What a blessing

I feel incredibly blessed…

Yesterday the congregation I serve celebrated the 5 year anniversary of my ordination (which is on July 2).  There was a special recognition of this occasion during worship in addition to a number of other surprises my wife and others cooked up (and let me tell you…as a pastor who is used to leading worship, it was a little uncomfortable not knowing what was going on in worship…but I still really enjoyed and appreciated what they did).  Connie’s very musical family was there to provide special music and brass accompaniment during the hymns and offering.  My mom read scripture and the church presented me with a gift.  After worship there was a cake/coffee reception for me (something the community was invited to, along with worship).  These were all things I was truly unworthy of, but it was nice to experience this affirmation of my call here.  I feel incredibly blessed for God has done amazing things here through all of us.

So many people were involved to help make this a special day and they tried so hard to keep things from me (which was tough considering we live and serve in a small town and small congregation), but they did a great job.  So if you are one of those people reading this…THANK YOU!…yesterday will be a day I will always remember and treasure.  But the main we all need to remember (and something that people highlighted yesterday) is that through it all…in everything that happens good and bad…PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Thank you to Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches and to the community of Jackson.  Connie and I are very happy to be part of these communities.  PRAISE BE TO GOD!

-edh-

Holy Week stress and an answer to prayer

Holy Week has been a good one for me this year, but there was still some stress for me.  This is an account of one particular stress point and the faithfulness of our awesome God who came through for us.

We have a number of traditions here at Salem Lutheran Church as it pertains to Holy Week; traditions I look forward to.  Here are just a few of them (that relate to my particular stress point this week):

–We have a large rugged cross that stands in the narthex during lent that has a purple cloth draped on it topped with a crown of thorns.

–On Maundy Thursday we strip the altar and bring that rugged cross outside, to the base of the narthex ramp and drape a black cloth over the cross beams.
[A cool story about this from Good Friday.  Our custodian saw a van flying down the street next to the church on Friday.  When the van got to the church and saw the cross at the base of the ramp he slammed on his breaks and came to a screeching halt.  He looked at the cross for a couple moments and then proceeded on his way.  This cross, each year, attracts a lot of attention.]

–On Saturday we bring that rugged cross back inside to prepare it for Easter.  There are rings attached to the cross that hold Easter lilies.  We then staple the palms from Palm Sunday to the cross.  And let me tell you it is quite a sight…as pictured below…

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…well…here’s where the stress comes in…

…on Wednesday this week my wife and I noticed that the Palm branches from Sunday were dead.  They were dried up and crunchy even though they were still in water.  The problem was that we forgot to cut the ends to allow the branches to soak up the water.  Now what were we to do?  Wednesday was already a stressful day for me and this was the last thing I needed.  One of my deacons came in and cut the ends and put them in water.  We prayed that somehow God would resurrect those palms for Sunday.

On Thursday when I went out to Belmont for Maundy Thursday worship I noticed that Belmont had a bunch of palms that they were no longer needing.

[cue the ligh bulb that popped up over my head]

I asked the ladies of Belmont if Salem could have the palms and they said that would be no problem.  Now we have palms for the cross and our Easter tradition can continue.  An answer to prayer.  Praise be to God!

Now…as I write this, people are up in the sanctuary getting ready for Easter worship.  There are families in the Fellowship Hall preparing for the Easter breakfast.  And I am here finishing this post and soon will be finishing my Easter sermon.  I sit here feeling refreshed from great Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worships.  I sit here feeling hopeful that our amazing God is ever so faithful.  I sit here looking forward to our Easter worship services (as tiring as they will be for me, but I never seem to notice at the time).

God is faithful…not because He “resurrected” some palm branches for us, because…well…just look at the cross.

Have a very blessed Easter Sunday and God bless!

-edh-

“Nice try”

My Palm Sunday has gotten off to a rocky start…

…first off…my stupid “smart clock” sprung ahead one hour this morning for day light saving time (I normally get up at 5:45am on Sundays…not at 4:45am).   And…”yes, I know”…day light saving time happened a few weeks ago, but my clock didn’t get the memo.  But here’s worst/funny thing about this whole thing…I wrote a post about this a couple years ago about this happening to me except that time it was in the fall and I overslept by one hour.  One of these years I will learn my lesson.

Second…last night an April snowstorm moved into the area.  We were in a blizzard warning, but it never materialized into the storm the Weather Channel was predicting.  But even though this blizzard fizzled out, it was still enough to cancel worship out at Belmont Lutheran Church (my small county congregation).  Roads are still pretty bad out in the country.

Third…because these two events happened on the same Sunday, I am really out of my rhythm.  As I am sure many pastors can relate to, I have a routine each and every Sunday that I depend on.  I know it may sound strange to some, but this routine is important.  Currently I am in my living room watching Fox News instead of preaching at Belmont.  I will be moving over to my office shortly to restart my morning routine (if that is even possible).

But in light of all these mishaps, it is Palm Sunday…the beginning of Holy Week…one of my favorite times of the year.  And even though my routine got thrown off; even thought I got one less hour of sleep last night; even though Satan has thrown a lot at me today already…the Gospel will still be preached.   Even though today got off to a rocky start, I can still say to Satan…”Nice try”.

Have a wonderful Palm Sunday and a blessed Holy Week.

-edh-

An icy Monday

I live in Minnesota…and I love it.  I love (almost) everything about living here.  I love the changes in seasons; the variety of weather; the many lakes to enjoy; the people; and the list could go on.  But one the of the few things I do not like about Minnesota is the ICE.

On Saturday around 1pm-ish it started to precipitate a little so I decided to go for a quick run.  When my eye lids started sticking closed I decided it was time to cut things short.  By the time I finished my 25 minute run my front side was covered in ice.   What a weird feeling.  Of course…the ice outside stuck around until the next day (Sunday and a little today still) making my drive out to Belmont and back an adventure.  I am not sure how many of you out there have driven on a sheet of ice before but let me say this…”IT IS NOT FUN.”  Stopping was a luxury that forced me to think ahead (way ahead).   I did make it out to Belmont and back without an incident…and I have yet to hear of any in the last couple days (Praise God).  But with the good you have to take the bad I guess.

There’s got to be a lesson in there somewhere…right?

(1) Going through life we need to watch our step; we could slip and fall at any moment.
(2) Christ gives us life, but we still need to deal with sin (The good and the bad).
(3) Sin may be fun, but it’s slippery slope will hurt you and others.

I may be reaching…but leave it to a pastor to look for sermon illustrations in nearly everything.  Stay tuned, though, I have another sermon illustration coming up shortly; something that happened this morning.

-edh-