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A WEEK IN REVIEW
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Friday, March 27, 2020
Matthew Woods, Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church In New Albany, Indiana
Today I am really hoping to speak to our youth and our parents. I am wondering how you are all doing and praying that you are doing well. I am also curious to know how you are reacting to all that is going on. I wonder what impression that all of this will leave on you. As Pastor of Grace Lutheran over the years I have had the privilege to hear from folks that experienced the 37 flood that ripped through here back then. Many of them were just kids themselves back then but they can remember with wonderous clarity the circumstances of those days. They remember very well what they lost and how they had to adapt. It left a very lasting impression throughout their lives. That’s what has me curious now as to know what impression this may leave on your lives.
I know for most of us it’s still Spring Break so maybe all that is going on still may seem far away to many of you. But I am sure you know well by now that no one is going back to school until the beginning of May at the earliest. That’s still a month away. Of course, all this means that Grace On Wednesday is over for this Spring but it will be back in the fall. Obviously, the virus has had a serious effect on a lot and will probably interrupt a lot more before its done. The important thing is that you remain well through all of it.
On the lighter side of things there is something to consider that only came to my attention recently. Naturally my warped mind got my head whirling with thoughts about it. What about all these hair places that are required to close? Can you imagine: what are the hairdos going to look like when this is all said and done especially for anyone who is already overdue. You may think, “What are you talking about Pastor?” But isn’t it the simplest things that can frustrate us and make it real for us?
You may not have had this in your house but up and until I was about 15 my mom cut my hair. It was at times very tragic. As soon as I started driving I was also getting my hair cut some where more professional. Once while home from college for a visit I made the mistake of allowing mom to trim my hair a little bit. So, like before out came the electric trimmer and soon the buzz of hair fell from my head. Then in a moment of horror and shock I heard a terrible gouging sound, a deep vorrummpt came from my head. Mom abruptly stopped, took a quick deep concerning breath, and then sympathetically cried laughing along with the others sitting at the kitchen table. When I finally got to a mirror I saw that mom had carved a road through my hair right on the top; couldn’t miss it. It was not attractive. Mom was forever banned from touching my hair ever again. After weeks of wearing a baseball hat the hair grew back and I was able to find someone capable of making my hair a lot better. By the time things open up again, there may be many hair tragedies like mine. But we can deal with those things right? As long as we can stay well we can deal with those things and we will be grateful that’s the worst it got for us.
Enough of that. I’d like to pass on a song to you that I think has a good reminder for us. It’s a Christian song by Austin French called “Why God”. It’s based on Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” In his introduction Austin explains that he went through a time of a lot of questions. A realization that children can ask God anything struck him when his little boy naturally turned to his dad, Austin, and asked some why questions of his own. And it helped him to realize that as a father those questions from his son are welcome and this is what kids do. “Asking why questions doesn’t make us a bad Christian,” he says, “it makes me a kid”. “Why?” is usually asked when things just don’t make a lot of sense. It is asked when we are scared, or sad, or confused. In the song he asks, “why people have to die,” and “why do people fall apart,” and “why we feel alone” and struggle. He confesses he doesn’t understand the wisdom of such things. But he does know such things are a good reason to run into the arms of our Heavenly Father as a child does. “God is with us in the whys.”
In Matthew 11:25-26 Jesus says, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” Kids get Jesus. Kids take the lead in humility, love, and compassion. They are not afraid to ask the why questions. Just watch any preschooler. Sometimes their take on the world amazes me. I find the same in youth, in you all. You all ask great questions. You are curious, creative, and often smarter than you realize. Sometimes I can answer your questions and sometimes the only answer is “God only knows why.” Just remember one thing that I have learned long ago and often share in our Confirmation classes. Sometimes the answer is just to stick to what you do know. What I do know is written in scripture. Jesus is Savior and that in His grace you and I are forgiven and welcomed to be His kids in the Heavenly Father’s house.
