Category Archives: News and Notes

November 17 – The Thanksgiving Imperative

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

The words are memorable and worth memorizing. The verbs are imperative. Commands. Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. The conditions are unyielding. Always. Without ceasing. In all circumstances.

Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday, falls next week.  National holiday or not, it is for many of us a favorite day.  Family. Feast. Football. All or some of the above.  Of course, not all of us will be able or want to be with family. Some of us don’t like turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pies, or Aunt Mary’s famous candied yams. And maybe you’re boycotting the NFL or just plain don’t care much for football.  Scrooge the holiday, but the biblical imperative remains. Give thanks in all circumstances.

It has been a hard week for some in our church family, a difficult season for others.  One chair will sit empty at the Thanksgiving Day table in too many of our homes. Death’s dark shadow has fallen cold and hard. Difficult diagnoses have been given; the road to recovery has been hard and has not yet reached its end. For others there will be no recovery.

The year has not been an easy one for our nation. Social, political, and cultural conflicts bubble and boil, their toxic fumes fouling the air all of us must breathe.

Concerned for the life of the Christian community, Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected.”  It can seem like that to us, too. But, says Bonhoeffer, we must give thanks for the community in which God has placed us.

Yes, of course, not all of us sense such sadness filling the skies.

The Apostle Paul’s imperative of thanks in all circumstances is not just to those for whom the skies dawn bright and clear day by day.  Nor is it a matter of simply calling to mind enough happy thoughts to cancel the sad thoughts that fill our hearts.  So long as I can muster a long list of things for which I am thankful this Thanksgiving, I will be okay.  It’s not like that.

Give thanks in all circumstances. Not for all circumstances, we are quick and right to point out. Neither can we deny or hide from all circumstances; a coat of cheap paint won’t hide the deep stains on the wall.

In the midst of loss and disappointment, sorrow and grief: give thanks. In the midst of joy and celebration, hope and good cheer: give thanks. When the morning falls on farthest hill; when dark trials come and my heart is filled with the weight of doubt: give thanks: praise him still.

As I write this morning, the hearse has already arrived at the church and the mourners are making their way into the chapel to greet the family.

Give thanks in all circumstances.  An imperative without conditions or exceptions.

Thanksgiving does not enter lightly into all circumstances, but we bid it come because we must. Thanksgiving prepares the way for hope, and hope does not disappoint us.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Weep with those who weep.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  We must. It is an unyielding imperative.

See you Sunday

November 10 – Not your gift? Get over it!

Tomorrow is work day at LPC, and I will show up as usual.

Church work days are a time for all the people of the church to pitch in on clean-up, fix-up, spruce-up projects around the building and grounds. Work days come around twice a year at LPC, and in the fall there’s a lot of leaf raking and winterizing to be done in addition to the walls and woodwork that always need to be scrubbed or painted.

I am passably good at raking leaves, but they tend to steer me clear of wheel barrows, hedge clippers, power tools, hammers, paint brushes, screw drivers and anything else requires advanced operator skill. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. A handyman I am not.

Most of the people at church work days are really nice, and you should come if you have a couple of hours on Saturday morning. Many hands make light work and all that.

Showing up for church work days is not in the pastor’s job description, but I go anyway. So long as they keep me away from something dangerous like a paint brush, my little bit helps. And time I put in at the handle end of a rake is time someone else can give to one of the high skill jobs.

That’s how it is in the church. We pitch in. We do what we can do even if we aren’t first in class. Just as you need to keep me away from paint brushes and power tools, others of us need to stay away from microphones and hospital rooms – but not from worship or from caregiving, just as I don’t stay away from workdays even though I can’t operate a screw driver correctly.

That’s how it is in the church. Continue reading

November 3 – Fake Mail / Real Need

You know, fake mail.  It comes to our house fairly often, and two pieces snuck into our mailbox yesterday.  Fake mail is junk mail dressed up to look like first class mail.  A machine applies a fake stamp to the envelope, a junk mail stamp dressed up to look like a first class stamp.  Then a printer addresses the envelope with a fake font dressed up to look like human handwriting.

I suppose the idea behind fake mail is to fake us out. Just before we drop the fake mail in the trash can with all the other junk mail, we take a second look.  We see the almost human-like handwriting and the stamp in the upper right hand corner and we wonder who sent us some first class mail.  It’s not until we’ve opened the envelope and begin to read the letter that we realize we took the bait.  It was just junk mail dressed up to look like first class mail. Continue reading

October 27 – When Heroes Fail

#ReformationDay500. While some may be preoccupied this coming Tuesday with tricks and treats and little ghosts and goblins knocking at the front door, others of us will have the Chapel Door in Wittenberg in mind. Maybe we’ll lift a good German beer to the occasion rather than sneak another couple of candy corns.

Five hundred years ago this coming Tuesday, All Saints Eve, the young monk – a college professor, really – Martin Luther, posted 95 Theses to the Chapel Door at Wittenberg. 95 complaints about corruption and abuse in the medieval church. We mark the day as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Continue reading

October 20 – A French Revolution

This past Tuesday was the last full day in Paris as Becky and I celebrated our anniversary with an altogether wonderful trip to the City of Light.  We had taken an early morning train to Versailles. We loved the gardens, but the opulence of the palace was overwhelming in the way that too much of something sends the senses reeling, unable or unwilling to take it all in. As someone posted in reply to a photo I posted on Facebook, “it would have made me want to start a revolution, too.”

Returning to Paris mid-afternoon, we roamed our neighborhood on the Left Bank of the Seine, enjoying lunch at a sidewalk café, finding some last minute souvenirs, and visiting both Saint Sulpice and Saint Severin churches. Unlike Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame we had seen earlier in the week, Sulpice and Severin are not so much tourist attractions, though tourists wander through the churches all day long.  Images of the stained glass and magnificent organ of Saint Sulpice and the soaring arches of Saint Severin will remain in my mind’s eyes for years to come. Continue reading