The Reflection of Cats and the Cradle

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I am about to spend time with my family.  This week we will get together and camp at Table Rock Lake.  My parents will be there and my sisters.  I do not know how to feel about all of that in light of one thing; they have not come to Illinois specifically to visit Cassie and me.  We have lived in Staunton for a year.  They have been here on their way through to my grandparents, but they have not stayed here.

We have told them we want them to come and visit us.  Stay with us for a while and go do things with us.  I am empathetic to te fact when children see  their parents deteriorate they will want to be at their aid.  However, I would like to spend more time with my parents now before they are in need of my aid.  I would like our present relationship to be one of health and activity.

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Trinity 4-Genesis 50:15-21, Romans 8:18-23, Luke 6:36-42

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Our current sufferings often do not lead us to be merciful and forgiving to our spouses, children, brothers and sisters.  When we are hurt, betrayed, or slapped in the face, we seek vengeance rather than a turn of the cheek, a word of forgiveness, and mercy.  We prove we are no better than our earthly teacher the devil.  Repent.  Stop seeking justice by your own hand, seek mercy instead.

Joseph’s brothers hated him because of his father’s love for him.  They tried to kill him by throwing him in a well and when that did not work they sold him into slavery.  While in slavery Joseph escaped death and now stands in a high position of authority over his brothers.

According to our human justice system vengeance is a must.  It is the type of vengeance we seek when faced with our bullies at a ten year high school reunion.  It is the type of vengeance we seek in flaunting success or struggle to an ex-spouse.  When we feel like we suffered a cheap shot, we return in kind.  Nations rise up against nation in pursuit of that kind of justice.  We humans want sin punished.  Often not our own sin, but the sin of others.

Our justice system is similar to God’s in that way, which is funny to me.  God hates sin.  He wants it punished. Specifically He wants your sin punished.  While we humans punish by gossip, threats, jail time, war, and possibly death of the body; God wants sin damned to hell.  He hates sin so much He makes it as if it never existed to him.  So He put His Son on a Cross.

He took two planks of wood and made a Cross out of them.  He punished sin and damned it to hell in the body and blood of His Son.  Our sins slap the face of God but rather than raise a hand to you and me, God raise His hand to His Son.  Jesus suffered the punishment that is rightfully yours.  He died, because that is what must happen to Sin, it must die.  Such is the mercy of God to kill His Son rather than you for your sin.  But, your Lord did not stay dead.  He is resurrected.  His mercy is not just that He has punished sin in the flesh of His Son, but also that God rewarded the faithfulness of His Son by raising Him to life eternal.

His resurrection is your resurrection, because you are baptized into Him; His death AND resurrection. You and I wait for the final judgment in anticipation now.  Even though the last day will be a terrible day, it is a day you may look forward to.  Because when Jesus Christ returns the Sons of God will be revealed, and those Sons of God are all of you!

The children of God are not cast into hell because Jesus was cast there in your place.  You claim the reward Jesus won by His faith; a body free from death and decay and peace with God.  But you do not have that life and body yet in full.  And because of that we groan.  We groan because we are ready to be fully free of death and decay, we are ready to have them finally judged according to God’s justice.

We Christians have the advantage, we live in the knowledge that the war between death and God is ended and won in Jesus and we hope we will soon enter into the final victory party and no longer live with foretastes.  We groan to be completely full.  We groan for the full Mercy of God to be revealed at the last day; because, as you have already heard, when Resurrection happens death and decay is finally over for all creation.  Until then, we groan in anticipation of that final day.  We groan, not just you, we all groan, the whole church and all of creation.

Like children who are shown a cookie and then told they must eat Broccoli and Brussels sprouts before they can have the cookie we groan.  We are shown our future victory over the grave and death in the risen Jesus Christ and then we are told He will return again, and here we are; surrounded by death, decay, disease, and sin.  We can be very tempted by the devil to despair in our suffering.  However, as Saint Paul says, “our current sufferings do not compare to the Glory to be revealed.”

The final glory to be revealed is our full adoption as children of God.  We will fully be like Jesus in resurrection.  We will get, according to my very bad analogy, the cookie.  Our eternal life is not one of suffering and decay, but one of glorious real bodies of life just as Jesus body is real and glorious and living.  Just saying that almost makes me groan out loud in anticipation.  I must be careful though, as we all do, not to despair.

I love vegetables now, but as a child I hated Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts.  They always seemed to be on my plate.  Suffering never seems to end.  There is always something.  Cancer, Arthritis, Death and Disease, broken bones, broken hearts, hurt egos, and divided congregations.  We can despair in our current sufferings, it is an easy temptation to do so.  When I was young in my faith suffering seemed to be as wanted as vegetables.  Then I learned God works all things for my good, for our good, as His children.  Joseph tells us that very thing.  You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.