As a parent and as your pastor, you should know that not being able to answer all of our kids questions however doesn’t make us bad parents. Let’s face it our parents don’t always do everything right. Lord knows. But as parents we do want to love our kids well. And even though a parent may butcher our hair I can tell you from experience they will do anything they can for their kids. And if you think that’s cool remember our Heavenly Father sets the standard on loving His kids. Just look at the cross. Having all the right answers is not what being a parent is nor is it what being a Christian is. And parents shouldn’t be uncomfortable with just saying, “God only knows”. But the main thing is that our Heavenly Father is where we turn as His kids in Faith. Why is the Coronavirus happening? God only knows. Maybe a better question is what can we learn from it? What are we to gain from all of this? What will we say when we look back down the road like those who experienced the 37 flood? What will God say through this experience. But such things are why we turn to our Father and why we are invited to come to Jesus and find rest.
I thought about saying something from Confirmation today. I thought about a lot of things I could be saying to you. But I think right now I just want to remind you that Your Heavenly Father welcomes your questions and prayers. He is still a fixed thing. He is the one we actually know in all of this. If you have time take a listen to “Why God” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv_Pf7bDZj4). If you have the notion maybe you can share a song that is meaningful to you right now. And go easy on your parents. Their biggest concern is keeping you safe especially now. And if they are annoying you; well that’s just means things are probably okay right now. In the meantime, enjoy the time off. Get some rest and remember to wash those hands but by the Grace of Jesus know that Lord is with you.
The Lord Bless you and keep you. The Lord make His Face to shine up on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with His Favor and give you His peace.
Pastor Woods — John 3:30
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PRINTABLE PDF: DailyMarch2720
Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/gBkYRWTwIOg
Thursday, March 26
Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN
GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD
READING: Genesis 50:15-21 – “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’ So they sent word to Joseph, saying ‘Your father left these instructions before he died: This is what you are to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You meant it to me for harm, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
You undoubtedly remember the story of Joseph and his brothers. Their father, Jacob, favored Joseph because he was the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved Rachel. He was gifted with a coat of many colors, and he had not been at all reluctant to share with his older brothers the two dreams that had come to him. In one they were binding up sheaves of grain when his brothers’ sheaves bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. In the second one, the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low to Joseph himself. None of this ingratiated Joseph with his brothers. In fact, they came to hate him, and when the opportunity came, they allowed him to be sold as a slave in Egypt.
In Egypt Joseph became the slave and manager for Potiphar, until Mrs. Potiphar made advances upon him. When he rejected her, she accused him of attempted rape and he was cast into a dungeon. There he befriended the Pharaoh’s butler and that led to Joseph’s interpreting two dreams of Pharaoh that warned of an impending famine. He became second in the land only to Pharaoh and oversaw the storage and later rationing of grain. During the famine, Joseph’s brothers came for grain, and after several tests of their character, he revealed himself to them. Then his father, Jacob, came to Egypt along with the whole family. Later, when Jacob died, his brothers feared that maybe Joseph had just been biding his time until Dad died to then wreak his vengeance upon them.
This is where we pick up the story today. Joseph is much affected by his brothers’ fear. And, when he says to them, “You intended it to me for evil, but God meant it for good,” he teaches us a very wise lesson. What sometimes is bad, or even seems bad, can in fact become a blessing in disguise. As you may have heard me say on various occasions, “When Satan throws poop into people’s lives, God can turn it into fertilizer and grow green things from it.” Sometimes we actually can look back and see that very thing. Sometimes the good is not obvious to us even in hindsight, but always God, “… works for the good of those who love him. (Rom.8:28)
In our present circumstances as difficult as they may be, as inconvenient as they are, as scary as they can be, we trust that the Lord is present working out his will in accordance with his overall plan and purposes. Who’s to say but that this pandemic isn’t a rehearsal for something that could be far worse in the future. This particular virus isn’t especially deadly to a large segment of the population. And, when it has finally run its course, a great deal of study will be done on the world’s response to it. Much will be learned, mistakes will be uncovered, better methods will be developed, and greater awareness of our interconnectedness will keep us mindful of the need for vigilance and cooperation should some other pestilence rear its ugly head.
Yes, it’s been bad. Yes, it’s been a pain. Yes, it’s been frightening. But, again, only evil thrives on such things. Only evil glories in chaos. Only evil desires us to despair and turn to wrath. Remember, on Good Friday, Satan gloried in his greatest stroke of pure evil in all of his existence: the Son of God – DEAD! It was the utter epitome of evil. Jesus, DEAD, FINSIHED, OVERCOME, and GONE! But, what did God do with that catastrophe? He raised the Savior from the dead on Easter morning and turned the greatest evil into the GREATEST GOOD for the GREATEST number of people EVER!
