Click here for the worship service liturgy. We use the one for Morning, listed as page 295 in the pdf document. We also use "Christ the Life of All the Living" and "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" which are towards the end of the pdf document.
I broke down and cried for the first time today. It felt good to release everything that was pent up inside. You see, it is not just the stress of being your pastor and having to make decisions right away about how best to care for you. That would be enough as it is. But it was also my trip to Charleston, SC and the memories of my dad who has now been dead for almost 8 years. And it was also grief over the deaths of other men in my life, like Derrick DeWilde, and my childhood best friend's father at the end of February - a man who very much was a bonus dad to me (and happened also to be a Baptist pastor.) But what opened the floodgates of tears was seeing a post on Facebook by Faith Mueller of her and her husband at his hospice bed.
You might remember that in 2018, we had Rev. Herbert Mueller, LCMS 1st VP (at the time) as our guest preacher for our church Anniversary Sunday. He was my first District President. But more than that, he is my friend. Seeing his death approaching was finally too much for me. I started crying - and it was the ugly crying too. Loud. Uncontrollable. Lots of tears. Ones that would go away, and then erupt again.
And I remembered John 11, a verse that I have spoken MANY times to your fellow Christians. And it brought comfort to me. Because if Jesus, who is the most Man of any of us, was no less of a man, no less faithful to our Father, as He cried... well then, neither am I any sort of a failure as a Christian when I cry out of deep pain and heartache. And neither are you.
When my friend's father died, he wrote something about how his dad could pass gas and talk at exactly the same time - which made people confused, thinking there was no way it could have been his dad who farted. But my friend wasn't just trying to make his readers laugh, he was trying to make a point. You see, my friend had for years bottled up some pain and sorrow that he had gone through in his young adult life. He was too embarrassed to let other people see him cry, so he just didn't. Until a few years ago when he bought a farm in Iowa and went way out in the countryside where no one else was anywhere near, and he just let all the tears and screams out.
When he was at his father's bedside, a family friend was visiting, obviously trying hard not to cry. My friend said to him, "Better out than in." His dad chuckled that deep bass chuckle of his, with that mischievous twinkle in his eye that I remember so well. "Just like gas, tears are better out than in." Any tension in the room was immediately gone as everyone joined in laughter. My friend goes on to write -
Apparently I have to wait until the other side of the grave for more chats with Rev. Mueller, as his time on hospice is rapidly coming to a close. But I know that there will be more. I have God's word on that. The Lord does all things well. Trust Him to be your Resurrection, and your Life.
Keeping our tears and gasses bottled up screws up our insides. I’m not saying we need to release them anywhere and anytime, but the consistent release allows us to move on. The bottling process creates a storage problem. If I don’t gas out those brussel sprouts I had for lunch or cry out that heartbreak from not getting that dream job I was so sure I was gonna get, I have to find a place to store it. Let it out. You may find your forward movement eased by the lightness and space you create from gassing and crying.
This picture was taken at Doxology 2 in January. (Members of Peace, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making this moment possible as you allowed me time away to "go on retreat with Jesus" and learn how better to be your pastor.) Apparently Herb and I will have to wait until the other side of the grave for more chats as his time on hospice is coming rapidly to a close.
But there will be more chats. I have God's word on that. The Lord does all things well.
I've been thinking a lot about how this week compares to 9/11. Both were times of great uncertainty where we just hoped things would get back to normal. Some things never did. My beloved adopted hometown of Windsor remembers well how easy it was to cross the border on September 10, 2001. It never was that easy again.
On that day, I was some 10 hours away in southern Illinois. I still remember thinking, "They (the seminary) never prepared me for this!!!" Not that I was angry at them - no one was expecting that attack. (The fighter jets that were scrambled to intercept any terrorist controlled planes - they had ZERO armaments on their fighters because they didn't have time to wait for the weapons to be loaded because the military did not expect an airstrike to come from inside USA borders. If the pilots had to bring an airliner down, it would have to be kamikaze.)
Thankfully, God granted me comfort for my anxious thoughts. In fact, while He had never used my professors to address the SPECIFICS of the unimaginable event of terror as 9/11, He had prepared me for being pastor on that day - and for this day.
You might be feeling very overwhelmed right now, both over those things you are responsible for and for those things you have no control over.
God has prepared you for this time.
He is with you now.
He will never leave you, nor forsake you.
And never forget this - that how you handle these days will not earn your salvation. Just two verses before Ephesians 2:10, verse 8 promises,
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—