“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.
Our May 3 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook.
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The Sunday 8 am service on May 10 is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
Sermon, May 3, 4th Sunday of Easter Acts 2:42-47 Psalm 23 1 Peter 2:19-25 John 10:1-10
Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter (but you can also tell by the Shepherd theme in all of the lessons). It is sort of a good news/bad news day in the lessons. We have blessings and warnings. First, the bad news: “All who came before me are thieves and bandits.” “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” All is not well in the world. Of course, most of us have already figured that one out. Sometimes the shepherd isn’t home when the thief comes to steal.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been robbed several times, and not been there to stop it. Twice the thieves took all of the hand tools in my outside garage, I now keep them in the basement. The heavy tools are still in the outside garage, but they are bolted to the benches and walls. I figure that should deter a thief for a while. And, if not, I should be able to find him walking down the street carrying a table saw or a lathe. He won’t be moving too quickly. Another time, a couple of years ago, someone broke into my car during the night as it was parked in front of my house. They only took some loose change, and some music tapes. But that was the hardest cut of all. They stole my Patsy Cline tapes and she has always been my favorite. No one sings like Patsy! That was upsetting!! Of course now, it wouldn’t matter, as they have phased out cassettes, and to a degree CDs. So, I have Patsy recorded on my cell phone. But, Thieves come to steal and kill and destroy.
There are thieves that steal, kill and destroy in other ways than just physically. Some do it emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. Read “crooked ministers,” I have a particular distain for a couple of televangelists. So, I find it kind of ironic that for the moment, thanks to the Covid 19 virus, I have had to become a sort of televangelist. On the other hand, if it’s on the internet, it must be true. So, listen to the message: THE GOSPEL. Another irony to this situation is that technically that Covid 19 virus has stolen my flock. You are all scattered, hopefully in your homes staying safe. I guess, in many ways, the Covid 19 virus can be seen as a thief. It has stolen our old lives, changed the way we live as a people, and in too many cases, it has stolen our loved ones, and our traditional ways to grieve them. This pandemic is a true evil.
We don’t talk very often about good and evil anymore. More and more, I believe that we are very much involved in a struggle between good and evil. Not necessarily in a dualistic sense, but definitely just in the condition of the world. And the worst part of this struggle is that evil seems to have the upper hand in so many areas for the simple reason that good people are so incredibly complacent. Good people, who know the difference between right and wrong, have been cowed for reasons beyond my ken, to do nothing, to “go with the flow,” to accept corrupt and evil means of doing things in the world, which never would have been permitted in the past. Remember the saying, “All that has to happen for evil to win is for the good to do nothing.” It looks like too many of the good are doing nothing. Because people are unsure of right and wrong, and possibly are afraid that they may well be wrong. We are bombarded by too many voices. We are told too many things to do which are not really right. We conform too easily to a group out of fear of being called wrong. We are afraid of consequences if we stand up for our beliefs, and discover that we are the only ones standing. On the other hand, there are the good. During this present pandemic, I pray for all medical personnel and emergency responders. In a number of places globally, they must be stretched to their physical, emotional and spiritual limits. They are fighting for the rest of us against this unknown and unseen malady, often risking their own lives and those of their families, trying to bring healing and comfort to those affected by this malady. My prayers go out to them. They are good shepherds. They are dedicated, caring and loving people across all barriers.
I have often been astounded when some people tell me their understanding of Christianity. Too often in the last few decades, it has become wrapped up in politics. Now, in our present circumstance, we can be drawn back to Christ’s message. We have been taught that Jesus’ Gospel is Love. That Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s love for us. Now is a time to fully express that. Now is a time to live the love of God and love of neighbor, to embody the Golden Rule. It is a time for reaching out to those in need. This is not a time to forget our neighbor. There are still, if not even more than before, the sick, the starving, the naked, the widow and the orphan? As we continue to “Social Distance,” even as things slowly begin to reopen; we can still check on the frail in our midst: older neighbors, those struggling to feed themselves and their families, those whose emotions are strained to the limit, those who fear that they are about to break in every way. When we go for groceries, we can ask of their needs too. We can ease their daily trials. We can strive to assuage the fears of others. Ironically, it was actions such as these, caring for the weak and poor; that first drew Christians to the attention of others during pandemics nearly 2,000 years ago. This is not the first pandemic. It is just the latest. It will pass eventually. But it is a time for Christians to do what we do best, love our neighbors. We are called by our Good Shepherd to lives of service for those in need. The pandemic may be easing up. But, there are those suffering around us in a number of ways.
Grace, love and charity may not seem to have been popular modern concepts, until recently. But, in light of present circumstances, they are more in need than ever before. We shall have to reawaken them for the world. We will need to help others to get through this, together.
In these times, we must tread carefully, following prescribed restrictions, but we are still capable of reaching out steadily and securely to those who need help. We are to live our faith in acts of love. We are told that Christ is our gate; He is the way into His fold, where He gathers his flock. It is to Christ’s voice that we are to listen and obey. As members of His flock, we need to show His love to the world. It is in Christ that we have faith and through Him abundant life. He is our Good Shepherd. Heed His call, for it is He who has called and claimed us. Bear witness to Him. But bear witness to Him to everyone. Pastor Rose