So, Christian, do not despair. God even now is working for the good of those who love and trust in his providence. This, too, shall pass, and down the road we may well see how God was directing and protecting his beloved ones. Joseph said, “You intended it to me for evil, but God meant it for good.” There’s much to learn from that statement. And, here’s another one to think about: “All the time God is GOOD!” And the response to that is, “God is good ALL THE TIME!” Believe it! Amen!
LET US PRAY…
P.S. We’ll continue to park the shopping carts outside near the main entrance. Since you’re allowed to travel for food, keep in mind those who are most affected by current crisis: those unemployed and those with their children home every day and hard pressed to provide basic nourishment for them. Stop by on your way home and drop off your gifts in the carts. We’ll take it from there. Remember, if you bring perishables, call the office and tell us about them so we can get them inside in a timely manner. Thanks, and God be with you.
PRINTABLE PDF: DEVOTIONMarch 26
Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/oL1ZOzPMQzA
Revkisch@att.net — (812) 949-9014
Wednesday March 25, 2020
Pastor Matthew Woods From Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana
WORDS OF HEALING
Well it’s finally happened. The end of the world must be close. Pastor Woods has gotten on to social media with Instagram. My son and daughter-in-law helped me discover a brave new world. I am learning how to post pics and what is means to “follow” someone and what it means to “like” something. Up till now I have been studiously avoiding such platforms but the events of late have given me a new appreciation of their potential and value.
I was amazed this last weekend when our services received over 3000 views on Facebook alone. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine such a reach. I am truly humbled by it and grateful to be speaking to so many online friends and family members. I also received an email that said this last Sunday the internet saw its largest online audience in history because of the churches that broadcast online. I am heartened by the eagerness and hunger for God’s Word. May those who have ears to hear let them hear.
I’ve been told in times of war that one of the most important things to establish is a line of communication. Our government has declared war on this virus. The sirens to take shelter have been sounded and so we have hunkered down. Because of the technology we have today we have a wide range of communication. But what are we actually hearing? We hear of statistics, exposure rates and governors forecasting dramatic numbers. We hear of possible votes in congress, of possible medications to combat the virus. We hear about the financial difficulty felt by many. We hear about plans, and price gougers, and of a vast number of things on the news and all over the net. But this last Sunday, many in our nation chose to get online and listen for God’s Word. And thankfully we have a way to keep hearing the message of God’s Word. We have a way of receiving it. God’s Word has exploded way beyond our four walls.
Now is a very good time to listen to Jesus as He speaks to us though His Word. Romans 10 says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”… 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ….17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Jesus’ goal in hearing His message is saving you and me. Embedded in the Word itself is the saving power of the cross and the resurrection. Right now there seems to be an intensity to our hearing and a willingness by many more to listen. The Gospel is always brightest when the world gets darkest. But what are we listening for?
Jesus’ reputation preceded Him everywhere He went. And everywhere He went we are told that Jesus often spoke in parables. When Jesus finished His parables He often finished by saying, “He who has ears to hear let him hear” such as in Matthew 13:9. This phrase was meant to provoke God’s people to deeper thinking. It was meant to find a truth in the parable that would draw God’s people closer to Himself.
The Gospel is not a recipe for what to do as much as it is a declaration of what has been done in Jesus. Pastor Kischnick often rips on my chili recipe for the chili cookoff because it’s a vegan recipe. He often says things like, “You can’t have a chili without meat. That’s not chili.” Somehow it makes him unsettled and uneasy but that’s the fun. I’ve made my veggie chili the same way each year for over a decade. I can tell you exactly how to make it by heart. If we are listening to the Gospel for a recipe to fix our lives, or solve our crisis we are going to be disappointed. Most of us have recipes that we follow. We know how recipes work. The scriptures are not a recipe that tell us if we do certain things we will get the result we want. The Word of God is more like a relationship than a recipe. Relationships are complicated and often fluid and yet they are defined by love, forgiveness, and responsibilities that enhance the relationship. Sometimes there is frustration, anger, and sadness while also feeling close to someone. As siblings of our Heavenly Father our relationship with Him and one another is not something to be controlled like a recipe. It is to be honored, nurtured and grown—and occasionally forgiven or healed. The life that Jesus has given and continues to give is a spiritual life that becomes tangible when it bears fruit and demonstrates love for Him through faith.
