The season of Easter continues, but the excitement fades as we tuck Jesus safely into the future, anticipating his return, (but not too quickly, or he’ll spoil the fun). For many of us, the step after resurrection is the ascension which separates us from God’s Messiah and makes us settle into a very long wait.
Well, I’m not sure any of us would say that we expected – or even welcome – the passing of a one-year anniversary for the pandemic. And yet… On the other hand… Looking at it from another angle… There is call for thanking God for the last twelve months. Despite the upheaval, the change, the challenge, the constantly moving reality that has been pandemic-patterned lives, we have been the Church for all 365 days of the last year. In frustration, I’ve heard folks say, “But we’re not doing anything,” probably referring to gathering for worship. Nothing could be less true. Here is a brief look at what I give thanks for this day (sorry, the list is long).
The paradox of religious faith today is that the church has, on the one hand, never been as irrelevant as it is today. On the other hand, the faith of the church has never been more essential. In a world that becomes ever more secularized and so, less religious, the role that faith played in the world has been abandoned. To me, it means that love has become scarce just when it is most needed.
You sit in the optometrist’s chair and they say, “A or B?” as they flip lenses. The choice is binary, one or the other. You cannot pick both. You cannot say, “Neither.” When our son was young, we learned never to ask open ended questions like, “What vegetable do you want for dinner?” We said, “Peas or green beans?” Our whole data driven world is binary – ones or zeros. Binary choice. We humans like binary choices.
Troop Zero is a heartwarming movie about a group of kids who have been labeled uncool, lame, and losers by the “cool” kids. The “cool” kids are taught to think this way by the “cool” adults who think the same way about the parents of the misfit kids. When they try to be part of the scout troop in town, they are forced to form their own. Zero is assigned as the troop number to make a point.
Most people say they pray. Even among those who don’t connect with a religious tradition or even believe in God, a fair number still say they pray. For some, prayer is like a purchase we make. We ask God to fill a need in return for our promise to be good, or at least better. For some, God is a therapist, listening to our rage or pain, and providing comfort in return. For some, prayer is an obligation we must meet to stay in God’s good graces. Still others offer prayers because they feel helpless and don’t know what else to do. There is nothing wrong with any of these prayers. The psalms (the prayerbook of the Bible) show us a broad variety of prayers spoken in gratitude, despair, lament, confession, and praise.
Dealing with Covid-19 has impacted every aspect of congregational life. We have, like most of you, found daily changes and adaptations we need to make to continue to be the church. Some have said that being a pastor these days is like learning to fly an airplane – while you’re flying the airplane! This is true for most of us, I imagine.
I find myself full of gratitude today. I previewed the first Church School lesson for our new School of Love. It is awesome! Kelly Heuton has learned a whole new way to offer Jesus to the children of the congregation. I listened to the plans to launch affirmation classes this evening. Anne Williams has morphed everything to keep kids safe while she does what we always have – raise up disciples. I have heard praise for the music that David Fandrich made part of last weeks worship. At our prayer service this evening on Zoom, people were thankful to come together on Zoom to do what we do as people of God – “persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12) I wrote a letter to the congregation to thank everyone for the financial support we have received that has kept us going through the pandemic. Our finances are solid.
Hello and God’s Peace! My name is Matthew Milbrodt. I am originally from the rural Toledo suburb of Genoa, Ohio, and I am coming to this internship via Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. I am a 2007 graduate of Bowling Green State University with a bachelor’s degree in adolescent education for English language arts (I had intended to teach high school literature). My home congregation is St. John Lutheran Church in Williston, Ohio. The area of Northwestern Ohio that I’m from hosts a delightful mix of experience and culture from rural, urban, and Lake Erie island life (and when I say I lived near Cedar Point, people recognize the area). The majority of my family have lived and worked in this same part of Ohio for generations.