Church · Pastoral Care

Life

Anger and hatred.

There is way too much of it in our world.

Politics. Family. You name it.

Anger and hatred are tearing apart our lives.

But there is a way to change it, to make life better.

It’s all about living Life to the fullest.

This Sunday, our new sermon series begins.

What does God say about all that vitriol in our nation?

How do we respond to it?

Join us Sunday morning at 9:30 AM at St. Matthew’s in New Milford, NJ and 11:30 AM at Holy Trinity in Garfield as we take a serious look at Life.

How God shows us that we can be better people.

We have one Life to live in Jesus. Let’s make our lives the best we can.

See you Sunday as we talk about Life.

Church · Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care

Meatless Good Friday

Balancing the spiritual desires of Holy Week with the realities of real life sometimes causes me to shake my head.

I’ve been asked a half-dozen times in the course the last two days whether it is a church rule that you can’t eat meat on Good Friday. The “understanding” of not eating meat on Friday is burned into the minds of Roman Catholics who will this Friday eat enough salmon or tilapia that will cause a shortage of the little critters come Saturday morning. And because most of us here in New Jersey have relatives who are Roman Catholics, their ideas on refraining from meat on Fridays is passed onto us non-Catholics through words or osmosis.

It is not a church law that you must refrain from eating chicken nuggets on Good Friday.

Coming from a strictly Lutheran perspective, Good Friday is a holy, introspective day where one could, if they so choose, fast, that is, to refrain from eating. Good Friday offers Christians an opportunity to use that day as a spiritual exercise by reflecting on our lives as God’s children knowing that He sent His Son to pay our debt of sin. But this is an exercise, not a law. So, if you really are hankering for a cheeseburger on Friday, God isn’t going to hit you with lightning as you walk out of Burger King.

Yet the “eating fish, not meat on Good Friday” lives on.

The owner of a local deli told me yesterday that he is going to have four fish options for “Christians” on Friday, one of which is a lobster bisque soup, another is pan fried tilapia. Supermarkets have great sales on everything fish this week including tuna in a can that is going for less than a buck at some stores. And as I see what deli owners and supermarkets do for us “Christians” this week, I wonder why don’t they offer deals on tofu dishes? That way, no animal flesh at all on Good Friday!

Well, I don’t eat meat any day. It’s not a spiritual exercise; it’s a health exercise. Should you stop eating meat this Friday for a day? It won’t kill you, but don’t do it because you may think it may make you more holy. Focus your day on Christ and fasting. That’s a better way to tackle the spiritual aspect of Good Friday.

Church · Pastoral Care

Canceling a Funeral in a Snowstorm

For the first time in my ministry, I had to cancel a scheduled funeral because of bad weather. We are under a Winter Storm Warning for my area of northern New Jersey, expecting anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of snow coupled with winds in excess of 30 miles per hour. These blizzard-like conditions are making it very hazardous to drive.

Not that I didn’t attempt to drive to the funeral, scheduled in Garfield, New Jersey at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The roads in New Milford are typically horrific – the locals get to cleaning things up as the storm winds down and they do a great job. However, at the start of a storm, our local workers don’t do much to make the roads passable. Driving down River Road to Route 4 was slow and slippery. Adding to the bad driving conditions is the belief I have the worst tires in the history of the automotive industry. I slipped more than I care to admit.

But it was when I got onto Route 4 when my heart was in my throat. The westbound lanes were treacherous and snow covered. The plows seemingly didn’t touch this side of the Route 4; eastbound at least had tire lanes that were down to the blacktop. This makes sense because more people head off to New York City to work and the eastbound lanes need to be at least treated once or twice.

Driving slowly westbound, I was sliding all over the place. But it was the two times when the rear of my car decided it wanted to be the front of my car and spun that I decided to stop and return home. The back roads of Paramus and Oradell were not great, but it was drivable. Of course, when I drove down Oradell Avenue and turned onto Boulevard in New Milford is where the untreated roads greeted me with slipping tires.

Sitting now in the home office, my heart beating normally after pounding really hard after spinning around on Route 4, I can relax and get some office work done.

The funeral was pushed off until tomorrow at 10:00 AM.

(The photo above is of the Gapstow Bridge in Central Park during winter.)

Church · Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care

Deliver Us From Evil…

There is one thing about God that all of us need to realize: He doesn’t sit on a throne in heaven eating popcorn while watching what’s going on down here on earth on the large TV in His room. God doesn’t have His holy computer opened up to His huge contact list where every now and then He comes across a name and hits a “PAIN” button so that person could be hurt or sick or have some evil come into their lives.

If this was the God I prayed to, then I wouldn’t want to pray or believe in Him.