The Gospel is also a great disrupter. It will mess with your life and if it doesn’t then its not much of a Gospel. The Gospel by its very nature is designed to put aside the sinner and replace it with a new person saved. The Apostle Paul was once a success story by Pharisee standards. Top of His class he became the great equalizer, a zealous destroyer of Christians until Jesus came to Him in Acts 9 and turned His world upside down. Afterward He became the church’s greatest communicator and witness. Paul writes in Philippians 3:8-10, “For Jesus’ sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 —- 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” The Gospel is designed to reorient our priorities and focus our hearts on Jesus above all else. Paul found freedom in Jesus and was literally liberated from the world on every level. He certainly caught all kinds of hell literally. His enemies and His problems were exponential but every time they took a swing at Paul, the church found more courage, and more reason to believe. We can certainly agree that things are disrupted right now—but maybe this is exactly where we need to be. Maybe at this moment we are better listeners. Maybe at this moment we have a better opportunity; a chance for perspective and clarity to be provoked towards a deeper faith. I pray we take advantage of it.
During this season of Lent I for one choose to see opportunity to be challenged by the Word of God. I see opportunity to be encouraged by the fact that thousands chose to tune into the Word of God—many who otherwise may have not have done so under normal times. I see blessings in ways that I have never anticipated. And finally I love the fact that the Lord continues to surprise His people. Once again he has greeted us with grace – in of all times when the world is so shaken. A fresh attention is being given to things like communicating, connecting, paying attention to others, expressing compassion, loving their neighbors, and the Word of God. Are these dark times or some of the brightest?
Please pray for the ongoing efforts of the Lord’s Church to keep reaching many and that those who listen may have ears to hear that message and believe. Please continue to pray for President, congress members, and those who are working to exhaustion to find solutions and relief from the virus. Pray for doctors and medical people who confront the dangers of illness every day—that they stay well themselves. Pray for those who have no income and for those who are locked in fear.
And now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on You with His Favor and give you His peace.
Pastor Woods — John 3:30
PRINTABLE PDF: DEVOTIONMarch 25
Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/TY0zNbjD_Mw
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 — Pastor Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN
HE TOUCHED THE MAN
READING: [Matthew 8:1-4] – “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’”
It’s obvious that Jesus had failed to get the memo about “social distancing!” He’s a lot closer than six feet. In fact he touches this man who no one was to touch for fear of being not only ritually unclean, but quite possibly infected with a terrible and ultimately fatal disease. Why does he do such a thing?
That poor man hadn’t been touched in a long time: no handshake, no hug, no kiss of affection, no comforting pat on the shoulder, no human interaction in, oh so long! Jesus knowing how important such human contact is to the inner person, he touches this man as a sign of acceptance and love. He does this even before healing the man of his affliction. Humans are made to be sociable. We’re made to be together.
Isn’t that something we’re missing about now? Keeping even our relatives, friends, and neighbors at a six foot radius is weird and disconcerting. When this virus outbreak has passed us by (and it will!), won’t it be wonderful to shake each other’s hand, give one another a friendly hug, or even touch our own faces! We were made to be sociable! We were made to be together! We were made for one another.
Did you notice what Jesus tells the leper after healing him? “Tell no one.” Really? Tell no one? After such a life changing and life saving gift he’s to tell no one? Well, Jesus has good reason: this man is under the commands of the law until he is given certification by a priest. He hasn’t been allowed to approach anyone within a stone’s throw for many, many months. His first duty is to go straightaway to the priest and then, having been found whole, he must make the ritual sacrifice of thanksgiving. Only then will he be totally and completely “clean” in the eyes of the community again. Jesus is giving him the entire package, nothing left undone. It’s another sign of Jesus’ love for the man.
What a marvelous Savior we have! He came to make all of us “clean.” The leprosy of sin infects and threatens us all. But, he WAS willing! Willing to take our sin upon himself, to carry our burdens to the cross, and to suffer our punishments that we might be clean in the sight of God, our Heavenly Father. But, to have the whole package, he also poured out his Holy Spirit upon us that we might be brought to faith in Christ Jesus, and so receive fellowship with him and with one another in the Church on earth.
