Life is Short. Eternity is Not.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

God is good. Even when the terrors of mortality are befalling us, He is good. That’s what this whole week is about—the fact that Jesus has stepped into the darkness for us.

In last night’s sermon (Holy Wednesday), I preached, essentially, that a major theme of the whole Bible is the affronting knowledge of human beings’ inabilities to get free from the darkness. I even gave my humble opinion, sharing that I truly believe that the myth of human moral progress or longevity or innate goodness dies more and more when we behold events like sarin gas attacks on civilians, or situations involving a father having to put his son’s body parts into a plastic bag after a bomb goes off in a Palm Sunday worship service. I could add cancer to those examples. I shared rather straightforwardly that the most valuable thinkers in the Christian communities are the ones who can admit to the fact that any optimism about the capability of human nature against the darkness of Sin, Death, and the Devil is, as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “the sacrifice of fools.”

And so, when we consider the darkness, when we look into it, we are taught by the Word of God to understand it rightly. It permeates not only the world, but also our very selves, and we are helpless against it.

But now, Jesus steps onto the scene. God takes upon Himself human flesh and reaches out to us. Serving us, loving us, caring for us, He calls Himself the Light of the world. He makes sure that we know—and He proves it over and over and over again—that He is the only One who can venture into this darkness and dispel it. And He does. His life, His suffering, His cross, His resurrection, His ascension—these events change everything; almost as if the world was spinning in one direction and then suddenly it was reversed.

Because Jesus changes everything, faith in Him changes everything, too. Terror isn’t dominating. Hope is there. We have hope because we have Jesus.

This is the message of Holy Week and Easter, and this same message is the good word that we need each and every day of our lives. Before I gave you an update, I wanted to share that Good News with you, and not just because what I need to share is tough, but because I love you in the Lord and I want you to be steadied with the same muscle that has steadied every true believer throughout the history of man.

Pastor Heckert, our dear friend, has stage four lung cancer. Without sharing all of the details, the doctor has indicated that without treatment, we are looking at a window of mortal life of about three to six months. And yet, the doctor also indicated that with an immediate beginning to some aggressive radiation, as much as two years may be gained. As it stands, Pastor Heckert will begin the radiation this week, starting first with the tumor on his hip.

I want you to know that when I was at his home yesterday, he expressed his love for the Lord so very clearly—as always—and that he is trusting firmly in the will of God. This is the Holy Spirit alive and well in a Christ-centered Christian human being. I dare say that in that moment of pastoral care, being that I love the man so very much, it was almost more difficult to serve him the comforting Gospel as opposed to seeing that he wanted to serve me, too, so that I would not be sad. This is a testament to his calling as a pastor and a witness to the fruits of faith being borne and shared.

Please keep him in your prayers. As I learn more, I will communicate with you.

In this, God grant to you His eternal peace as you cling to the Savior and His promise of love, forgiveness, and eternal life.

Also, come to church tonight. If you had something planned, put it aside. Reschedule it. Come and be strengthened by the Maundy Thursday proclamation and the reception of the Lord’s Supper. Join your Christian family in the pews and at the Lord’s Altar.

Life is short. Eternity is long—timeless, in fact. Receive what surpasses all understanding and keeps the heart and mind of the believer in Christ Jesus, our Lord, for and into this eternity.

In Jesus,

Pastor Thoma+

Keep An Eye on the Pastor’s Kids

(A Facebook Post.)

I’m sharing my own post because I want to add something to it that I’m hoping won’t get lost in the comments. I see two things happening in response to what I shared.

First, pastors are chiming in to share their experiences with such things. Two, God’s people are expressing heartfelt concerns that a pastor and his family would be accosted in such ways.

I want to encourage a third piece.

Speak up.

Pastors… God’s people… speak up and push back. Confront these people.

You know what I like about Saint Paul? He steered into the pain of the really tough topics. And when the time came for action, he was decisive. Don’t believe me? Flip over to Titus 3:10-11. Do you want to know what else I like about him? When it came to troublemakers, he named names. Again, don’t believe me? You need to take a look at 2 Timothy 1:15-18.

Pastors, by way of God’s Word, steer into the ones who do these things. Don’t just soak it into yourself as a burden of the Holy Office. You’re helping no one by doing this. If anything, you are perpetuating the issue.

