Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy… upon our world and country for healing grace.
Last night in our evening home devotions we meditated on Actsr 2:42ff and a reflection written by Henri Nouwen. We are using an older series of Lenten meditations and prayers as written by both Nouwen and C.S. Lewis. This devo focused upon the “intimacy and solidarity“ of humankind. It reminded me of the section in the explanation to Luther’s Catechism concerning the first article of the Apostles’ Creed. The question, number 96, is “Why is the First Person of the Trinity called ‘the Father’”? The answer is in part, “He is also the Father of all people because he created them. Strictly speaking, there is only one human race, because all human beings are equally the children of Adam and Eve and are equally redeemed by Christ.” One of the passages to support thatstatement is taken from Malachi chapter 2: “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” In the devotion Nouwen put it this way, “We are brothers and sisters, not competitors or rivals.”
I personally found this devotion helpful because we are all considering our unmistakable interconnectedness in the midst of this contagion. My doctor sister, not given to hyperbole but more German-stoic by temperament, has cautioned that this pathogen is extremely contagious, so be careful. There’s much we don’t know about it that scientists are still trying to discover but certainly Ruth’s words are true. As people in this fallen world and as fallen people we are all susceptible to the results of sin in the world. And ironically we are acknowledging this interconnectedness by caring for each other through physical distancing. I recently read of a young man who insisted that his spring break partying wouldn’t be interrupted by coronavirus only to repent later of that foolish and selfish attitude. God is reminding us that he created us as one human race and Christ came to redeem all of us through his blood and righteousness.
And so it seems that God is pushing us to see all others as his created children whom he seeks in mercy and grace,
I Timothy 2: 4. Let us care for every soul in our safe practices at home, with loved ones and when we need to venture out for essential things. And may the Holy Spirit expand our intercessory prayers more and more to include people we are not familiar with but are one with through the created life given by our Father.
In the Name of the Father +Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Grace, peace and strength be to you during this critical time. We pray that you are well and caring for yourselves and others with the love of Jesus. Know that the Holy Spirit interprets even our “sighs” before the throne of grace so that we may have hope in our Lord, Romans 8: 15 ff. Know that a good resource for home devotions is found on page 4 of the Portals of Prayer. We hope that in the days ahead you will join us for live stream worship, see not below, or request a CD as noted, so that we worship the Lord, are strengthened by his promises and stay connected in Christ. We pray to the Lord that soon it will be safe to congregate together again at Christ Lutheran. If you have access, please also check our website and Facebook through this time. After much prayer and consultation of the Board of Elders, the decision has been made at this critical time to conduct services via live stream and Facebook only (no physical congregating at this time). The services will be live streamed on Thursday at 11:00 and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and should be available on Facebook thereafter. Should you need a CD of the service for pick up at the church or to be mailed, please email the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy to email@example.com.
A Prayer at this critical time by people of faith, hope and love,
offered by Pastor Ray+
Heavenly Father, we are called anew in urgent prayer before you, together with loved ones in our homes or alone but really one with the whole Church by the Holy Spirit in the Community of Saints. Thank you, Lord, for the technology you have given so that we come together this way before you. We come in prayer: people of abiding “faith, hope and love,” I Cor. 13: 13.
Faith. Lord, drawn us near in trust worked by the Holy Spirit. There is much we do not know at this time, and it is frustrating. We know that sickness was not part of the “God saw that it was good”-world. But sin entered the world and so did sickness and death. We know that sickness is not part of your ultimate will, but we struggle with why you sometimes allow these pandemics over time. Truly, it is a struggle of faith. Draw us near in faith to you, the everlasting and merciful Lord. Assure us of your love grounded and alive in Jesus and the truth that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8: 35-39. Draw us in humility, Lenten repentance and grace-filled faith.
Draw us near as people of hope. It is so easy caught up in Godless anxiety and despair. Remind us that you are God, Psalm 46: 10. Your gracious promises hold as anchor of the soul, Hebrews 6: 19. Help us to turn to you in prayer and lead others to you, maybe back to you. Bring people together with their loved ones in prayer again. Work, Lord, through the amazing immune system you have created, for we are “fearfully and wondrously made,” Psalm 139: 14. We pray, Lord, work through caring and brave doctors, scientists and health care workers to put down this evil virus. Renew us in hope and in peace. Remind us in hope that Jesus gives peace beyond anything the world can offer as we remember a favorite passage of sainted Pr. Ledogar: John 14: 25-27.
Finally, finally. The greatest of these is love. Help us love neighbors as we love ourselves. Call us to that Upper Room love: To love “as you have loved us,” John 15:12. So prompt us to the discipline of practicing healthy etiquette in care for self, and, hey, we are Christians, for others! If I am praying this and know that I am a hugger, help me to hold back in love. Help us to hold back from congregating physically at Christ Lutheran and beyond right now and from sharing gathered Holy Communion for now. Our hearts are heavy at this spiritual distancing, but we know love requires even that pause. In faith and love continue to inform our Board of Elders’ and pastors’ counsel regarding worship by live streaming and otherwise, and Lord guide our congregational leaders in evaluation of all activities that would gather here. In love help our first responders, utility worker, plumbers, grocery store workers and all other essential service providers like these: ____________________ to continue to serve others in real need. So move us in love that means no handshakes and even congregating worship for a time, but also to move in love when you call us to be there for one is urgent need. Give us that brave love in and for the world, Savior and Lord.
