Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor E-Letter 4/3/20

Buddy - The Mighty Lizard Hunter

When we moved to the Sunshine state in 1988, our two children were very small- and without a pet.  Though the Gator is Florida’s official reptile, there’s a much smaller and more plentiful little guy that crosses our path daily.  Those tiny lizards we see everywhere… Scurrying beneath our feet and cocking their heads while staring at us from a vantage point. (Sometimes dried up in the corner of a room when they can’t find their way back out.)  Florida lizards come in almost all colors, but one of the most common types is the Brown Anole.  While speaking with her grandparents on the phone one afternoon our three-year-old daughter Brianna slurred this lament, “Grandpa, my ‘lonely (only) pet’s a lizard!”. The time had come for a family pet.

First, we bought a pair of cockatiels, Zippy and Doo-Dah.  We thought they were both males until eggs started appearing in the water dish. (Should I apologize for not being able to differentiate the sex of a Cockatiel?) But the cockatiel phase didn’t last long in our home, and soon a Dachshund named Beau found his way into our hearts and our family album.Over the years we have had at least one ­­­­­­­­­­­in the family, and usually two. Buddy was our black and tan male and the first to be truly obsessed with lizards. (So imaginative in naming our pets, aren’t we?) Bud’s full-time calling was a search and destroy mission on the anole population. I can’t remember how many times I repaired our lanai screen after he tore his way through going after a fleet-footed reptile just outside his reach. He would snort them out of cracks and crevices and from under shrubbery. Bud’s pursuit was relentless, and at the end of his hunt, he often laid his trophy at our feet. But Buddy wasn’t always adept at bagging his prey.

The Brown Anole can cast off its’ tail at will when threatened or captured. The tailpiece continues to wiggle after separation, attracting the attention of an attacker. While these lizards can regenerate a new tail, it will be cartilage and no bone. If you look closely at a newly grown tail, it appears dark grey and won’t have the stripes, colors or other markings of the original. New growth takes a little time. (You may have seen a stubby tailed lizard shoot across your sidewalk during its' grow-back period.) If a novice hunter gets lucky and grabs this little fellow again, the lizard can drop a section of his tail as often as he needs to. They let go of a piece of their body to save their life. As a puppy, Buddie’s bent toward immediate reward found him grabbing for any moving part and ending up with a wriggling tail in his mouth while the real prize made a speedy getaway.

This Sunday we remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jewish men, women, and children lined His path hoping that this King would overthrow Rome’s occupation and taxation. Finally, one of their own would use the power they had witnessed in his healings and turn it against their enemies – and right NOW! Freedom from Roman rule was the earnest agenda that blinded them to their deeper need. Their emotions were a roller coaster of unmet expectations. Less than a week after crying out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” came the shouts of “Crucify him!" It was hidden from them that his power at that moment was at work to free them from a greater danger than Rome: their sinful condition. (Luke 19:42)

During Lent, we have taken the time to consider our short-sighted priorities. Things that hold us back and slow us down spiritually. Jesus once used strong hyperbole to describe how desperate we should be in valuing the eternal over the temporal. 

Matt 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. (NRSV)

Jesus' reference to the right hand directed his audience to consider their work, their intentional actions, their efforts, and their self-attained strongholds. Our Savior desires that we learn to let go of things (in earnest), that we really don’t need. 

Habits and self-indulgences that hold us back from God’s good purpose in our lives. Agendas that lead to dead ends. As the work of His sanctifying Spirit quickens us and shapes us, new growth replaces our loss which looks and functions differently from our original ‘skin’. This new growth comes from the one who loves us and who is conforming us to the image of His Son. In fact, (and here the lizard analogy scampers away), this new growth is who we really are in Christ! It’s who we were always meant to be through the plans of our loving Father.

Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, (NRSV)

Is there anything you are clutching that you need to release to serve God with a free heart? An agenda that only serves your surface needs? Let it go, lay it down… Allow him to break the chains…Run the other way and leave it behind. The new growth that He promises will be ours for a long, long time!

Steve Schantz
Visitation Pastor

 

 

Pastor E-Letter 3/27/20

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About a week into the coronavirus pandemic, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor and author posted on Twitter, 

“It’s also now a pandemic of human disappointment. 
Cancelled trips, art openings, sporting events, book tours, concerts. Things folks have been planning for, working toward, and excited about - that’s a lot of grieving on top of sickness.” 

When I read her tweet, I paused for a moment. How true! A pandemic of disappointment- and, along with disappointment, grief. I think so often in these days of high school and college seniors, those students preparing for study abroad trips, those planning cruises and trips to see grandchildren, and those who were just plain excited for a small event coming up. Many of my friends who are getting married are reckoning with rescheduling or postponing their weddings that they’ve painstakingly worked on for months and months. 

There is so much delay of celebration, and along with it, a mountain of disappointment and grief. 

Our Grief Support Group reminds us often that grief doesn’t look one particular way or last for any particular length of time. We often imagine grieving folks who mourn appropriately, crying for just a year or a few months over an appropriately sized loss and then wiping their eyes and moving forward. But this just isn’t how grief works. We grieve over small and large events, visible and invisible things. We grieve the change in our ability as we age, our work when we retire, a place we lived in when we move, a life we once had. We grieve in divorce, in empty nests, over weddings, in awful diagnoses. Then, when we grieve, we are angry, sad, numb, over-productive, isolated or overly social, and the list goes on. And grief often lasts a lot longer than we ever knew was possible.

There is no “right” way, "right" time, or "right" thing to grieve. Grief just shows up, for all of us. It stays as long as it must, changes us in its presence, and is unexpected in its character.

All of my reflecting on grief came to a head this week as I read our scripture for this Sunday, from John 11. In it, Jesus has received word of Lazarus’s imminent death. Lazarus, and Lazarus’s two sisters Mary and Martha, are among the closest of Jesus’s associates. He counts them as friends. In this word, he hears that if he hurries, he can heal Lazarus before he dies. But he doesn’t hurry, and Lazarus dies.

When Jesus shows up, Mary and Martha greet him in the throes of grief. One is angry, one is sad. And Jesus doesn’t try to account for his slowness, but meets them right where they are in their grief, and joins them. This passage is where we hear the shortest verse in all of scripture: 

“Jesus wept.” - John 11:35

Jesus didn’t turn away from their mountain of grief, he joined them in it. He wept for his friend Lazarus and then promised a way forward out of the grief and despair. He was not afraid of their anger or sadness and did not admonish them for it. He was simply present, grieving along with them, sharing in the ministry of the Spirit of God.

Of course, the story ends with Lazarus’s resurrection. This moment is a precursor to Jesus’s resurrection, which promises each of us that death and illness do not have the final word. God in Jesus has defeated death. 

I am so grateful for this word during this season. I find myself praying frequently, “God, where are you?” as I grieve my own canceled plans and changed routines. Yet this passage, and the season of Lent, remind us that God is present with us in the highest of our highs and the lowest of our lows. God has defeated death and will not leave us or forsake us.

As we continue to worship online this week, know that God is present with you in your homes, in your waking and your sleeping, and in that pesky grief. God is not afraid of your anger or sadness, and God is with you.

I’ll join you in worshipping online on Sunday- but in the meantime, we miss and love each of you!

Peace,
Pastor Allee

 

Posted by Allee Willcox with

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