Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thought on 2 Peter 1

This last Sunday at St. Paul's we celebrated Transfiguration Day (according to the 3 year cycle of readings and church year). It is the day when our Lord Jesus Christ went up on the mountain with Peter, James and John, his brother, and was transfigured, showing His glory. His face shone like the sun and His garments were pure white. This gives a glimpse of the glory of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God. (read Matthew 17:1-8)

The epistle reading for that day was in 2 Peter 1. In this reading we have Peter saying, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for were with him on the holy mountain." (2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV) Here we are told by one of the eyewitnesses that he saw Jesus transfigured. How much more do we need to believe. Listen to what he has to say and know that it is true.

But wait. Peter doesn't want you to just trust his word. Instead, he does something amazing. He writes, "And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place." (2 Peter 1:19 ESV) While Peter could say, "I saw it, believe what I say," he doesn't. Instead he points us to that which is more sure, that which we can hold fast to in our lives, the prophetic word. He is pointing us to the Law and Prophets (of what we call the Old Testament) which was shown in the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mountain. You want to be certain that Jesus is the Christ? Look at what the prophets wrote, Peter would say to you. You want to be certain of what is done was according to the will of the Father? Look at the words of the prophets. This Jesus is the fulfillment of those words.

Peter, a man who saw Jesus, spoke with Jesus, walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus and spent 3 years with Jesus, says to you, "Look to the Word of God." Look to what the Holy Spirit has done through the hands of man. Peter writes, "For no prophecy was ever produces by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit," (2 Peter 1:21) We call that verbal inspiration. That is why we believe the Word of God. The Holy Spirit guided the writers of Scripture in the thoughts of their mind and in the words they wrote. Jesus had told the disciples on the night when He was betrayed (we call that Maundy Thursday), "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 15:26 ESV) How did they know what to write? The Holy Spirit guided them. He opened their minds, their thoughts, brought back the memories of what took place and they wrote them down.

I was overwhelmed once again this last weekend as I read these words. I realized once again (as I recall week after week) that the Scripture readings that I was reading in the congregation was truly God's Word. When I end the reading with "This is the Word of God," it truly is.

All we can say in response is "Thanks be to God!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Weekday Parable.

Tuesday morning is a blessing to each one of us. It is a day that follows the dreaded Monday. How would you like to be Monday? No one likes you. People talk bad about you week after week. People dread seeing you. Except, except when you are a holiday like President's Day, when many people have the day off work and school. Then suddenly you are loved. People like you. They rejoice to see you.

Then your cousin, Tuesday, becomes the hated one. After a long weekend (3 days for some, 4-5 days for others) Tuesday becomes the bad one. Tuesday causes people to grumble. And as Monday, you smile. You sit back, enjoy the cup of coffee and rejoice that you aren't so hated for just one week.

Imagine you are Tuesday. You wonder why people suddenly don't like you. Some grumble about you. Others talk poorly about you. Others just downright hate you. What did you do to deserve this treatment? The only answer you can give is "nothing." You did nothing at all. You showed up, just like you do each week. You expect to be greeted like always and you aren't. It hurts, deeply.

At that moment, you realize what your cousin Thursday must go through week after week. By no fault of his own, he is not liked. He is the day before Friday. The day that stands in the way of the end of the week. He is a day that no one really thinks about other than, I wish this day was over." He is a day that is endured. You have been accepted because you are Tuesday. Thursday is put up with because he is not quite Friday. No one really like him.

So there you are. What will you do with that knowledge? Will you rejoice when next week you go back to being the lovable Tuesday? Will you forget about how much people despise Monday because it is Monday? Will you turn a blind eye to the despair that Thursday feels because it is not Friday?

Or will you change your thinking and begin to reach out to Monday in support and encouragement.? Will you give a good word to Thursday, a word of support? Yes, what will you do when this week is over?

Yes, Tuesday is a blessing to us all. As is Monday and Thursday. Each day is different. Each day is special. Each day should be accepted and supported. Yes, Tuesday is here. Welcome Tuesday. Thanks for showing up.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Traveling by Train.

Good morning. Penny and I are currently traveling south on the Amtrak Train #303, Lincoln Service. If you haven't traveled by train lately, it might be the time to consider it. There are good and bad points to train travel. It is limited to traveling by tracks, so there is a limitation on where it can go. But at the same time, it is much more comfortable. The seats are nice and big. We prefer to travel by train rather than by plane. It isn't that I am afraid to fly or don't like to fly but it just isn't what it used to be (what is?) The reality is that train travel isn't what it used to be. Perhaps you traveled by train back in the 50's or 60's. That was when train travel was in decline. In fact, the mess that became train travel in the 60's is what lead to the beginning of Amtrak in the early 70's. And yes, it was a mess for quite a while.