People of God, defend your pastors and church workers. When someone is tearing them down, take their defense. Speak well of them and encourage others to do the same. If someone speaks to you in private about them—speaking unkind things designed only for harm—do not let the words become weaponized confidentiality. Stop them. Call them out. Let them know right away that you will not be keeping their words in secret. If needed, go to the pastor, elders, or church leadership and name names. Don’t refer to the person or situation as “Someone came to me and said…” Shine the light. Call them by name. I dare say that if more of the deliberately bad actors who feed off of such devilry in our churches feared the possibility of being called out for their slithery trades in private, they might just rethink things. With no way of escape and the preached Gospel, God willing, they may even be found in repentance and peace.

Now, I know that what I’m suggesting isn’t an easy thing. I know that most folks are fearful of confronting difficult people. It truly does take an unearthly courage. Pray for that courage, because if most folks remain observers in these situations, unwilling to speak up, those same menaces will continue to do more and more harm.

Don’t be silent. Be courageous. In loving kindness, as best as you are able, steer into it and bring it to an end.

__________________

I’ll tell you a secret. But keep it to yourself. A great way to get at your pastor is to keep a careful eye on his kids in order to catch them in wrong-doing. If you watch and wait long enough, you’re sure to find success. Then you can go to the pastor and pointedly remind him that he and his family are no better than anyone else in the church and school. And while I’m almost certain he’ll already know this to be true of both self and family, he’ll be gladdened by your heartfelt concern and it will most certainly serve to bolster the joy he has in the work.

The Bombing in Syria

(A Facebook Post.)

The event of America’s bombing in Syria was indeed tragic. The events that stirred it—the act of a foreign body over the course of seven years, time and again, raining chemical weapons upon the people within her borders—an atrocity. Was the U.S. attacked? No. Did the United States, an outside entity with the muscle to act, do something to discourage, and perhaps even bring an end to, the atrocity? Yes.

I’m curious… If you are up in arms about America’s reaction to stemming the chemical attacks in Syria, what is your position regarding the taking of the lives of the unborn?

As Christians who live by confession, at what level are the dealings of a foreign body regarding the person(s) within her physical borders any of your concern? A pregnant woman who decides to terminate the child, does this affect you, that is, is it happening within your borders? No. Is intervention even necessary, then? If yes, how do you come to this decision, and whose job is it to intervene and help the helpless? And in the end, what does intervention look like?

I dare say that between nations, sometimes it looks like Tomahawks descending on an airfield. In other circumstances, it may appear as one person standing in the cold and holding a sign in front of a Planned Parenthood facility. Either way, Eberhard Bethge, a friend of Bonhoeffer, wrestled with one aspect of the dilemma in a way that seems to make little sense to most radically-individualized-freedom-loving-don’t-mess-with-me-and-I-won’t-mess-with-you politicking Christians in the 21st century. It could be that many don’t get the need to respond in Syria because there is no consistency in their understanding of the fellowship of humanity as part of their community—whether the one in need lives across the street or across the ocean. A good number of us, in fact all of us, have a tendency to live and serve in gradations. Bethge wrote about a group that was completely disconnected from his own—the Jews—but he offered an interesting angle concerning (or allowing) suffering/atrocity among them as it related to the Church’s confession of Christ:

“The levels of confession and of resistance could no longer be kept neatly apart. The escalating persecution of the Jews generated an increasingly intolerable situation… We now realized that mere confession, no matter how courageous, inescapably meant complicity with the murders, even though there would always be new acts of refusing to be co-opted and even though we preach ‘Christ alone’ Sunday after Sunday. During the whole time the Nazi state never considered it necessary to prohibit such preaching. Why should it? Thus we were approaching the borderline between confession and resistance; and if we did not cross this border, our confession was going to be no better than cooperation with criminals. And so it became clear where the problem lay for the Confessing Church: we were resisting by way of confession, but we were not confessing by way of resistance.”

In other words, confess as you must, but to be consistent in the confession, it may be necessary to act at certain levels and in some uncomfortable ways when the neighbor is helpless and in need of a protector. The struggle for the Christian is in doing so (or supporting) in a way that, all along the course, arises from the desire to be faithful to Christ and His Word.