Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Why Did He Have to Die?

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

In July I bought a new dog.  We had a yellow Labrador retriever, Susitna, from 2000 till September of 2014.  Su was a loving dog who grew as part our family, and lived to go fishing with me.  Su went salmon fishing in the boat, trout fishing in the canoe, stream fishing along various rivers and creeks, and ice-fishing in the winter.  But Su grew old and ill and we had her put down because of her serious health problems.

Even though Kathy tells me she is not an animal person, I personally missed having a dog.  I loved petting other people’s pets.  I sometimes took my daughter’s dog fishing.  But that wasn’t my dog.  Yet, when Kathy and I looked at puppies and thought about bringing one home, we also considered our schedules.  We are often gone for work and travel.  What kind of life is that for a puppy to be home alone.  So, we bought a 5 year old male yellow lab and have named him Mat.  (“Mat-Su”)  In a month and a half Mat has found a home with our family.  And, he loves to go fishing.  When I open the door of the truck he bounces around and jumps into the cab.

However, Mat loves to do something else.  While he doesn’t always eat his dog food, and when he does eat he doesn’t eat much, he does like to pilfer the food that people have. 

On Mat’s first fishing trip, St. John member Kym Miller was along.  Kym was eating a sandwich and didn’t see Mat take the other half of the sandwich from her plastic container. 

Later in August Sara Guhl and her grandson Galen were fishing with me.  I had a can of Vienna sausage to give to the dog as treats. But, when I turned around, the dog had the can of sausage on the beach and was licking the now empty can.  Later Sara found him eating the salmon eggs we had along for bait.  Finally, Sara had to take my plum, which I had brought as a snack, out of my dog’s mouth.

I was fishing with Aaron Smith, my daughter Mary’s fiancée.  Aaron had prepared some breakfast burritos and offered me one.  I declined, but in a minute we saw the dog with the burrito in his mouth, plastic wrap and all.

I took Mark Ford fishing in early September and we caught a nice bright salmon full of eggs.  I was curing the eggs in a plastic container in the garage so that I could later use them as bait.  I left the container on my workbench, far enough away from the dog who was on a rope, I thought.  But when I looked outside I found the plastic container in the back yard.  The eggs were gone and there was a pink stain on the garage floor from the cure I was using on the eggs.

This past Monday I took Pastor Tony Schultz fishing with me.  I was having a test in the hospital so I left the dog in the truck with my snacks stuffed under the front seat, thinking Mat couldn’t reach them.  But, when I came out of the hospital, the snack bag was on the front seat of the truck, torn to pieces.  The small sandwich bag that had the tiny pieces of cheese, wrapped in wax, was torn open and empty.  Two of my three apples had teeth marks, and one of the three plums was missing.  When I got home I put the two damaged apples into the dog’s food dish.  Soon I called Kathy. Mat was lying in her kennel, chewing on the apples.  Only a small piece was left.

When I told Kathy of the missing snacks, and she knew of other incidents, she snickered and asked, “Should I say something?  You know, it would be alright with me if we didn’t have any animals.”  But, the truth is, I have grown attached to my dog.  I enjoy spending time with him.  I really enjoy seeing his delight as he jumps in the truck and as he runs along the beach when we go fishing.  So, I try to show him praise for good behavior and love him into our family.  Kathy just smiles and shakes her head.

What does all this have to do with a devotion?  I recently read a story about a little girl who was visiting her grandmother and went to church with her.  It was the girl’s first experience in a worship service.  As the pastor stood up front speaking, he said that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  The little girl leaned over and whispered to her grandmother, but not very softly, “Why did He do that?”  Her grandmother put her finger over her lips to encourage quiet during worship.  But the girl would not stop.  She asked again, more loudly so others could hear, “Why did He have to die?”  The grandmother replied this time with a “Shhh.”  Being her first time in worship and not wanting to be denied, the girl asked loudly enough for everyone to hear, even the pastor, “Why did He have to die?”  The pastor stopped speaking.  He could have offered all sorts of theological explanations to the question.  But the grandmother answered the grand daughter so all could hear, “He died because He loves you so very much.” 

Perhaps you know God’s word from Romans 5.  6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Someday my dog may learn not to take other people’s food.  Until that time I will try to teach him good behavior and love him into the family.  8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

A Child of God, Learning Patience From our New Pet,

Pastor Jonathan

P.S.  Here are some fish pictures from the trip to the Little Su with Mark Ford.  In a very real way this was a Stephen Ministry outing.

P.P.S.  Here are some veggies picked for supper 9-8-2017.

P.P.P.S.  This flower sprung up in our garden.  We are not sure what kind of flower it is.  A Holly Hock??  (Do you see our new Labrador rooting through the compost pile in the background?)


ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.


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