Wednesday Message 4/1/20

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

One of the things that bother me during this time of physical distancing is the fact that I cannot hold Bible studies and teach Confirmation classes. Especially, giving up the time with our Confirmands makes me sad. First off, I really like the kids and enjoy being in their presence. They help me understand some of the ‘woke’ words I otherwise would not know how to spell and they keep me on my toes in many other regards.

I also dislike the fact that we cannot sit down together and plow our way through all sorts of more or less difficult to understand subjects. But, what I don’t miss is the occasional frustration when it appears that my style of teaching or the students’ attention get in the way of learning. Why is it that teenagers can remember four long verses of the latest hit song but not two short lines from the Catechism? I only pray that they somehow ‘get it in their hearts’.

By the way, I never assumed now or ever that confirmands deliberately do not want to retain knowledge! When my granddaughter was rather young, she had a very difficult time distinguishing the numbers 6, 8 and 9.  A great lover of the card game “Go Fish” she and I went around and around. I used all of my pedagogical acumen as well as every trick in my grandmotherly handbook, to get her to recognize the individual numbers – to no avail. We would stop just before tears would well up in her eyes. Victoria wanted to learn and know these numbers! She told me that kids in her preschool class were proficient at recognizing them – and she wanted to beat me at the card game.

Finally, one day, probably just to say something, I said: “Victoria, whenever you get these numbers right, Oma will give you a hug and a kiss, okay?” Sure, Victoria was all in. But, before she picked up the next card she looked at me with her beautiful blue eyes and said: “Oma, if I get it wrong, do I still get a hug and a kiss?” Choking back my own tears, I gave her a hug and a kiss and assured her that she always would get hugs and kisses even if she never learned those numbers (she did learn them J).

There are countless things I do not know, don’t remember, never understood or deemed too unimportant to commit to my feeble brain. Sometimes my brain feels so overloaded that I can’t distinguish one thing from the other. More often than not I get terribly upset with myself for drawing a blank and having to go back to a book or the internet to refresh my mind. And, just like Victoria, I do care and want to know what is in front of me. Yet, sometimes I simply fail no matter how hard I try.

As we are closing in on the holiest of weeks in the life of the Christian church, we often ‘don’t get it’. We have 2000 years of teaching, preaching, witnessing and living under our collective belt and we still stand there and are saying: “What was that? How did we get from Palm Sunday to Easter morning?” And even if we ‘get’ the events per say, sometimes we don’t grasp what God is doing for us with the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Doubts and confusion easily reign. We look at the faith taught and lived and we look at the science taught and explained and we wonder how God can still be the God who holds all things in His hands, guiding and protecting, loving and forgiving without us being involved and at the table of decision making. Is it true? What if it is not? What if our minds are as confused as little Victoria was with the numbers 6, 8 and 9? My guess is this: God still gives us hugs and kisses. From the cross and from the empty tomb even if we still get it wrong. God is just that kind of a God. Amen

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-7


Wednesday Message 3/25/20

When my grandson, William, was a Kindergartener, he proudly proclaimed that he knew everything about Groundhog Day…and then he proceeded to show off his new-found knowledge. Every Groundhog Day since then I can’t help but think of William – and of the movie by the same name.  In the movie Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric, annoying weatherman who gets stranded by a blizzard after doing a live-broadcast on Groundhog Day. If you know the movie you also know that good old Phil ends up re-living the same day, February 2nd, over and over again. Only Phil is aware of the time loop. First he uses the distressing and bizarre scenario as an opportunity to manipulate people. However, his shameless self-indulgence eventually gets superseded by some serious examination of his life and priorities.

What would you do if you would wake up each morning only to discover that you had to live thru yesterday again – and again – and again – that the progress and the effort from yesterday would be wiped out ---- as well as all the hurtful things you said and did yesterday!? You see, the repeat of the same day over and over again would allow for changed actions, better choices…right? How would you respond if you could do all things over again - if the words that broke a relationship could be newly minced; if the thoughts you contemplated could be amended; if the careless action you took could be replaced by a responsible one? How great would that be?

Guess what? The idea is not as crazy as it sounds. The Gospel of Jesus Christ promises us nothing less than a new beginning each day as we live dripping-wet from the waters of our Baptism. As Christ died and rose, he grants us the unique gift of having our sins in the past and awake each morning to a day filled with unimaginable possibilities and limitless opportunities. Each day is a new beginning. Of course, we cannot wipe out yesterday simply by going to sleep and waking up. This is real life and there are consequences to our actions. The harsh word, the slap, the broken promise, the neglect from yesterday has a consequence today. Amends are needed, change in behavior is crucial.

To be sure: forgiveness does not mean that God does not remember our failures. Newness of life in Christ does not mean we can hope for forgiveness without repentance, live without discipline and dismiss the cross of Christ --- we call that cheap grace. No, we can have a new beginning each and every day only because Christ gave his very life and sets us right with God again and calls us to became followers. This is God’s doing, God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s plan, God’s work thru the beloved Son, Jesus. In the third chapter of Titus we hear that God saved us…in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

I know that these last two weeks have been a bit of a Groundhog Day experience. We wake up and it seems like the world is going nowhere fast. We thought that pandemics are events we read about in history books. The stock market is back to its 2016 numbers. Fear strikes: will we make the same mistakes again, have the same hurts to live through again, repeat the hard work from days gone by in hopes that we somehow will end up where we were a month ago?

Remember that you are baptized and that we are a holy people set apart to do holy things in the name of our holy God. Perhaps this horrible world-wide crisis helps us to turn to God in complete trust and confidence for God is our true safety and security. It seems we need reminders just like the people in biblical times. Each day a new beginning! May yours be richly blessed.

Updates and prayers

We extend our condolences to Calvin Thompson and his family as they mourn the sudden and unexpected death of his sister. May God comfort them in their sorrow with confidence in the Resurrection promise.

Our dear brother in Christ, Lowell Walk, was called to his eternal rest early this morning, March 18. His Memorial Service will be delayed until the restrictions of the State of Iowa are lifted. Please keep Nancy and the rest of the Walk family in your prayers.

Continue as well to pray for the family of Rufus Glassel. Emmanuel lost two of our stellar supporters and friends in the Lord. We give thanks to God for their lives and our journey with them.

Services cancelled at this time

The short version is that Emmanuel Lutheran Church will not hold any church services, or events from now until March 31. After that date is still to be determined. Small council meetings of less than 10 people are still able to meet if they so decide.

The following is the official statement from the governor's office.

“Pursuant to Iowa Code § 135.144 (3), and in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health, unless otherwise modified by subsequent proclamation or order of the Iowa Department of Public Health, I hereby order that effective Noon today, March 17, 2020, and continuing until 11:59 p.m. on March 31, 2020: 

.... E. Mass Gathering: Social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people are hereby prohibited at all locations and venues, including but not limited to parades, festivals, conventions, and fundraisers."

So we will follow the law, and keep you informed of any updates as this is a constantly changing situation.