Pastor Mark’s Devotions, April 1

“April Fool’s Day”

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

April Fool’s Day, April 1st, is the day practical jokes are played on unsuspecting fools. We have a member in our church who loves to catch me by surprise on this foolish day each year. I remain on guard, even on locked down, because I know anything is possible. But April 1, 2002 was no joke. Interestingly enough, I received a phone call from none other than Michael Dennis. Yes, the same Michael Dennis that I wrote about yesterday. He was alive and well on that particular April 1st. He was serving on the Call Committee at Sierra Lutheran, my former congregation in California. My family and I had just moved to Oregon, less than a year earlier, to serve another congregation. He was calling to see if I would consider returning to Sierra as their pastor. “Is this a joke?”, I asked. “No joke”, he said. That opened the door to a period of time that would get worse before it got better.

We heard the sobering news from President Trump yesterday that this Covid19 pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. I know many of you have faced situations in which your life has become worse before it has gotten better. You have faced cancer and had to endure chemotherapy. You have faced strokes and had to persevere through physical therapy. Some of you have lost your jobs, financial security and retirement and had to fight your way back. Many of you have lost spouses or loved ones, and have had to adjust to life alone. There are many other situations in which people have had to face circumstances that have become worse before they have gotten better.

Hearing the President’s words yesterday and waking up wide eyed this morning at 5:30 a.m., a flood of memories ran through my mind. I thought I might share a snapshot of my own “worst” experience before it got better.

That April Fools phone call from Michael Dennis would end up taking us back to Sierra Lutheran in Central California. Over the next three years it just seemed like things went from bad to worse. When we moved back, we couldn’t afford to buy a house because house prices had increased. We ended up living in 6 different locations over the next 18 months – a guest house, a mountain cabin, an apartment over a garage – finally culminating in living in our 23-foot trailer in the back of our church parking lot. We took showers from a hose at the church with our bathing suits on. No joke! We definitely had to look like fools lathering up for the whole world to see. But actually, the kids and I had quite a bit of fun jumping around on the hot concrete. I know, I’m not arguing that I am a fool and a few other things!

Church life was struggling. Family life was struggling. Snow storms delayed the building of our home. Finally, on my 43rd birthday, during a Bible study, my doctor called and said the results of my colonoscopy showed cancer. I would have surgery the following week and spend the following 8-10 weeks at home. Being locked down at home was probably my “worst” moment. But in the darkness of that moment, GOD RESTORED MY SOUL! Little did I know that the worst was going to become my best!

Why I mentioned earlier about waking wide eyed at 5:30 a.m. is because, after my surgery, God woke me up told me that He needed to spend time with me. I am not, by nature, an early morning person, but for those next weeks of recovery, I woke up with ease and met God in his Word from 5:30 a.m. until 7:00a.m. God opened my eyes to his Word, showed me things I had never seen before, and healed my heart as only he could. Before my surgery, my soul was dry as dust. I was worn out and beaten down from all the battles. But God restored my soul and lifted my spirit as King David wrote, “He put a new song in my mouth”. When I returned to church, hearts began to heal. As we settled into our home, our family continued to heal. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, God was moving and God was healing. New life sprung forth in all kinds of directions.

Not long after unity had settled in, I received another call from a Call Committee member. John Homes, from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church called me. Because of those 5:30 a.m. meetings with the Lord, my heart was full and I felt I truly had something to offer this new congregation in Washington.

For a period of time at Sierra Lutheran, things got worse before they got better. But God did amazing things during that time. How can the most difficult time of my life also be the best time of my life? I’ll tell you with all the confidence that this one soul can confess – it is because of the love, grace, and power of our Lord Jesus Christ! And the truth is, when we moved to Washington, we would face more moments when things would get worse before they got better. But in all things, God has continued to shine His love, grace and power upon us.

St. Paul points us to the truth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul certainly knew what it was for things to get worse before they got better. He describes his life to his congregation in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. He tells them of having been put in prison, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, and left out on the open sea among other things. Within a few days of Paul’s conversion, his fellow Jews were already plotting to murder him for preaching about Christ. But those initial difficult days gave rise to a mighty evangelist who finished as one of the best and greatest at his craft!

Yes, in the next few weeks, this pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. And WE NEED TO PRAY for God to Protect, Provide and Pour out his Power on the sick and those serving on the front lines. As we move forward, let us put our trust in God. It might look like foolishness to the world. But know this, from the worst of times, God can turn our worst into our best. If you have a hard time believing, Mary Magdalene and the disciples have a story to tell about one Easter morning.                      

It will get better!

Your Fellow Fool with Foolishness in his heart,

Pastor Mark



Pastor’s Blog March 17

 

St. Patrick’s Day

                 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:15

 

Are you wearing green today? Perhaps your pajamas? Typically, this is the day the color green is splashed all across our country like no other. Hats and shamrocks, green glimmering vests, glitter and gold, beer and whiskey and corn beef and cabbage rule the day. Even the Chicago River runs green on March 17th. But not today. There will not be any grand, public celebrations as all public gatherings, bars and restaurants have been shut down.

 

I am 75% Norwegian. I figure that’s what pushed me half way through the door at Our Saviour’s in 2007. But I do have a touch of Irish blood in me. My great, great grandfather broke the rules and fell in love with a young Irish girl named Miss Mary Fee. Generations late, that touch can still be seen in my brother’s subtle red hair. Growing up I touched many a lefsa and lutefisk but corn beef was never touched and never on the menu. I had no contact with the meaning of St. Patty’s Day, only that people wore green. Perhaps that is how Christians today respond to the day of Pentecost. We wear red, but most folks understand very little of the Holy Spirit.

 

So, what is the true significance of St. Patrick’s Day?

 

Patrick lived in the 5th Century and died on March 17th. He is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people.

That bears repeating. St. Patrick was credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland. Now that is something to celebrate. St. Paul writes, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As is it written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15.

Over the centuries, I’m sure for most, the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day has been lost and it’s simply a day to party with friends. Today, the ability to celebrate with others has been denied. We have been told to shelter at home. But being separated from others does not negate our ability to acknowledge and give thanks to God for the message behind the man. Let us take a moment today to praise God for Patrick, the man that endured great hardship, became a believer in Jesus Christ, and influenced a nation through faith. But let us take a lifetime to live in thanksgiving for God, whether we are together or not, for the message and the man, immortal, who has brought salvation for all, Jesus Christ. We have been touched and are to be transformed by this gift of faith. And whether the river runs green or not – nothing can deny the blood that ran red upon the cross.

Today, we are unable to physically run with quickened feet to share the Good News with our neighbors. But sometime today, perhaps with a phone call, text or email – you might ask the question, “Do you know the significance behind the man, St Patrick?” And who knows what the Holy Spirit might do – a river of living water might flow – one that results in a great party celebration! Remember, Jesus has already washed and blessed your feet! 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!                                                      Celebrating with you All, Pastor Mark