Do not despair.  In the face of all our sufferings of the present time we cling to Christ.  This is the nourishment that comes through our suffering.  We can kick and scream all we want now.  We can often be angry, unforgiving, and unmerciful in our sufferings here on earth. However, we learn through suffering that we are no better than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He groaned on the Cross.  He cried out in a loud voice to His Father and gave up his life.  He did this for you.  He was judged by your sin and damned to hell so that you are judged by His righteousness and given forgiveness and life.  He was condemned so that you are not.  He was given up to the hands of sinful men, so that you might rest in peace in the hands of God.  Your God loves you.  His Mercy is His Son.  His Son is here for you again.  You can taste the final victory over death and disease NOW even though you might be in the middle of suffering.

Joseph told His Brothers, “Do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.”  Thus He comforted them and spoke kindly to them.  Your God says the same to you.  Do not despair.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I have provided for you in My Son.  He is my love.  He is my mercy for you.  He gives you a full portion of Mercy today so that you may be full of joy and hope, no matter how full your plate is with suffering and struggle,  as you wait in eagerness for the promised Resurrection.  Amen.

Boxes

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I made a dwelling of boxes.  We have several of them in our living room.  We are packing things away.  Marking this box and that one with stickers to know which goes where.  We are sending the majority of our things to Springfield, IL.   They will rest in my grandparents basement for a year or so.  The remnant will come with us to St. Louis.

I do not like moving.  Even though we are heading back to a familiar place.  We are still leaving friends behind, again.  I had a great time with some guys and gals I know pretty well.  We were at DeCamp Junction until 11 p.m.  WE had some pizza, played some volleyball, watched some softball, and had some beers.  The time was most enjoyable.

I always struggle with the boundaries of friendship.  I do not believe I am to be an island.  I do not think I could handle that as a pastor.  Being around men and women my own age is important to me.  Letting them seem my relationship with Cassie is healthy.  They need to see examples of Christian Marriage.  Trust and shared company, confession and forgiveness, and the truth that a martial relationship is the death of individuals and the raising up of one flesh, sort of like a strange baptism.  A resurrection into a more human state perhaps.  Anyway…There must be lines though.  Where are they?  What are their markers?

There are obvious boundaries.  I say obvious, I should say obvious to me because I have heard of them being overstepped.  I stayed away from the after DeCamp party that was taking palce at  house.  That seems like an obvious place to stay away from at 11 p.m.  IN my opinion there is little good that could come from being there.  I must know my limits.  I must know the boundaries of my relationship.  By my being there the place is not more holy.  The devil attacks here and there.  Have another drink; tell another joke; spread a little more gossip; have a glance over there; when these whispers hit my ears I know it is time to go to sleep.  What that looks like cannot be my concern.

I do not want to move.  I would like to keep having these struggles with the people here.  They are certainly pertinent at the Seminary too.  There are many men and women who struggle with these boundaries as well I am sure.  Time spent talking will be fruitful. Bouncing ideas off one another in light of a year of experience cannot be a bad thing in anyway.  Until then it is boxes.

I played with the dogs.  I hid behind the walls of my dwelling popping out.  They did not know what to make of it.  Boxes are not all bad I guess.  Saying boxes are evil is a little strong.  They are a thorn.

The End of Vicarage

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This year has  taught me a great deal.  More than ought to be attempted captured in a post here.  Roughly 5 weeks.  We have all the arrangements made.  We are moving back to St. Louis on the 17th of July.  We would rather not move again.

Not for the hastle of moving mind you.  We have grown to love this town.  We have friends.  We love our neighbors.  We like the smallness and quite atmosphere.  There are few cars on the road.  More bikes than anything.  There are few sirens in the middle of the night, but there are midnight trains.

Next year brings more class.  I am bittersweet to it all.  I acknowledge the benefit to me as I am learning.  I acknowledge my desire not to be in rooms for another year.  Tension seems to have followed my life for more than 6 years now.  I am ready for the tension to end.  It is a tension between permanence and impermanence.

My first parish, God willing, will be my paradise.  Permanence, Ministry, people to love and struggle alongside, and a garden to grow.  By the Grace of God this will come to us.  Hopefully He will find us worthy of such things.

Bacon and Eggs

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God is so good;

God is so good;

God is so good, He’s so good to me.

I remember that song from my youth and for some reason it always pops into my head when I am making bacon.  Thick black coffee, farm fresh eggs, and salty hand cut bacon are perhaps a health vice I cannot be without for too long. Well, the coffee is not a vice.  At least, not until another health report from “them” comes out.  Farm fresh eggs the same.  Bacon however, I cannot see that being on any of their “good for you to eat every morning” lists anytime soon.

On a note that is on the other end of the spectrum as Bacon and Eggs; I am going to start riding my bike again.  This must happen.  I must overcome my lack of motivation.  I want to do very little as I am writing sermons, packing, and preparing to depart from this place.  I must ride my bike and get back into some shape.  I am planning on riding it back and forth as much as I can next year.  The gas we save will help with rent and other costs.

The Breeze in the Morning

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I like that the grass is not wet.  There is a cool breeze that eats up the moisture.  When I take my dogs out at 5:30 I want to stay out while they want to come back inside.  They want to lay around our bed.  I want to lay in the grass.  I want that cool breeze blowing over me also.  In a place where the air is usually thick with pollen and humidity, this mornings cool dry breeze is more welcome than cup of coffee I am sipping.