Someone once famously said, “No man is an island.” Boy, he had that right. I miss you folks. Texts are good. Emails keep us posted. Telephone calls bring your voice to my ear. But seeing you in person, worshiping our Lord together, laughing and teasing one another – I miss that! So, we’ll keep in virtual touch with digital data and plentiful pixels, but we’ll pray together that God would soon put this pestilence far from us. We’ll thank him for deliverance. And, we’ll look forward to once again filling his pews, singing his praises in a divine service, and kneeling at his altar together to receive his Son’s body and blood.
Until then, keep us in your prayers as we do you. Keep us abreast of things going on in your lives. And, God be with you until we meet (in person) again!
In His Service,
PRINTABLE PDF: DEVOTIONMarch 24
Youtube Video. https://youtu.be/AfzPO6fGQFE
Hello this is Pastor Woods from Grace Lutheran Church and this is The Daily Update for Monday, March 23, 2020.
Around our house the island in the middle of our kitchen is the place where our family catches up. It happens naturally. As some or all of us stand around the kitchen island we tend to talk about how work is going or how my son’s in-laws are doing; we look at pictures of potential houses that my son and his wife may want to buy. We talk car breakdowns, what it took to fix the thing, ponder the rumors that certain stores may be selling toilet paper on certain days, and review upcoming appointments aren’t happening right now. It’s a place of information, casual conversation, and learning important things from one another.
Saturday I was forwarded a podcast (https://crossexamined.org/ For Friday March 20, 2020 with Dan Eickenberger) that interviewed my former doctor, Doctor Dan Eickenberger who came out of his very recent retirement to help cover the huge demand for medical people needed during this Coronavirus season. Dr. Eickenberge has been someone I have trusted with my health and his reputation in our area is highly regarded so naturally I listened.
He talks about his experience with four patients that he has been treating as a volunteer at our hospital. His four patients all presented the same symptoms when they arrived at the hospital; fever, cough, short of breath, and weezing. One had parainfluenza type 4, one had meta-pneumonia, one had rhino virus, and one has coronavirus (forgive me if I don’t have this quite right—not a doctor). Distinctions are made when testing is done that help distinguish who has what. Since we are in a season that is naturally prone to virus its hard to know who has what. This means any who present with these symptoms must be treated as a coronavirus patient. This means that masks gowns, gloves, and high precautions are taken. The problem that is bigger than virus is that such supplies are running short in hospitals throughout the country. Every person, every time, one enters into those rooms must dress in gowns, gloves, and masks even for a simple change of bed sheets.
Another interesting point of information is that the more tests that are completed the more cases of the virus are found. However, the higher number of known infections the lower the death rate drops. As of last Friday it was a rate of 1.05. It was also stated that much of our information is coming from third world countries with far less sufficient health care for the people in those countries. Our information is incomplete and big decisions are being made with insufficient information. What are we to believe then? How are we to respond to all of this?
What we do know is that Malaria Medications are showing very promising signs of being helpful to the more severe cases. Another positive is that we are on pace for one of the fastest developments of a vaccine. Twelve months as I have heard it is extraordinarily fast (Although we could use a vaccine for fear or panic). And still one more piece of good news I believe is that it is believed by Doctor Eichenberger that we will eventually build a kind of immunity through the normal passive exposures that we experience with things like flu and colds. More exposure in time means more immunity built up in our communities. It seems that our doctors are beginning to understand more than we did yesterday. Distinguishing the facts through filters of fear, sensationalism, and lots of other noise will be the challenge.
