Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Finding Rest and Renewal in Worship with God's People

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


I am home from my week-long trip to Florida.  Folks naturally think that when a person travels from a cold climate, like Alaska, to a warm climate, like Florida, it must be a time of rest and relaxation.  However, this was not primarily a relaxation trip for me.  I confess, I did try to golf three times.  But even those attempts only allowed me to play 9 hole rounds. I never did play 18 holes in one round.  I was busy.


While in Florida I spent time helping my family to move my dad.  He is in the process of moving from the home where he has lived since 1994, to a senior living complex into a nice one room apartment.  Actually, the small job of moving some of my dad’s furniture to his apartment was done by professional movers two days before I arrived.  But, then came the big job of cleaning out his home.  I personally remember 5 places where my dad and my mom lived over the years.  But he lived in his most recent home the longest.  So, there was a LOT of accumulation.


Perhaps you know the chores faced by my Florida family.  We tried to throw out things that were outdated or unusable.  We made two trips to bring paints, chemicals, and other items to the hazardous waste disposal center.  We asked family which of the items my dad could not take to his new apartment they would like.  And we packed up items for donation to resale shops and church yard sales.  I did what I could.  My sister thanked me for my work.  But as I left on Monday, after a week of my time, there was still A LOT of work to do.


Cleaning out my father’s old home was only part of the task of helping him move.  My dad turned 90 last September.  He has routines and habits which he has followed for years.  He eats at certain times, and his regular bed time is 7:00 p.m.  Each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning my dad drove to the local gym and worked out at 5:00 a.m. (When I would visit I went with him.)  My dad went to church each Sunday.  And, every day he visited my mom’s grave at the cemetery and went to the grocery store.


To change life patterns and routines at the age of 90 can be somewhat confusing.  So, I spent more time with my dad at his new home and apartment, than I did working on his old home.  We ate in the dining room in his building a number of times.  We worked on getting his television up and running.  (Working with the cable company was a week-long chore.)  My dad and I put things away in his new apartment and arranged for pictures and decorations to be hung.  Together, my dad and I found the laundry room and the workout center.  There were a lot of details for me to consider and learn.  I think my dad may be confused for a while as he tries to figure out a new routine.


In addition, I ran errands with my dad, took him to his old home as we worked to clean it out, and took him out to eat a couple of times.  I cherish this “dad time.”  I believe time with him was even more important than time cleaning out a garage or an office.  But, maybe you know the old adage, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”


This is a really long way of saying that, in the middle of all of these chores and activities, I found a place of rest.  Do you know verse 1 of Psalm 122?  God inspired David to write, I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”  You see, on Sunday, after a week of work, my dad and I worshiped a First Lutheran Church where he has worshiped and served for over 50 years.  In many ways I grew up in this family of God.  I still know many of the people who are part of this Christian family.  So, with my dad I sang songs and hymns, which truly touched my heart on this day.  I confessed my sins and heard God’s word read.  An insightful sermon encouraged me and I received the forgiving presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.  Some people say, “You can’t go home again.”  But, I was fed and nourished and refreshed as my dad and I spent time with my Lord and His people.  I can say with David, I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” 


How about you.  Does worship bring you renewal?  Do you find God refreshing you, guiding and encouraging you, when you worship?  When you worship do you feel like you are coming home to your Father’s house?  I pray God gifts you in this way through your regular worship time with Him.


A lot has changed for my dad.  But there is one thing that does not change.  In Hebrews 13:8 God assures us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  I am still getting used to Alaska time again, and trying to get back into the swing of a pastor’s life after a week of moving chores.  But in the middle of all this change I found rest and strength in worship in the presence of our Lord and Savior.


My prayer for each of you is that God makes His forgiving and strengthening love in Jesus real to each of you when you enter His house.  I pray you can say each week with David, I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” 


A Child of God, Finding Rest and Renewal in Worship with God’s People,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  I added some more pictures of my trip and time with my dad on this link.





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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