April 13 Devotion

Greetings,

As Sunday April 11th neared I braced myself a bit.  There was word of a “White Lives Matter” protest based on posters that had been placed around cities such as Fargo:  posters with a stereotypical Aryan-looking man’s face on them, square jawed, light hair, master-race look from WWII.  Thankfully, virtually no one showed up in Fargo or anywhere for those rallies.  In Fargo a couple hundred folks did show up, peacefully affirming diversity instead.  Then came Monday.  A colleague from Brooklyn Center shared the news of another black man killed by police and chaos into the streets.  On the national news there were images of a black soldier being pepper-sprayed in his car by police.  As the day unfolded there was a school shooting in Knoxville killing one student, injuring more and injuring a police officer.  A police chase in Georgia ended up in three officers shot and killed.  On a personal note a family friend collapsed at work with a possible heart-attack.  An acquaintance’s daughter took her life.  A vandalism-spree damaged 60 cars in Devil’s Lake Sunday night.

 

Friends, we can brace ourselves in this life.  But, bad, stressful stuff can still take us by surprise.  I saw a number of Facebook posts Monday with varied versions of “This just has to stop!”  “We have to be better to each other!”  “Our nation’s people are tired!”  Not long after the beating, trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus, not long after the word of the disappearance of Jesus’ body, with a few accounts of a risen Christ, Jesus’ disciples were sticking close to one another.  They were supporting each other and bracing for any next “bad” thing that might come their way.  Jesus’ resurrection had not claimed and transformed their lives…because every time the risen Christ drew near. his followers were terrified and filled with fear.  On Sunday we’ll read Luke 24:36b-48 and hear their fear described.

 

Jesus’ followers were bracing themselves for the worst.  So, the risen Christ kept appearing with the words, “Peace be with you” and “Do not be afraid.”  Peace be with you.  Some days we desperately need to hear those whispered into our lives.  A sunrise, a world covered in a blanket of snow, the laughter of a toddler, the nuzzle of a four-legged friend vying for a bit of attention, sure, none of those things is as big a sign as the risen Christ standing in our midst, but they are all good things.

 

Another good thing the risen Christ shares with his followers when he appears is a word to look at his feet and hands–scarred, that is, wounded and healed.  Sometimes the best thing Christ’s church can share is the truth that life scars us, as well as scares us.  Life scars us is a much different word than life wounds us.  Scars imply healing after the pain.  Scars imply joy on the other side of despair, hope on the other side of fear.  Scars imply, when bracing ourselves isn’t enough and life knocks us down, God will tend our wounds and lift us back up, again and again.

 

Today, I invite us to work with God.  Acknowledge another who is hurting.  Acknowledge some days life is difficult.  Then help others up in every little and large way you can–in the name of the risen Christ.

 

In God’s Peace and Christ’s New Life,

 

Pastor Roger

April 9 Devotion

Easter 2021 is now behind us–at least the calendar day is.  As a pastor, the Sunday morning part of Easter was less than many past Easters; With 43 in worship it was more personal than on-line only Easter 2020.  Still, no congregational singing, no packed sanctuary, no sonrise service, and no in-person Holy Thursday service meant some things were “less than.”  Am I alone in that experience whether you decided to attend Easter worship in-person or on-line?  Easter 2021 started me thinking in a new way about the first Easter.  No choirs of angels, no joyous family gatherings in a sanctuary, no kids rehearsing or sharing a program.  Easter began with delicate whispers of hope into some very confusing moments.

 

An empty tomb, folded up grave-clothes, a rolled-away stone, and a missing body were reasons for more sadness in the beginning.  The gospel of Mark has a point where it says the disciples, “told no one.”  The gospel of John has the men is disbelief, running to the tomb to look, then running back to their hiding place.  All the gospels show Easter dawning in small and gentle ways.  The way Mary heard her name.  The way two people recognized a stranger as Christ when he broke bread at their table before supper.   Close disciples see him while hiding behind locked doors lest they, too, be caught and crucified.  Maybe Easter 2021 was more Easter-like than I knew.

 

A few people gathered to hear the message.  Others heard the message in their own homes.  As the week unfolded but a couple of people I haven’t seen in a long while stopped by the church and we had the chance to visit.  These next weeks as vaccination numbers increase, when we step out more from behind our “safe spaces” to interact with each other (albeit masked) I invite us to focus on the small signs of new life.  I invite us to focus our attention less on the big “no’s” that have been part of our last year.  I invite us to gratefully engage with the little “yes’s” that are starting to be a part of life again.  May the Easter God give us a new and larger appreciation for the good in the smallest of things.  May the risen Christ allow us to see the radiant image of God in the most familiar of people.  May the Spirit whisper delicate blessings into ears ready to hear.  Easter isn’t over.  Easter 2021 has barely begun.  Keep watch for God’s “yes’s” each day.

Easter Blessings,

Pastor Roger

March 12 Devotion

Dear Friends, 

 

Thursday Evening I received my second Covid-19 vaccine dose.  It was a full night at the former Gordman’s building.  Essentia, Sanford and Cass County were engaged in getting the vaccines that last inch into people’s arms.  Lines were much longer than the evening I went for my first shot.  Still, I didn’t hear complaining.  Along my way I wished various medical personnel well and mentioned the busy day.  They were celebrating the busy day because it meant the vaccine was reaching people.  I struck up a conversation with the person next to me in line–who reminded me of Ardis.  She was so grateful to be getting her second shot.  She had three siblings/siblings-in-law that had been diagnosed with Covid-19.  One didn’t recover, died without family near as she had to be flown from Bismarck to one of the hospitals in the Twin Cities.  I shared I lost a friend to Covid-19 just after Easter 2020.  I didn’t share about the week one of our church families prepared for a funeral and two other family members died of Covid-19.  I can’t speak for everyone in the former Gordman’s building.  But, I can say the two of us who were talking were very grateful to be getting our second dose of the vaccine.  I can also add I heard lots of people thanking the medical staff profusely.  It felt like it was an entire building filled with gratitude–and hope.
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Sunday, March 14th our worship service theme is “Turn to God’s Healing Love.”  It’s based on Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21.  One speaks of a snake on a stick, the other speaks of the cross and we’ll sort through that Sunday.  Suffice it to say, both Scriptures invite us to “turn back” to the God at the center of our shared life who longs to heal us.  Both invite us to “look up” to God and how God longs to give us new life.
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What has helped you “look up” toward better days?  When have you felt hope lately?  Celebrate those things.  How might you encourage others to trust God seeks to heal and uplift?
 
May the Lord bless you,
Roger