Pardon the Typos

Something pretty amazing just happened to me. But before I tell you what it was, let me set the stage so that you understand just how significant it is.

As I write this (Monday, December 18), we have six days until Christmas Eve. Over the course of this week, there’s a lot less time available for anything one might consider according to a usual week. There are Christmas pageant practices that take up most of two mornings. I have a special worship service at Independence Village in Brighton on Tuesday after the pageant practice, and by the time I get back to the church, much of the work day will be spent. Among a very many other special things happening on Wednesday, we have a half day of school on Thursday and no school on Friday, which means I’ll need to be home with the kids during those times while Jen is working. And for those of you with children, I don’t have to explain to you how hard it is to get mindful work accomplished with little ones running around and hyped up for Christmas and the break that follows. It’s nearly impossible to do anything of value undisturbed. It feels a little like trying to put together a 10,000 piece puzzle in a room filled with mosquitoes.

My Thursday morning is pretty much already spoken for when it comes to appointments. I have, at a minimum, five home visitations I really need to work in sometime this week. There are folks in need of the Lord’s Word and Sacrament, and I’m the only guy around to bring it.

Thankfully, I don’t have an evening meetings this week—at least none that I know of right now. But it’s only Monday, and the way we roll in the place, there’s always something happening that can easily snatch those open moments away.

Also, I needed to get this eNewsletter out. It’s an important piece of communication in our parish and it’s not something I want to set to wayside.

And finally, the last piece to this—and perhaps the most worrisome part of it: I have four sermons to write. And a sermon is, in an elementary sense, a five to six page paper, each one needing time for study, prayer, writing, and editing. One sermon usually works itself out over the course of a whole week. According to the schedule I just shared, there is no time for one sermon let alone four. (By the way, why four? Well, there’s the sermon for this Sunday, The Fourth Sunday in Advent, and then the sermon for later that night, Christmas Eve. Then there’s Christmas Day on Monday morning. And then finally, if I don’t want to have to write a sermon over the Christmas break, I’ll need to get the sermon for New Year’s Eve accomplished this week, too. Thankfully, Pastor Pies is on the schedule for New Year’s Day.)

Now, don’t take any of this the wrong way. I’m really not complaining. Plenty of weeks throughout the year are equally and impossibly stretched. The biggest difference is that I don’t typically have this much sermon writing to do, and so I’m simply sharing with you that I came into this week a little worried as to how I was going to accomplish it all.

And that brings me back to where I began. Something pretty amazing just happened to me.

Thankfully, I can write a lot in a very short period of time, but usually that only benefits me when I’m writing in extra-curricular ways about things that interest me. Don’t get me wrong. Writing sermons interests me. But sermons take me a lot longer. Like I said, they usually take most of the week to end up in their final form. Sometimes they’re finished getting ripped out of me right before I step into the pulpit. Personally, I don’t like when that happens. Too last minute. Still, the formation and contemplation for any sermon lasts pretty much all week.

But not today.

I sat down at my computer, prayed for the Lord’s help in being a faithful servant of His Word—and most especially that He would bless me with the right words in the right order in the right amount of time. My hope was that I’d at least get a little bit of the Christmas Eve sermon in place and ready. That was around 10:30 a.m. When I got up from my computer at 12:45 to go and get a quick bite to eat, I’d finished both sermons Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Bam and bam.

When I got back from lunch at a little after 1 o’clock, I sat back down and was finished with the sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent by 2:15.

Bam.

It all just happened. I still have one more to go, but still, with the three I finished, God certainly was gracious with His revealing of the threads I needed to follow, and then even more so did He pour out some useable ideas while at the same time fitting them all together.

I still need to do some editing, but I can tell you that I’m pretty okay with what’s on the computer screen so far, and I rarely feel that way after the first go-round with any sermon. What ends up in the pulpit is usually quite different, and I’m often doing some tweaks the morning it is to be preached.

Anyway, the point to all of this… My worrying was in vain. But my prayer to the One who could help me was not. The sermons you’ll hear this weekend are a testimony to this fact. He loves me, and He wants the preaching task to be a joy and not a burden—at least He did this time around.