But such was the case long ago in Matthew 16:13-16 where Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” By this point in Jesus’ ministry scriptures have many times described the land of Israel in an uproar about the news of a Rabbi who heals people. In Luke 7 after Jesus raises the widow’s son at Nain we are told that “A sense of awe swept over all of them, and they glorified God. “A great prophet has appeared among us!” they said. “God has visited His people!” News spread about Him throughout Judea and surrounding region. Mark 2 even describes four men tearing open a roof to lower a paralyzed friend down to Jesus because the house was too crowded to get in any other way. What they heard, felt, and believed was no doubt shaped by what people were saying about Jesus and motivated them to take extreme, creative action to help their friend. People who were sick traveled miles on what people were saying about Jesus. Was it hope or simply hysteria? We all know how rumor motivates people—just mention that a store will have TP at a certain place at a certain time and see what happens. So for deeper clarity Jesus asks, “Who do people say I am? The Disciples answer Some say, John the Baptist, others say Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
There was so much information. There were so many reports. Many saw and experienced Jesus first hand but very few had an accurate picture of Jesus, especially Jesus’ enemies. They would never see anything good no matter the facts or the good that had been accomplished. Some say one thing. Some say another. What they heard and felt and wanted from Jesus varied greatly depending on what they thought about Jesus. Some just wanted healing. Some just wanted bread to eat. Some genuinely sought a Savior and believed—all different conclusions based the same intelligence.
The most important question we must ask is the question Jesus finally asks the disciples; “Who do you say I am?” Of course, we remember Simon answered; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” As Christians we understand the value of this answer.
Having lots of information and facts are at their best and most helpful when the right conclusion is reached. Otherwise all we have are interpretations driven by strong emotions of excitement or fear; All we have are the sensational reports of things that may or may not be accurate conclusions. For us we depend on the accuracy and truth of God’s Word and its center, Jesus.
Traditionally every year at Easter we hear of Easter Morning when news from the women reached the disciples. Remember their reaction? They thought the women were crazy. Because of their bias and emotions they were slow to believe their report in resurrected Jesus. We hear of Mary Magdalene mistaking Jesus for a gardener because of her sorrow even as Jesus stood right there. We hear of the Emmaus disciples who in their sadness for Good Friday take a whole day of travel walking with Jesus to realize that Jesus was with them the whole time teaching them. But when they understand they run back and spread the news to the disciples. Information takes time to filter through the discovery process, the emotions, and the human elements before it finally reaches its realization. But here it is. And this is the critical point we pray for: In time, in one form or another, the right conclusion is necessary for saving people’s lives. This is medically and spiritually true.
I encourage all of us to pray for the right information that may draw us to the right conclusions. Perhaps pray that our discovery in this will lead to a vaccine sooner than later. Pray for us all to gain wisdom through knowledge and experience so that in the long-term we are a more prepared health care, a more prepared nation. Pray for courage at home and for faith to trust the Lord especially in uncertain times. Finally, perhaps consider praying for a deeper gratitude for those who genuinely dedicate themselves to help all of us understand, learn, and finally succeed in overcoming the virus. Their talents, time, and work are a gift of the Lord.
And Now the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you. The Lord look upon you with His favor and give you His peace.
Pastor Matthew Woods
PRINTABLE PDF: March2320
Youtube Video. https://youtu.be/46fatprbO1k
WEEK IN REVIEW
Pastor Woods gives his “Week in Review” in the Youtube video listed below:
Youtube Video. https://youtu.be/Q59x-F1BiUc
DAILY DEVOTION #3
Pastor Woods — Daily Update and Devotion
Friday, March 20
When you enter the main doors of Grace Lutheran Church there is a copy of a painting of Jesus crucified on the cross. It’s a dark, somber painting meant to reflect on the depth Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. It is reflective of the darkness of Good Friday from noon to three as Jesus hung there. I love art and admire this painting as one of my favorites. But I have to be honest I saw our copy of the painting on the entrance wall but really never looked that close until recently. Like most I usually just hustle in and out of the door and rarely, if at all, look up to see it. Last fall that all changed. When we went to St. Louis with our Confirmands I connected the dots. I’ve been here nearly twenty years and Last Fall I finally discovered why it looked so vaguely familiar to me.
We walked into the old Cathedral in St. Louis down by the Arch and right up in front, hanging on the wall behind the marble altar is a larger copy of Diego Velazquez’s Christ Crucified 1632 (The original hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain). I admire this painting and enjoy seeing it again when we visit every two years. This year however, when I came home I became aware that our painting over the door is a smaller copy of that same painting in St. Louis. I don’t have to go to St. Louis to see it again. I am now paying attention and now fully aware that it has been with us this whole time. All I have to do is take the time to look up to see it before I rush out the door.
