Most of you know that my dad took ill a couple of weeks ago and that he died this past Saturday morning. When Dad was placed in hospice on Monday evening, I asked my brothers and sister if I should come down to Florida to be with my dad. Yet, how long would my dad be in the facility? A couple of days? A few months? A fellow pastor I highly respect indicated that I was "between a rock and a hard place" because we don't know what it meant that my dad was now on hospice. However, when the medical staff suggested that their estimate was that my dad had between 4-6 days to live, I got on a plane the following day and flew to Florida. I was with my dad all day Friday, and I was with him Saturday morning when he passed away.
One experience that has struck me during this time of sadness and grief at my dad's illness and passing is the tremendous outpouring of care, of concern, and even of love. I received, and am still receiving, phone calls, texts, hugs, and e-mails from people who want me to know personally that they are praying for me and for my family, and that they care for us. Two people even sent or posted prayers for us. And then, as my dad was dying and after he passed, members of my family posted on Facebook. In response to one post alone there were over 250 personal messages of hope, of support, and of caring. What a blessing to be comforted by such love and support!!
Actually, showing such love and concern is the way God intends His church live. God intends for the church to be a family that supports one another as fellow children of our Heavenly Father. In Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 God moved Paul to describe the church as "the body of Christ." in this body each part has a place and a task. In this church all care for one another. Listen to these verses about "the body." "25 . . . God has so composed the body . . . 26 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (1 Corinthians 12:25-27)
"I do not believe I am alone in receiving such support from my congregation. You heard those words, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." There are many who have recently faced life challenges, faced family difficulties, faced financial set-backs, or who have been afflicted by illness or loss. Time and again in the recent life of our congregation I have seen these people supported by God's children. Often problems are so big we see no way to solve them. But, fellow members of the family of Christ can still stand beside those going through tough times. They can and do express care, give support, and bring the presence and the love of God to life's trials. Such family love in God's church truly does make a difference. I have seen such loving support work God's grace time after time.
Unfortunately, since the church is made up of sinful people who need a savior, the church does not always act lovingly. Sometimes our sinful nature can show itself in ugly ways. I have noted that political fights, when two different viewpoints oppose one another, are ugly. But, because God's people think the are not just dealing with what is right, but with ultimate truth, church fights can be even uglier.
Nevertheless, I am thankful that God's children at St. John have been there to care for so many in of need. I am thankful and amazed at the support and Christian love I have received and continue to receive.
Such love and care among God's people should not be a surprise. On the night before His death Jesus told His disciples, "A new commandmet I give you, that you love one another: just as I love you, you are to love one another." (John 13:34) God expects us to love and care for one another. But, that command can seem overwhelming. Jesus, the Almighty Creator, gave up his home in heaven to come to earth and love us. Jesus, the Lord of all, lived the righteous life of a servant to love us. Jesus, the eternal Alpha and Omega, suffered and died on the cross to love us. And, because He loves us, Jesus, the Son of God, rose again from death and lives in heaven calling all to the gift of eternal life in heaven through faith in Him. Imagine, Jesus calls us to love one another the way that He loves us! That can seem overwhelming!
But, when we receive love, we are naturally moved to share love. When we receive grace and forgiveness, through Jesus, the natural response is to show mercy and forgiveness to others. When God's children show us love and concern, the natural reaction is to show such loving concern to other children of God. So, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
My family and I have hope and assurance in regard to our dad. Dad knew Jesus and knew His saving love. My dad has rejoined my mom in the presence of Jesus in heaven. Nevertheless, the loss is real. Thank you for your many expressions of love and concern. Such love and care is overwhelming.
A Child of God, Overwhelmed by the Love and Concern of God's People,
P.S. I put together a slide show from pictures I have from my dad’s life. You can watch it on this link.
P.P.S. My computer died on Tuesday morning. I am "hi-jacking" Kathy's computer for a while. However, many regular e-mails will not be sent until I get home and get the computer fixed. Maybe I need some time to reflect.
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.
Child of God
Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather
Senior Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church
907-841-4066 - cell
907-746-5131 - home
907-745-3338 - church
907-746-6117 - fax