, it could take our lives from us.  Once the shock of the cold had passed, our bodies would begin to shut down and we would be lulled to sluggishness, then a sleep from which we would not awaken.  

The effect of sin in our lives is similar to such cold.  At first we would be shocked by sin, even afraid of it and its power to damage and destroy our lives.  Then, over time, we would notice it less and less until our spirits are numb to it and its effects on our life in Christ.  Eventually, unrepented sin would lead us into the sleep of spiritual death from which we would not awaken.  

If we are to combat the effects of extreme cold, we must first recognize the danger it presents and take measures to warm our bodies back to life.  So too with the effects of sin, we much recognize the danger, the subtle danger of sin and turn to the warming mercy of God who by His forgiveness leads us out of the sleep of death sin seeks to impose on our lives. Just as we first begin to see the dangers and effect of severe cold on our physical bodies and begin to act to keep ourselves warm, so to we need to see the beginning effect sin has on our lives and begin to seek the grace that Christ gives to those who have received and live in His Spirit.  We find this life giving warmth in God’s Word and His Holy Sacraments which overflowing with God’s grace and mercy keep us in the warmth of Christ.

God's Saints

Greetings in Christ,

Each year for Christmas Jackie gets me new calendar for my study.  For several years now it has been a calendar of Orthodox Christian icons, this year’s being a commemoration of American Orthodox saints.  I love icons and what they can teach the believer about the faith through the lives of those who have been faithful witnesses to Christ.  Each day of the year on this calendar is given over to the live or lives of particular saints. 

In all honesty, I have to look up most of the saints listed as so many of them are unknown to me.  And that is as it should be, the vast majority of the saints of God are always going to be unknown to the larger world.  They labor for the Lord and the love of His Kingdom without any regard for the world’s notice of what they are doing.  It is not a pretense of humility rather it is an act of love being returned to God for all His grace and mercy.  

When I consider the names of the saints on my office calendar I am also reminded that there are uncounted millions of saints who will never be listed in any public way but whose efforts of love are known to God.  We see them every day, though we may know them as a saint as their works of love are directed away from themselves toward the Father and others around them.  

It is the devoted and Christ centered work of these myriads of unknown saints that presents the living Gospel of God’s love to the world and for them we give thanks for the love of God they live in their daily lives.

On Families

Greetings in Christ,

My Mom’s birthday is December 21 and many years I am not able to be with her to celebrate as it is so close to  Christmas and there is much to do in the parish.  This year she turned 85 and all her kids were able to be with her to celebrate the day. We don’t all get together often due to distance and work schedules.  It was wonderful to have us all together for a happy celebration.

A family is something we all have.  It may be a large, boisterous, delightful group.  It may be a small, close knit circle.  It may be always fun to be together.  It may be difficult and trying to be as family.  There is no perfect family that only knows harmony and bliss.  Each family faces times of great challenge that may not always be successfully managed.  There may be families that are so broken that being together is just too painful.  A family is something we all have.

Jesus was born into a family.  Joseph and Mary were not His only relatives, there may have been literally dozens of others in and around Nazareth as Jesus grew.  They may have been a wonderful gathering of people or they may have been a challenge.  They probably fell somewhere in between, just like most of ours do.  It is unlikely that His family was any more perfect than any of ours.  

This is part of the joy of the Christmas message, that God comes among us not as we should be but as we are.  As John writes in his gospel, ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’  Jesus comes to us as we are in order to redeem and renew us from our brokenness.  We have in Jesus the One who brings forgiveness to us and leads us toward that day when all the imperfections of human life will be no more and we will all know the joy of God’s family.

Until that day, may the One who came among us so fill our lives with His love and mercy that we catch a glimpse of what will one day be ours.