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.

This Is Really Not Cool

What a joy it was to receive the proclamation of the Gospel from Pastor Heckert yesterday, even by way of the video. I hope that all in attendance were able to hear it well, and that they were edified by the love of Christ proclaimed through Pastor Heckert to the body of believers.

I’ll admit that I was concerned as to how well the sound would work in a room full of people. Even though I’d already spent a lot of time working with the audio stream in the video, I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. And then the unthinkable…

When I arrived at the church yesterday morning—right around 6:15 a.m.—I went into the nave and did one more test drive of the sermon in order to adjust the TV’s equalizer even if only a little more and I discovered that the video file wasn’t working as before. Somehow the file on the thumb drive that I had plugged into the Blu-ray player had become corrupted, and so the image was jittery and the audio was the same. I don’t know what happened, but it was what it was.

Needless to say, I started to sweat because while my video camera is pretty decent—recording in HD—it’s no small thing to convert the HD MTS video files it creates into MPEG-2 files we can watch on a DVD or Blu-ray player—which is the technology I was working with. Not to mention I would need to boost the audio and do some processing to remove a strange hissing sound that came out in the recording while we were at Pastor Heckert’s house. With the acoustics of our church, the hissing sound made the video almost unwatchable.

But there is a lesson to be learned in all of this.

Even as I started to worry, I knew I’d need to get in gear and start the whole process all over again. And so I prayed. It was a short prayer, one I said as I jogged back to my office. I think it went something like this: “Heavenly Father, this is really not cool. You’re gonna need to intervene here—big time—because I can only make my computer process at certain speeds and I don’t have much time. I’m in a mess. Help. Please. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

With that, I got to work on it right away, and after about an hour and a half, I had a video that, in my opinion, was far better than the first. Imagine that. In other words, what had unfolded as a nightmarish scenario, God used for good, and from it I believe a better, more easily viewed/heard sermon video was produced.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

You know, Saint Paul’s words above apply to more than just last-minute crunches like the one I described. These words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cut to the heart of who we are in the midst of a fallen world. There’s plenty out there to cause us worry—sickness, messy finances, broken relationships, you name it—but God has given us a promise that He will hear our prayers, and He will act according to His good and gracious will, all of which leads to our salvation. That’s what Paul means here. In the midst of a cold world, God’s holy will for our eternal future will produce a peace like a super-heated fire burning in the furnace of our souls. It will warm us to the knowledge of His ever-present love—to the knowledge that He will always have a care for us. And what is that peace? It is the peace proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem—peace between God and man, peace located in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

My prayer to God for you this day is that no matter the challenges you may be facing—big or small—trust your Savior. Pray to Him. He loves you, and He love to listen to you. And whatever He does to help, just know that it will be worked for your good according to His will. That’s a peaceful thought. Actually, it’s more than a thought. It’s a powerful knowledge and reality worked by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel message. Hear it often. Receive it with joy, knowing that you mean so much to your God.