Why do we travel by train? It is comfortable. It is easy. It is relaxing. We see the country. We enjoy the sound and the feel of train travel. There is something about the whistle of a train that is comforting to me. Yes, it does shake, rattle and roll. Yes, when you are walking on a train, you have to make sure that you hang on to the seat backs and watch your step. Some people are surprised at the way it moves when it goes over switches and bridges. It surprises them. Have you ever tried to walk in a moving vehicle at 70 mph? Probably not. I know, an airplane travels much faster but have you ever been in a plane when it hits turbulence? Not fun. It is easier to stay seated in a plane than to walk about, and you aren't allowed to just walk about on a plane. You can on a train.

I am not trying to convince you to like train travel. You will either like it or you won't.. But watch the face of the little 2 year-old when he is on a train, and you will see something magical. Watch the face of a 50 year-old when he is on the train (when he really enjoys it) and you will see something magical.

Lincoln service travels from Chicago to St. Louis, basically running along Interstate 55. There is a stretch between Dwight and Pontiac that reaches 110 mph. That is awesome. Currently we are going 60 mph between Summit, IL and Joliet, IL. Moving pretty good while I sit and type on my computer.

This summer, we will travel the Southwest Chief, the Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle. We have a room for that trip. Nice to have our own room. Here we are in Business class. Nice, comfortable and fast (unless something happens but isn't that the way of all travel - auto, bus or plane?). We will be home soon, rested, ready to face all that is coming down the road.

We had a great weekend in Chicago. But that is for another blog at another time, perhaps. We'll see. Until then, have a great President's Day.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Thoughts from Chicago

Penny and I are in Chicago. I took the weekend off in order to spend time with Penny. It isn't easy for me to take a weekend off. No, the Board of Elders don't forbid me from taking time off. Just the opposite. The Elders at St. Paul's are a very supportive, caring group of men who encourage me to be sure to take care of myself which includes taking time off.

It is hard to take time off because I greatly enjoy leading worship and preaching the Word. I feel very close to the Lord when I am immersed in the Word and leading worship. I also feel very close to the members of the congregation and the people in worship. That Word of God, the Sacrament, the study of the Bible, the sharing of relationships - all are a part of being the body of Christ. And God has charged me with the spiritual care of the people at St. Paul's, Troy (even as He did at Harvel, Ferrin, Altamont and others). As the undershepherd, I find that leading my people in worship is probably the closed to the heavenly praise that we can get here on earth. I remember one member that said she loved the part of the communion service that spoke about joining with "the angels, the archangels and all the company of heaven." It filled her comfort to know that she was at that moment joining with those in heaven. I have never forgot that. And I feel the same way.

As much as I love leading worship, I also love spending this time with my wife. Penny is precious to me. We have been together for 38 years now. I asked her to be my girlfriend at a Valentine's Day dance at Eisenhower High School in Decatur, IL on Feb. 16, 1979. She has been my love ever since, though the love we share has grown, changed, morphed and become what it is today. I love her with all my heart. This time that we spend together is special to us. We long for these days together when my attention is not drawn away by the needs of the sheep. Quite often we travel by train for two reasons: 1) we love it, and it is one of my favorite things in this world, and 2) it gives us time just for the two of us without having to worry about driving, navigating and watching out for the other guy on the road. Yes we do have another long trip planned for the summer. We are going to the LWML convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So you see, I take this time away, not because I don't love my congregation but precisely because I do love them. This is healthy for me and for my relationship with Penny. We grow stronger together and because of the strength of the love we have for each other, we are able to share that love in the way the Lord wants us to - in the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Yes, these are thoughts from Chicago. The early service is about to begin at St. Paul's, Troy. The bell is about to ring. Rev. Thomas will feed the flock. And Penny and I will continue growing together even as they do.

8 years ago on February 15, 2009, I was installed as pastor at Troy. I have rejoiced and continue to rejoice ever since. I look forward to a long, loving relationship. Even as I continue to look forward to a long, loving relationship with my wife.

I am truly blessed by my Lord.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday the 30th. A Surgery and thoughts a week later.

Last Monday, January 30th, I woke up to the reality that it was the day of surgery. Nothing extreme. Not a major type of surgery. Hernia repair. Yes, it would be done laproscopically, with the doctor using the robotics to do the surgery. Nervous? Yes, as one would be when facing a surgery. Why? You just never know what is going to really go on. Penny and I knew that this would be the day. We had been told that it would take place but we had lots of questions. We would end up asking them when we arrived at the surgery center.

