The following is my most recent article for the Buffalo Center Tribune. To God be the glory!
I am not sure how it started or when and where, but somewhere along the way I had developed a fear of asking questions. This was especially true in school and something that was exasperated while in seminary. Early on in seminary I perceived what I deemed a disadvantage. Many of my classmates were younger and coming straight out of college. But that was not the key disadvantage on which I dwelt. Many of my classmates were coming straight out of private Christian universities (i.e. St Olaf, Augustana, Gustavus). Many had taken religion classes, and some even had religion majors or minors. They had studied many of the theologians that we were studying and reading in seminary. And many of those theologians were ones of which I had never heard or read. Coming out of a state university with an accounting degree, seminary was not even close to my future plans. I felt unprepared and intimidated. So, when questions arose with me, I was afraid to raise my hand in class out of fear of looking ignorant or stupid and so, I kept quiet. Sometimes I worked up the courage to ask my professor after class, but always in their office, away from prying eyes or ears. But even then, I feared what my professor thought of me. And so, through unasked questions, I was left to search for the answers myself or just let it go.
In the Gospel text for Sunday, Sept 19 from Mark 9:30-32, Jesus is teaching the disciples privately saying, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they (the disciples) did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him (Jesus).” Maybe this fear stemmed from Jesus’ rebuke of Peter when Peter challenged Jesus about this earlier. Whatever the case, they kept the matter to themselves, but later would understand. But how many people today, “keep the matter to themselves” and never come to understand. Often it is not because of a fear of asking questions (it could be) but rather not knowing the right questions or even realizing that they have questions. Too often, we just assume that fellow worshippers or others are Christians. They never ask questions, and we never press the issue, but maybe we should.
Have you ever asked someone, “How’s your relationship with Jesus doing?” This may make you or that other person uncomfortable, but it could just be the question they or you need to hear. They could be looking for that right person who will not think less of them if their relationship with Jesus is lacking. You should never assume faith. In all places and in all situations, give them Jesus. As a follower of Jesus, I would love to hear that question from a brother or sister; someone who cares for my eternal wellbeing. Never assume faith and always assume there are unasked questions lurking out there that need answers. Become a safe place for someone to get the answers they need. To God be the glory and Amen.
Well here we go, I am back at it. After writing articles for The News Tribune (Tacoma) for a few years while serving at Living Word Lutheran Church, I am now writing in my new community. Below is my first article for the Buffalo Center Tribune in Buffalo Center, IA. My articles are due the first and third Thursday of the month and will be published the following Tuesday. To God be the glory!
My family and I went for a walk one evening. We headed north on 4th Street NE and enjoyed the evening air. I was keenly aware of the beautiful corn field to my right. Quite a change from my former scenery in the Pacific Northwest. We used to live in the shadow of Mount Rainier in the Tacoma/Puyallup area. We had many scenic evening walks there, but this walk here was going to be different – a good different. As we headed north, we could tell that it was going to be a gorgeous sunset. We got to 7th Avenue NE and we had to turn west toward the setting sun. We arrived near AG Performance and there it was – the sun setting over the fields. I wanted to stare but that would not have been good for the eyes. So, I took glimpses through my shielding fingers and snapped a picture on my phone. Staring at that will not hurt my eyes but it definitely does not do the scene justice. We proceeded to head south and work our way home. It was a school night and shower night for the kiddos, so there was no time to waste, but as I said earlier, this walk was going to be a good different.
You see, during our walk we encountered something to which we were not accustomed: Friendly people smiling and wanting to greet us and talk. No, they did not know I was the new guy in town, they were just friendly, down to earth people. One woman was walking her dog and let my kids pet it. Pretty soon my son was talking to her about the pines cones he had just found. Other people we encountered did not try to divert their glance but made a point to make eye contact with us in order to say “hi”. I passed by the home of a church member who came out to talk with us. This school night walk took longer than anticipated but I have no complaints. It was a good different.
Do not get me wrong, people in Western Washington are not rude. There are many kind people there that we grew to love dearly, but the culture is just different. It is not small-town Midwest. Maybe you have not noticed but after living away from the Midwest for five years, we definitely noticed. Walking around town here in Buffalo Center is almost like walking around your yard filled with family. I feel safe and I feel comfortable letting my kids go outside to play without me right there.
So, who is this “new guy” writing in the Buffalo Center Tribune? I am the new pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. I am a western central Minnesota kid who was called to Western Washington for five years and now back, called by God to return to the homeland, the Midwest. There is definitely more to me than that, but gauging by our beautiful evening walk, you will probably learn much more about me and my family very soon. Thank you for the warm welcome to the Midwest. Praise be to God and Amen.