August 2020
From the Pastor

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” John 3:1-2

Chances are you’ve heard of the game "Telephone.” In case you are unfamiliar, it works like this: You have a group of people either standing in a circle or sitting in a straight line.  The person on one end whispers a phrase into the next person’s ear and it gets passed down the line. The phrase can only be said once so the person must listen carefully. One shot is all each person has. Normally the end result is the person at the other end doesn’t end up with the phrase that the first person shared. Somewhere along the way words get jumbled, assumptions are made and we end up with an inaccurate story. It’s no one’s fault really, but rather the work of the whole group. Sometimes a person (or more) in the group who thinks it is funny to mix up the phrase on purpose. The truth is, while it may be funny in the moment, it isn’t helpful in the long run. It can be difficult to sometimes agree with those around us. You might even call it impossible. Remember, however, that all things are truly possible when God is involved. Give your problems, your worries, your joys, your sorrows, your celebrations—give them all to God and give thanks that you have been claimed as a child of God and you are invited to the banquet table where all are welcome as a guest of honor.

I’ve experienced this kind of communication in the past, in various places, but maybe I have been a bit naïve as I have also found it to be quite common in the church.  In our brokenness, when we have an issue, rather than addressing the person responsible, we engage in this game of telephone in hopes that our request is met.  Why is that?  Are we so afraid of approaching someone directly that we look for any way to get out of it? How many times have we seen or heard someone having an issue with another and it is internalized and the separation grows.  When it finally arrives to the intended person, it is hardly recognizable from the original issue.  What I’ve found when I hear things two and three times removed from the actual request, I have more questions than the person sharing the information with me has answers. Do you see the problem here? I’ve got questions that need answers and so now I’ve got to go to the person who had the question/concern in the first place to get the answers I need. Even if I don’t have any questions, I still have to explain my answer to this person and then they have to go back to the original person who may or may not like the answer I’ve given. WHEW!!! Is it only me or does that sound exhausting?  I am exhausted just trying to write this out.

Wouldn’t it be much simpler to ask the person directly the question you have? Then there is no need to go back and forth between people.  You will probably have your answer more quickly! How might you work to be in unity with others, especially those you might not agree with or those who have upset you?  Often it is easiest to simply dismiss them and walk away. It takes much more effort to find a solution or a common ground. After all, aren’t we called to be in community together, even when it’s difficult?

Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus, to help "straighten him out” from what he thought was sketchy teaching. Nicodemus also didn’t want to approach Jesus when others could see him so he went at night. What Nicodemus learned was that he didn’t know everything he thought he did because he also had bad information. When the two talked together they understood each other better.

Unfortunately, a person that inspired this article will most likely never see it. I encourage you to ask people direct questions, with love, remembering that they are a child of God.  Find out why something is or isn’t being done  This applies not only within the church, but also, in our world. How much simpler would life be if we talked to one another rather than send our messages down the telephone line in hopes that the message at the end is the same as the beginning.

We are all community together. Through the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the hurt the joy—no matter what—we are in this together because we have all been claimed by God as His children. To me, that is as good a reason as any to work together despite differences we might think we have.

Blessings to you this month of August! Even amidst pandemic woes, I pray the summer is good to you!  Remember the words of wisdom in our restrooms – "Wash your hands, say your prayers – Jesus and germs are everywhere!”

Claim Your Baptism!  Pr. Paul <><

p.s.  Did you know??  I am so pleased with the hard work our confirmation youth have been putting in this summer.  We have doubled our class time to 3 hours weekly so that we can catch up from time missed because of the virus.  Please encourage them in their studies and share in the joy that they bring to our class time.

p.s.s. - Did you know that Luther said. . . . ???  "God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”