Ponder Anew… for March 2019

Do you have neighbors who go overboard at Christmas or Halloween when it comes to outdoor lighting and decorations? Also, have you wondered about homes decorated for Easter during the Lent season? You must have seen such homes. Most of their owners have no clue about Good Friday or Easter.

Also, if you ask the average child what Easter is all about, he or she will tell you about the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs and baskets. (By the way, aren’t you annoyed by that Easter basket ‘grass’ that sticks to everything in our homes and lingers long after Easter?) It’s not just children with cute ideas–many adults don’t know about Good Friday and Easter. They do not know what Jesus did for them. You and I have been taught by our Pastors and Sunday School teachers why the Friday before Easter is called Good. We were also taught why we celebrate Easter.

But we have the task of telling others. In Romans 10, St. Paul asks us “’13…[E]veryone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’ 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15).

So tell others your plans for this lent season and the coming holy week. Tell them why you attend Wednesday night Lent services in addition to the Sunday services. Start with the children and grandchildren in the family. You can also tell relatives, friends, and coworkers. Tell them why YOU go to church. Tell them because of Jesus, even though YOU may die, YOU will not stay dead. Talk about yourself and what Jesus did for YOU. Invite them to our Easter Service and breakfast (which I have to say is pretty good!)

Now Jesus loves all of His creation including bunnies. He also created the Cacao trees that give us chocolate. But don’t you think it is a little bit strange that parents and grandparents exalt bunnies, jellybeans and decorations over Jesus? And that too is on His Resurrection Day?

That’s why you and I should ask ourselves “How can they hear if I don’t tell them?” They deserve to hear the Good News.

God Bless Us All,
~ Pastor Ben

Ponder Anew… for February 2019

(It’s snowing as I am writing this.)

A little city girl went to the countryside for a family vacation. The rustic inn where her family stayed was next to farmlands and hilly grassy areas. The family arrived at the inn when it was nighttime. The next morning the little girl woke up and looked out of her room’s window and saw sheep for the first time. Excited she woke up her father, “Dad! Look! There are sheep, so
many of them! And they are so white! They are like clouds!”

That night, while the little girl slept, a snowstorm dumped a foot of snow on the hills covering the green grass areas completely. The girl woke up and rushed to the window to see the white sheep. She was surprised and asked, “Dad, they were so white yesterday like the clouds, but why are they dirty?”

Dear Sister and Brother in Christ, just as the sheep looked white against a green grass background but dirty in the snow, you and I look good in this world but let’s ask ourselves how we look in God’s perfect standards. Let’s not fret or fear because Jesus, who tells us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”(Matthew 5:48), is with us and His Spirit will guide us in the coming days. God bless us all.

In Your Service

~Pastor Ben

Ponder Anew… for January 2019

A shepherd was asked why sheep often stray or get lost. He answered, “They are busy nibbling and don’t see where they are.” We tend to do the same. A little of the world here, a little of the world there, a bunch of this and a twig of that; and before you know it, we sheep are lost in the world. That is why God’s word teaches us to ‘turn to Him’, ‘abide in Him’, and ‘follow Him’.

In the New Year “…by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us…” (Hebrews 10:19-20), let us live as God’s faithful children in penitential, prayerful, and powerful ways! And as Jesus taught us whenever trials come along, let’s just pray “your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) and God Himself will lead us to higher ground.

In Your Service

~Pastor Ben

From the Pastor’s Pen

Have you ever had the power go out in the middle of the night and reach for a flashlight only to find the batteries dead?  When it’s not needed, the flashlight looks fine.  But if the batteries are dead, it has no real value.  Sad to say that seems to be true of many churches today.  They look okay on the outside.  Sunday morning finds cars in the parking lot and people sitting in the pews.  But when people’s lives are challenged by crisis and problems they don’t know what to do. In my seminary days, I worked with other seminarians at the local hospital.  One day a little baby was brought into the ICU after an accident at home.  The baby had received massive head injuries.  The parents were devastated.  Their pastor arrived to make a visit and have a prayer. We saw him walking the hall and thinking out loud…”What can I say to the family?  What should I do?”  We couldn’t understand how a pastor would have nothing to say.  He appeared to be “without his batteries.”

Can that be said about Christians?  We go to church and say the right things.  We appear to those around us that we are pillars in the religious community–people of strong faith.  But then something happens.  We encounter an illness.  Something happens to a loved one or we experience some setback.  All of a sudden we find ourselves questioning God and his love for us.  Does God really promise to be there for us and does he really answer our prayers?  Some well-meaning Christians may even lose their faith.  They are like that flashlight without batteries – they have no power.

Well, what do you do to make sure the flashlight works when you need it?  The answer is pretty obvious.  You make sure the batteries are charged!  Before Jesus was taken up to heaven he told his disciples to go and make disciples.  But first they were to go to Jerusalem and make sure their batteries were charged.  That day is remembered in the church as Pentecost.  It was the day the disciples were gathered together and heard a sound like a rushing wind.  Tongues of fire appeared in the room and were distributed over the heads of each of those disciples. They began to speak in various tongues and the people of various nationalities and languages hear the Gospel in their own native language.  Two thousand people became Christians that day and the Church was born.  That never would have happened had not those disciples been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

That pastor in the hospital ICU did find the right words to say to the grieving parents.  His prayer was a comfort to them.  On his own, he was like that flashlight with no power.  But God provided the power.  He gave him the power of the Holy Spirit.  That is a power He gives to all Christians.  Sunday worship is the time we gather around Word and Sacrament to have those batteries recharged.  Through Word and Sacrament we are connected to the Holy Spirit.  We are strengthened and empowered for the week to come.  May the Lord bless our time together in worship and may we remain connected to the power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit!

Pastor – Rev. Dennis W. Bottoms