Being aware is always helpful and can be very rewarding. Awareness depends on information and observation, with a dose of knowledge and wisdom. Right now doctors around the world are gathering information to become more aware of the extent of the Coronavirus. Vaccines for known illnesses like the different strains of the Flu have been developed because smart people have learned about them. Experience has also taught us how to deal with them. Learning takes time; time for testing; time to gather results; and lots of patience. Awareness has been the hardest part of dealing with coronavirus precisely because there are still so many unknowns. We know a whole lot more about the virus than just a week ago and therefore we are taking action differently then we did a week ago. With patient endurance I believe these talented medical people will be blessed with the wisdom to become sufficiently more informed about this virus to develop a vaccine. Buying them the time needed to explore and learn is the challenge immediately in front of us because we are in a hurry get past this. But with time it is more likely the secrets of the virus will not stay hidden.
One of my favorite people that we meet in scripture is the woman in Luke 8:42-48. I admire her courage and faith to humbly reach out for Jesus’ hem. She believed as many did in her day that even the hem of His garment would bring healing but she is the only one I know of that took action to follow through. She had been suffering for twelve years with an illness no one else could cure. It was a humiliating illness with all kinds of social realities tied to it. The illness made her unclean and probably ruined any chance of marriage or children. Within this crowd of people, this woman used what strength she had left to reach Jesus. The rest crowded around Him and no one noticed this woman struggling to get closer. “If I just touch the hem of his garment” she thought, “I will be healed”. She succeeds. And immediately she is healed. She can feel it. She couldn’t remember feeling that good. And just as quickly as she is healed Jesus stops everything and asks who touched Him because He sensed power had gone out from Him. Suddenly the woman that no one noticed is front and center and everyone notices. Jesus doesn’t scold her or punish her but praises her, and celebrates her faith which was bold enough to reach out to the Lord in a crowd. Within this crowd Jesus notices this courageous woman—she literally stands out. When no one else is aware Jesus certainly is.
Please note that this woman seems to be aware of what everyone else didn’t fully see. She pursued Jesus as the Messiah who heals, not just as a rabbi who did miracles. She believed in Jesus and her faith was as commendable as the Centurion of Luke 7:1-10 or of the Gentile woman of Matthew 15:21-28. It seems she was way ahead of the disciples. She is so unique that Jesus stops everything to praise her act of faith. This is why she is one of my favorite people in scripture and why she stands out in a crowd and be written about in scripture.
What does this teach us? First, like this woman’s example of faithful diligence and endurance, it only takes one to stand out to teach and inspire others. It only takes one breakthrough to change everything. And just as this woman sought out Jesus unlike anyone at that time—in our time somewhere, someone will see what others hadn’t spotted yet. Then the whole game changes for everyone. All it takes is one person to spot it. All it takes is one person to stand out to teach the rest. And then we will all know. We will learn. Then we will know much more clearly how the virus works and what we can do to overcome it.
Here’s another point. Faith for some of us opens up to us in the same way. Our breakthroughs often happen under specific conditions and at certain times. Even as adults our Lord is using “Teachable moments”. The disciples spent three years learning from Jesus but the greatest lesson—the breakthrough didn’t come until Easter. Jesus announced three times He was to be sacrificed on the cross and then on the third day rise again. Yet none of the disciples expected a living Savior on Easter. Good Friday was a mess of emotions and of disciples in hiding in fear being next. After Easter Sunday, the disciples finally understood—finally they were fully aware of the whole picture and purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion. Then–then they were ready to witness to everyone about Jesus and eventually their teaching was known to the world.
Yesterday the President announced that there may be a breakthrough with some medicines that are already on the market. Could this be like the painting I mentioned earlier. Could an answer be in front of us the whole time. Maybe these meds will work. Maybe not. Maybe something else will be needed. The point is soon we will know more and tomorrow we will be wiser and with patience a solution will be developed. That’s how it works. That’s the process of awareness.
The woman we mentioned from Luke 8 captured the picture of our day; Facing an illness, isolated, wondering how long, and will things ever be normal. Somewhere she heard reports of a cure—in her case Jesus. Perhaps this is a time to learn not only about our health. Maybe this is a teachable moment for us to learn more about faith in Jesus. Maybe something in all of this is meant to drive us deeper into His Word and tap into places found only when we are challenged. And maybe it will be something that has been with us the whole time. Chances are if we just look up we already discover Jesus has been there the whole time, like the painting hanging over the main doors of the church entrance. Maybe what we are to gain is not very definable right now, but perhaps whatever we are to gain will make much more sense later on as we become more aware and made more wise.
