December 2020

“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80:7

Dear Redeemer Family:

As we end the year of the coronavirus, we have had to learn some bitter lessons. We have had to face a new normal. And people who have refused to learn, have faced a terrible consequence. Things that we have taken for granted have been taken from us. And, we have been changed. I have had to miss the last two Sundays. The first because I was coughing so hard that my wife was afraid that I would scare some of you. I probably would have. Sometimes, it scared me. The second Sunday because the day before Ruth was notified that she was Covid positive (by the way, she has been tested several times now). And, I am currently waiting for the results of my Covid test, which I assume will be positive as well. Ironically, I’m feeling better today. But we have had to change. We have had to slow down.

We are now in the “holiday season,” and we are also asked to forgo certain traditions, like large gatherings. That is right and proper in the present circumstance. We have had to pause our “in person” worship service because of the surging numbers of this virus. We can live with that. Many of you don’t know, but since March, I’ve performed four funerals which were caused by this virus. And many of you do know I don’t like funerals. If this will prevent more tragedies, I’m in favor of it. We will get through this. We have word now of not one, but three vaccines that will be distributed soon. This is very good news. But, we have to wait.

The Church has been nice enough to provide us with a season of waiting. It is called Advent. This year, we may well be forced to actually observe it as it should be. In this season when the cultural gravity pushes us down the hill to Christmas way too fast, it’s time to apply the brakes and slow down. And this year, we will have to slow down. As counter cultural as that may seem, there’s too much to hear, too much to see, too much to experience, too much to take in to hurry through Advent. We sit with Isaiah and his people who longingly waited for the coming of the Promised One. We stand with John the Baptist as he calls God’s people to prepare the way of the Lord.

This slowing down makes room for the Spirit to show us those things in our own hearts and in our own systems that we might rather leave undisturbed and unacknowledged. The Advent scriptures urge repentance, another practice that is best not hurried through. It may not be pleasant to acknowledge the places in our lives where we have wandered; nor it is delightful to hear a word about a God who has standards and who is angry at both individual and corporate sin. Still, that word stands front and center in the Advent scriptures and begs to be heard in a culture that makes no room for such things. Perhaps this year, as all has changed, slowed and spaced out a bit, we can hear these words more fully. Doing so, perhaps we may more fully prepare for the coming of the Promised One, and receive Christ more fully into our homes. Have a blessed Advent this year.

In Christ,
Pastor Rose

November 2020

“Fear the LORD, you saints of the LORD; for those who fear the LORD lack nothing.” Ps. 34:9

Dear Redeemer Family:
Nov. 1st is All Saints’ Day. You know that, or you should. On All Saints’ Day we remember those who have died for the faith and those who have died in the faith. We also recognize this day all the baptized. I should say, ALL the baptized. We are sinners. Remember that the next time you look in the mirror. We are saints, as well. Remember that too. We are sinners in our own right, and saints by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection for us. In the Sermon on the Mouth (the Gospel lesson for Nov. 1st ), Jesus speaks his blessings on all his saints. On All Saints’ Day, as every Sunday, we saints on earth join the saints in heaven in singing God’s praises. We join them at the meal as well, keeping in mind that what we receive here is but an appetizer from the heavenly banquet table.

In the imagery of All Saints we see the tablecloth of the heavenly banquet, the baptismal robes of those in the New Jerusalem, the celestial cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. This is rich, profound imagery for a time in the Church Year that looks out on a darkening and bare natural world. As I write this, it has been raining for a couple of days. The sky is very dark and dreary. Leaves are falling from the trees like snowflakes. And the temperature is hanging around 40 outside. That comes with the knowledge that early in the morning of Nov. 1st , All Saints’ Day, this year, we will be setting our clocks back an hour and things will be getting really dark all that much earlier through November and beyond.

This environment, combined with unresolved grief over death and loss, leaves many people vulnerable during this part of the year. I have had to perform several funerals since the beginning of this pandemic. In reality, they have been little more than graveside services. Thanks to restrictions, visitations and the funeral services themselves have been greatly curbed. As several Funeral Directors and I have put it, “This is no way to do a funeral.” Many funerals and memorial services have been postponed “until a later date.” Because of that, grief is largely unresolved. And I worry about the loved ones left behind. We are in a terrible new reality, at least here on earth. And people fear.

But, we proclaim a different reality; a different world; a different kingdom. In the midst of this trying and dreary time in our earthly lives, we look forward to the Kingdom of Heaven. There, the bright shining city on the heavenly hill, Our LORD gathers all of his faithful witnesses. His light shines out through the dreary darkness. There we know that all of the saints will be received into the arms of Our LORD’S mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. It is a glorious vision of our hope, even in the midst of our present increasing darkness. And in that hope, we hope; for ourselves and for those who have gone before us. Amen.
In Christ,
Pastor Rose