But while I was nervous, I was also confident that I was in the hand of the Lord. He had made me that promise in the waters of Baptism. He called me by name. He told me I was His. He would be with me in all that I faced and that included having surgery. So there was a calmness that comes with that knowledge. It is a calmness that comes as a friend sends a prayer via text message. It is a calmness that comes when you recall the 23rd Psalm. It is a calmness that comes through the Lord's Prayer. Does one remain nervous even with that calmness? Yes indeed.

So the morning progressed, we arrived at the surgery center. They took me back, started the IV, checked all the vitals, answered questions. I was surprised. The surgery that we thought would take 30 -45 minutes was going to be longer than that. I wasn't sure that I heard correctly so when Penny was brought back, I asked the nurse, Wayne was his name, to tell her about how long it was. He said between 2-3 hours. Floored us. Then the guy that puts you to sleep (couldn't think of how to spell it), came in, explained that there would be the breathing tube used, explained why, because of the length of surgery, the way it was done, going through the abdomen the way they did, needed to have the help breathing. Nervous? You bet. Calm? In Christ alone was I calm. In myself, I was nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

I wish I would tell you all about the surgery. But I can't. After a kiss and "I love you" with Penny, they wheeled me to the operating room. Off to the table. Wrapping up my arms so they didn't get in the way. Instructions given. Blue mask. Breath. Breath deeply. Looking around, seeing but not seeing (those who have been there know what I mean), the mask, and the next thing I knew, there was a nurse talking to me, telling me to breath. Really? Don't I normally breath? Then she would say that I needed to breath. Take deep breaths. I thought I was. Again. Pain? Not yet. Still groggy. Where was Penny? That was my first thought that I could remember. This was recovery. She would be brought back when I went into the next room. OK. Breath. Others in the room? Yes, I believe so, but then again, I couldn't be sure. You know the feeling, you are there but you aren't. Breath. Pain level? I don't remember what I said. I am sure it hurt. But then again, I didn't know. That stuff they put you out with makes it hard to remember.

Then wheeling out of the recovery into the next level of recovery. Room 13. Really? Room 13? I thought, isn't that unlucky? It was at the end. Perhaps that is where they should put me. Next thought, "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, o what a foretaste..." Singing. It felt good to sing. So I sang. There was my lovely wife. A kiss, a hand and I felt like I was complete again. The Lord holding me while my wife stood with me. How much better could it get than that? It couldn't. Ouch, That didn't feel good. Sing some more. So I did. Songs just kept coming to me. So I kept singing. Maybe that is why they put me in Room 13, at the end, so I wouldn't disturb those around me.

I must say, I was no longer nervous. It was over. Now for the healing. Eat something. Drink something. No longer told to breath. Strange feeling like that. But the one thing that wasn't strange: Penny holding my hand, loving me, and the Lord holding me, loving me. Prayers from so many people, holding me in Christ, loving me. I have to say, WOW! All the prayers, folding me in the warmth of the Holy Spirit, assuring me that I was not alone. The Lord was with me. My family was with me. My friends and church family were with me. All in prayer. All in Christ. And in the end, there was nothing better for the day than knowing that.

The healing would come. Soon I would leave Room 13 and go home. But that didn't change anything. The Lord still held me. My wife still was with me. My family still prayed for me. My church family and friends still prayed for me. And I knew, it was going to be all right.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Thankful. That summarizes how I feel right now. Thankful for what? It might seem difficult to be thankful bring laid up and unable to do things that I would like to do. But let me list some of the things I am thankful for right now.

Prayers - so many prayers from so many people. What a powerful feeling to be a part of the body of Christ and know that within that body, there are those who care enough to pray for me.

Pain medicine, doctors who know how to fix the broken body, nurses that care for you before and after surgery, a soft couch, a laptop, two dogs that really make me smile and show unconditional love, blankets, hot tea, family (oh how I am thankful for family who share their love, give their support and make me smile), stitches that hold you together, cell phones, Internet, sweatshirts, sweat pants, pillows, and the list can go on.

I am thankful for Penny. She puts up with my grumbling and hardheadedness. She loves me more than I deserve and takes care of me.

The Lord, who gives healing. Knowing I am in His hand. Knowing He is caring for the sheep of this pasture even while I am sitting here recovering. The love of Christ for me, giving Himself for me is truly the most amazing gift one could ever receive.

There is so much more I can be thankful for. I pray that the people of our nation would quite their bickering and bullying and learn to get along again. I don't care which side of the issue you find yourself, you do not have the right to bully others, make fun of them, call them names, etc. Teach your children how to act properly instead of like a spoiled child in a grocery store that doesn't get his/her way.

Thankful that I can write a blog. Thankful. O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever. Amen.