But since I’m thinking on this and sharing it, this little bit of pastoral commotion also hints to something else of equal importance, and that is that the pulpit here at Our Savior is in place so that at each service that occurs, the Gospel would be preached. In other words, when Walmart is closed, the pulpit at Savior will be open for business. When the Post Office shutters are locked, the Word of the Gospel through the preaching will be unlocked and fashioned especially for you and your family. God has seen to make it happen for going on 64 years, and for this fretting pastor in the midst of a swirl of activity, He just sealed the deal again.

With that, let me encourage you to take advantage of the effort. Come and hear the preaching of the Gospel. Be fed by His glorious Gospel promises of the forgiveness of sins won for you by the life, death, and resurrection of the baby born in Bethlehem. By virtue of your baptism, it is your birthright. And I can tell you for a fact that what you are hearing is from Christ, Himself, and He most definitely wants you to hear it!

Now, as fast as I can, it’s on to the news… Pardon me if the notes are abruptly shorter than usual… or if they have a lot of typos.

The World’s Rip Current of Busy-ness

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only 16 days away? That’s only 23,040 minutes! Considering that many among us plan our schedules by the minute rather than by the day, all of the events that land on our calendars with the intent of consuming our time sometimes leaves us thinking that life feels a little more like a rip current—a turbulent flow carrying us away from shore even as we try to swim against it—rather than a sometimes slow and sometimes fast stream that provides for both leisure as well as challenge. I read an article last week about how this is affecting children. In it, the author said:

“For years now, a consensus has been emerging that a subset of hard-driving, Ivy-longing parents is burdening their children with too many soccer tournaments, violin lessons and cooking classes. A small library of books has been published with names like The Over-Scheduled Child, The Pressured Child, Pressured Parents, Stressed-Out Kids and so on.”

A little further into the article, he suggested a solution:

“The antidote to the problem… is to make sure children have enough time with no activities, parents have enough time with no work and the two sides come together to create activities of their own.”

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think that God provided the solution to this problem long before the clinical child psychologists ever started pondering it.

Take a look at the following portion from Luther’s Large Catechism regarding the meaning of the Third Commandment, which is, of course, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.”

“To offer ordinary people a Christian interpretation of what God requires in this commandment, we point out that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and well informed Christians, for these have no need of them. We keep them, first, for the sake of bodily need. Nature teaches and demands that the common people—man-servants and maid-servants who have attended to their work and trades the whole week long—should retire for a day to rest and be refreshed. Secondly and most especially, we keep holy days so that people may have time and opportunity, which otherwise would not be available, to participate in public worship, that is, that they may assemble to hear and discuss God’s Word and then praise God with song and prayer.”

I think it’s kind of interesting, too, that in the very next Commandment—the Fourth Commandment, which deals with the honor due parents as Godly authorities—after some pretty lengthy instruction for children, Luther turns toward the parents and writes:

“Parents should consider that they owe obedience to God, and that, above all, they should earnestly and faithfully discharge the duties of their office, not only to provide for the material support of their children, servants, subjects, etc., but especially to bring them up to the praise and honor of God. Therefore do not imagine that the parental office is a matter of your pleasure and whim. It is a strict commandment and injunction of God, who holds you accountable for it.”

When you put these two commands together, first you see the one particular time and place that God has given for us to rest and be refreshed together as a family—holy worship. And second, you see how important it is to God that parents would be faithful in setting aside all of the busy-ness that would distract from or take priority over being together as a family and keeping the Sabbath day holy. A thorough reading of both explanations of these commands and you’ll more than see the urgency for doing this, not only for the sake of rest, but for the sake of establishing the right foundations for faith.

God knows the world tries to pull us into the rip current. He knows that if we try to swim against the current, we’ll become exhausted. With this, He has given His Son to die and rise for us, giving us the Holy Spirit through the Gospel to see that there’s a way out. In a real rip current, to escape really isn’t that hard. You need only to swim to the right or to the left of it. In this life, getting what God has for your refreshing and re-strengthening isn’t that hard, either. It happens every Sunday. And what’s even more amazing is that to be in holy worship is to be lifted up and out of the rip current completely. You don’t do any swimming. He does all the work. There is worship you are rescued, your are set on shore, you are given dry clothes—the robe of Christ’s righteousness—and you are well nourished for the next wave that may come and try to sweep you away. If you and your children don’t receive this nourishment, if you try to swim without what God provides, you will drown. That’s the hard truth.

By God’s grace, be encouraged to be with Him in His presence to receive this nourishment as often as it is provided. He loves you, and He wants for you to be refreshed alongside your resting Christian family.