A Note From Pastor Martin's Desk...
A Marvelous Footnote
November 15, 2022
“If I am asked what are my grounds for hope, this is my answer:
Light is lord over darkness, truth is lord over falsehood, life is ever lord over death.
Of all the facts I daily live with, there is none more comforting than this: If I have two rooms, one dark, the other light, and I open the door between them, the dark room becomes lighter without the light one becoming darker. I know this is no headline, but it’s a marvelous footnote. And God comforts me in that.”
This brief meditation by the Lutheran theologian Gehard Emmanuel Frost is one of those literary bits I desperately wish I had written. It reminds me again what the Reign of God looks like, which is the highest compliment I can pay any such writing. It fills me with hope and peace, two commodities I can never get enough of.
We live in a time of pandemic, bitter political divides, warfare, and the anxiety of climate change. Meanwhile, we watch the days grow shorter as we sink into the darkness of the coming winter months. Who could blame us for feeling a bit
pessimistic. At the same time, however, we are entering into the church season of Advent, which embraces simultaneously the ideas of anticipating and coming. We anticipate the coming of a star and the inbreaking of God’s glory into our benighted lives. These uncertain days will give way to better ones as surely as night must give way to morning. It is already written in the pages of creation and in the DNA of our lives. Nothing can stop it.
May God give you peace during these anxious times and fill you with the certain hope of better days to come. Pastor Martin
Now is Enough
October 16, 2022
Every now and then I have to do a reality check.
When it seems the wheels are coming off the proverbial wagon of the world, I ask myself whether they are really coming off any more today than they were yesterday, whether it’s just that I may have liked the old wheels and someone has replaced them with new ones, or whether I’m just turning into a pessimistic old fart – always a possibility. Perhaps it is a combination of all three. For whatever reason, I seem to find myself complaining more.
Although I may seem enthusiastic in my complaining, I don’t really like the way it makes me feel. If I stop to take stock, I’m likely to find the things I complain about are comparatively few. Let’s see … 1. Politics, 2. The environment, 3. Lack of civility 4. People who wear slogan t-shirts, 5. Autotuned pop singers … that’s about it. It’s just that I am likely to focus on these so much that they seem like a lot. Like I said: time for a reality check.
The reality is that for whatever shortcomings there may be – and there are certainly real – this is still an amazing time and place to be alive for the simple reason that it is now. At this moment, I am sitting on our deck writing. It is a perfect autumn day. The last few cool nights have made the trees explode with color. I have three cats who, in response to the cooler weather, will instantly distribute themselves across my belly when I lay down later for a nap, creating my own Thunder Blanket. Despite what I hear on the news, the people directly around me continue to be civil to, and generally caring for, each other. Above all, however, this moment is filled with potential. I have a full day to act in the world, to be kind to someone, to create something of beauty, to encourage someone, to build something, to make a difference. I pray that I will not contribute to this world’s problems, but rather will leave it just a little bit better for having been here. It is still a beautiful place. It is still worthy of our care and encouragement. It is still the only world we have. It is still our Garden of Eden.
All We Need is Love
August 16, 2022
I came into pastoral leadership at a challenging time. After decades of growth, the protestant church in America was just starting to come to grips with the fact that it was shrinking. The hand-wringing began in earnest, and we began throwing massive amounts of energy and resources at what we saw as our two main problems: how to get more people, and how to get more money. As I pass my 25-year anniversary of ordination, it seems a good time to look back and see how we’ve done. The truth is, for all our anxious efforts, the sky is still falling. Numbers continue to decline; budgets continue to shrink; worry continues to abound.
Why have we been so completely ineffective in solving these problems? There is probably more than one reason. It doesn’t help that the church, and especially the more conservative denominations, continues to view political coercion as an effective means of mission. Experience has consistently shown, however, that when church and state try to inhabit the same space, both are damaged. Morality can only be modeled, never legislated.
So why have we been so ineffective? Because we have turned what should be a joy into a burden, an invitation into an obligation. When summarizing his teachings, Jesus reduced it all to one simple idea: love God, love each other, and do so with a prodigal abandon. Loving God does not require knowledge or training, just the will to draw nearer to God. Loving each other does not require business models, clever new approaches, advertising, or new technology, just the willingness to see each other as part of the same family, and to express our love in tangible ways. That’s it. That’s why we’re here. That’s all God wants of us.
We are not being asked to develop a program, memorize a gospel, post on Instagram, sign a petition, or open a storefront church. We are being asked to do one thing, and one thing only: to boldly bring the power of love to bear on those around us.
The Beatles were right: All we need is love.
Surely, this commandment that I am giving you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross over and get it so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)