O Lord, hears us, faith, hope, love people alive by grace in you, the living God. Lord Jesus Christ you are “the same yesterday, today and forever,” Hebrews 13:8. In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Our Advent Greeting
Again, seasonal greetings are in the news. Many “Merry Christmas” greetings will be forthcoming. Arlette Zimmerman would edit it to: “Blessed Christmas!” London-born Jo Ann might say, “Happy Christmas.” And most of us would try to be aware and bid a “Happy Hanukkah” to our Jewish neighbors. Let’s do so with meaning this year: The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the Apocryphal books of the First and Second Maccabees, which describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah
. Making that greeting-with-meaning connection can start a blessed conversation about the Nativity of our Lord.
But that is not my point. The greeting of Advent has become a year-round church greeting, but its roots in Christian tradition are especially timely. The words of the angel at the annunciation to Mary, “The Lord is with you,” have become part of the Christian liturgy. In the Greek original, there is no verb. “The Lord with you” (Luke 1). For Mary it was declaratory: God was bringing His own Son into the world through her divine pregnancy. Indeed, Mary, the Lord is with you! Mary would sing later about this gracious presence of God in her life: “The Mighty One has done great things for me…” (Luke 1, later). In our mutual greeting, the verb becomes a prayerful wish: “The Lord be with you.”
Let us share this Advent greeting with renewed prayerful connection this year. Because the Son of God was born of Mary and took on flesh to give himself for us and the world and now lives and reigns, the Lord is with us. Truth. But Luther might say, “We pray in this greeting that we would realize God’s presence by faith.”
The Lord be with you,
Pastor Ray, and “Happy Christmas” from Jo Ann
Installation of Associate Pastor!
We are rejoicing these days at the acceptance of the Call to serve as Associate Pastor by Charles Johnson. Pastor Chuck and Lauren, Russell and Ellie are excited to begin ministry here.
God has blessed the consecrated and patient efforts of our Call Committee, and we thank the Lord for them and their prayerful work. Please plan to attend the special Installation Service with Holy Communion on November 3 at 3:00 p.m. and stay for the reception supper to follow if you can. We are privileged to have our District President, Rev. Dr. Allan Buss, to serve as preacher and to preside the Installation.
My article is more about the biblical process that we followed to extend Pastor Johnson’s Call and the life that we share as the people of God in this place. Over the past few weeks several people who are not familiar with our process have asked me how the bishop or Church hierarchy placed Pr. Chuck with us. Many churches are more bishop-oriented, but not ours. Our governance is congregational, so the District, under the leadership of President Gilbert and, then President Buss, provided potential candidates for consideration to become our Associate Pastor. But the Call Committee made the recommendations to the Council and Voters Assembly for the extension of the Call. Ours is a congregational process.
This connects well with our Absolution proclamations in worship: the Pastor announces forgiveness “as a called and ordained servant of Christ.” This is not a statement of some kind of elite status for pastors, but a statement of connection with God’s working through the congregation. We believe that the Office of the Keys is “the special authority which Christ has given to His church….” (Small Catechism, What is the Office of the Keys?) Our belief is based squarely upon God’s word in John 20:21-23
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
So we rejoice that God gives pastors to publicly and faithfully preach and administer the Sacraments , but they (Pastor Chuck and I) serve (minister) with all of us. So thank you, Lord: We are rejoicing and will come into Your house on the afternoon of the 3rd to pray for and support the public ministry of Pastor Johnson and to join in Gospel ministry together.
Martin Luther an Angel?
In the early 80s, with the development of our former, blue LW hymnal, the readings for Reformation Day (observed) were reviewed. In the earlier TLH hymnal, the Revelation 14 text for Reformation was listed as the Epistle Lesson. Some wondered if it should be retained or replaced with a different reading. The editors decided to include it as the Old Testament reading for Reformation.
Rev. 14: 6 and 7
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Luther’s Pastor Bugenhagen at St. Mary’s, chose this text for the Reformer’s funeral service in 1546, and it identified Luther with the heralding angel of Rev. 14. But was Luther a perfect angel? No. Luther was so aware of his failings and reliant on the Gospel that he did not want the church named after him. Instead, he wanted it called the Gospel or Evangelical Church. His honest confessional life led to a seeking after the fullness of God’s grace in Christ and raised up the reality of God’s promise in Romans 3:19 for him and for the whole Church:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
God revealed to Luther his gift of righteousness and redemptive freedom and peace through faith in Christ alone. Trust in Jesus alone opened the fullness of grace to him-and to others. Luther realized that he was no angel, confirmed in holiness, but a sinner in need of God’s grace.
But in another way Luther was an angel – if we think of an angel as a messenger. This was Pastor Bugenhagen’s original emphasis. With all his imperfections covered by Christ’s righteousness, Luther became God’s messenger of the Gospel, the good news of God’s grace for individuals and for the Church.
We Lutherans do not have a perfect church, but we are called to lift the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the perfecter of our faith. Let us proclaim that Gospel like angel messengers – and like Martin Luther.
Have a blessedly loud Reformation,