The horrific events that have hit our nation in the past week – the terrorist attack last Tuesday in New York City that took the life of one our neighbors here in New Milford or the crazed gunman who hated his former mother-in-law and went in and shot up her church – have brought out the worst in us. From the left, we have attacks calling for the end of gun rights in America and anyone who disagrees with this idea hates little kids because children were slaughtered in that church in Texas. From the right, calls for greater control over immigration and anyone who disagrees with the motivation of curtailing immigration clearly supports letting terrorists into America. On Twitter, hate filled tweets assail anyone who disagrees with a tweeter’s opinion.

America is angry.

It has been for a long time.

The debate over how and why hatred and anger is what now fuels our debate is something that our nation will have to tackle.

An LCMS pastor is under fire for an article he wrote for The Federalist website where he wrote that the congregants who lost their lives in the Sutherland, Texas church had their prayers answered by God. The atheist left on Twitter went apoplectic and some websites have assailed him for being out of touch, and that is being kind.

Our words sometimes get us in trouble.

It is not that the pastor, a gentleman I went to seminary with, was incorrect in his understanding of God and Holy Scripture. But sometimes we say things that may make sense in our minds, but in reality they come across as cold. Pastor Fiene’s words, while theologically on par with our faith, they came across as cold and unfeeling. When people are mourning and are planning to bury their loved ones hear that God answered their dead relative’s prayers, one can’t but see those words as lacking heart.

That was not Pastor Fiene’s intention.

My words have gotten me in trouble in the past, especially when I either said or wrote something I thought was a clear as the summertime sky, but others read it differently.

The only thing us pastors can do is work harder to make our ideas clearer in our spoken and written word. Our confession of Jesus Christ must remain bold, but understandable to people.

The God I believe in and trust in and have hope in tells me that while I live in this fallen world, He’s still near. My faith keeps me on the path of loving those around me and keeping Him at the center of my life. I’m not perfect; I sin more that I like. But God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is mine.

All around us we see the heartache of our fallen world. The pain and suffering caused by diseases and the actions of people drive us to question whether there is a God. We want a God who stops evil and curtails sin in real time. But that is not realistic.

The seeds of evil and sin are planted all around us, even in each of us. We fail ourselves and others all the time. The crazed man in Texas should have never been able to purchase the guns He used in his attack. Apparently, the Air Force never forwarded to the FBI this man’s record of assault against his wife. If they did, then he would have never been able to buy the guns because he would have failed a background check.

We don’t live a perfect world.

In a perfect world, bad things wouldn’t happen. Evil wouldn’t exist.

But it does.

It is how we respond to sin and evil that shows Christ living in us. And yes, we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” May the will of God for those who are mourning be for comfort in this dark time. May His will be for His people to be a strong arm for those whose lives are shattered. And may His will be for us that we be better people.

 

Church · Culture · Gospel Life · Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care · Uncategorized

Life is Precious.

I received an email note last night from someone calling themselves “the millennial queen,” whatever that means. All I know is that the queen is a freshman in college in Milwaukee. At least that is what she wrote. Her note contained the following hypothetical:

“Pastor, imagine for a moment you’re in a fertility clinic and there is a raging fire all around you. Behind one door, you hear a screaming child. The door to the adjacent room has a container of 1,000 fertilized eggs. You can save only one. Do you save the child or the eggs?”

The motivation behind the hypothetical story is that if a pro-lifer chooses to save the child over the fertilized eggs, then the argument that “life begins at conception” is futile since you could have saved a thousand “children” over the one child behind the door.

And yes, the question was a little odd since she wrote that the door to the adjacent room had the eggs, not the eggs being in the room.

My response: “So, if I save the child, then I’m a hypocrite, and if I save the eggs, I am a … what?A cold-hearted killer? ”

“Let’s play hypothetical for a moment. You’re in a preschool and there is an out of control fire all around you. In one room, you have a crying little boy. The other room, a crying little girl. All things being equal, you only have time to save one child. Whom do you choose? If you choose the girl, does that make you a sexist?

Continue reading “Life is Precious.”

Morning Coffee · Pastoral Care

The Slotted Spoon

This morning at around 11, I left Englewood Hospital after visiting someone. As I walked back to my car parked in front of Brookside Cemetery on Engle Street, as I walked just beyond the ambulance bays for the emergency room, a man came up to me.

He was wearing a Batman tee-shirt and smoking a joint.

“What are you going to think when after you die, there is nothing but blackness?”

Mezmerized a bit by the tee-shirt and the ridiculous tattoo of a slotted spoon on his left arm and that he was smoking mariguana outside of a hospital (granted, it could be a “medically” approved joint), I asked him to repeat his question.

I answered: “I’ll probably be thinking that a guy wearing a Batman tee-shirt with a tattoo of a spoon on his arm was right. But since I’m going to be standing at the pearly gates looking at Jesus, wouldn’t you like to know how to get into heaven?”