So the next time you enter the church I encourage you to look up above the doors. See if you can spot the crucified Christ, who’s been there the whole time—through thick and thin.
And the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you with His favor and give you His peace.
Youtube video: https://youtu.be/c7Bt-GelGuk
DAILY DEVOTION #2
Pastor Woods — Daily Update and Devotion
Thursday, March 19
It’s not fun to feel afraid. Years ago I had the privilege of visiting with an elderly lady in our congregation named, Vivian. By the time I met her she had been living on her property her whole life and known no other home. No big deal right? Except she had so much fear of leaving the property that she hadn’t left it for over twenty years—not for groceries, not for a doctor visit, not even for her mother’s funeral. She depended on her nephew or friends to get what she needed. She couldn’t define her fear but simply knew its hold on her. In effect she felt that it was necessary to stay sheltered in place–permanently.
Fear is hard to define and anxiety can become paralyzing to some. But does fear accomplish anything constructive? Some may argue that it gives us the good sense to avoid dangerous animals and to stay away from powerlines. But how much of that is really more a sense of caution and care. The difference between caution and fear may be a fine line but it is an important line to hold. Caution and care are exercised in love and proactive rather than reactive. Fear and anxiety are not seen as positive things in scripture. Fear and anxiety are usually associated with doubt and doubt it never a happy place.
Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-27 from His Sermon on the mount. Matthew 6 is especially potent for us Americans here in Southern Indiana, who are used to a certain level of comfort and security. In previous verses Jesus has just spoken about seeking first the kingdom of heaven and everything else will be added as well. And then Jesus teaches about anxiety–25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Isn’t this a great truth. Worrying cannot make things better. “Each day has enough trouble of it’s own” is so true. And right now each day sure has all kinds of new troubles to stir things up. But let’s be real. Worrying simply cannot improve the situation no matter how strongly we feel the pull of that anxiety. It cannot produce more toilet paper or chicken to buy. It cannot undo the damage of an illness such as a cold, or flu, or the Corona Virus. All it can do is complicate matters. Worse still, worrying is generally self-focused and usually not focused on any kind of love or concern for our neighbor. Jesus never healed anyone by worrying about them. In fact, Jesus never let anything or anyone get Him off of His game to serve the Father’s will. And He has given us grace to do the same—to stay in the game.
In Matthew 6:25ff Jesus reveals first of all that God hasn’t forgotten you. Life is more than food and more than clothes. Jesus came to seek and save us with His cross not make us fashionable or fill our bellies. Something more permanent is already in place in Jesus.
Think of it this way: Unless I look at pictures I can’t remember what I wore at my niece’s wedding a couple of years ago and I definitely can’t remember what the menu was. I can remember that is was a great time and beautiful night, that my niece and her husband were glowingly happy, and that we enjoyed being with the family in Michigan very much. (For a Michigan boy it’s always good to be in Michigan). And yet when a virus comes around somehow I’m supposed forget Jesus and worry about having enough food and toilet paper. What kind of faith would that be?
The most important thing we have is each other in all of this. I can’t stress enough how great it is that we are close to our family and how cool it is that I can sit at the table for a meal with them even if it is just burnt hot-dogs—(Sorry about that Tricia. The Grill was on high.) What a great time we have right now to exercise gratitude for what we have instead of worrying. By the way—gratitude is the mixture of grace plus attitude. Put the two together and you get gratitude—thankfulness filled with grace. Embrace this time with its opportunities and don’t be afraid of it.
No one wants to be limited. I know I sure don’t like being cooped up away from all of you. We certainly pray that the virus will go away and that our first responders and govt. leaders stay well. But within this time where we are tempted to worry I would invite you to look for the gifts Jesus brings within this experience. It is a time unlike any other. It will be uniquely remembered like the 37 flood that all the old-timers remember from their childhood. You have the chance to shape that experience. Now is a shared story that your kids and grandkids will remember being with you when it all happened.
Years back when Michigan was hit hard by an ice-storm our home in Clarkston was without power for a week. So, we all huddled in the basement in our new reality—grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, cousins all gathered at our house. No personal space. And very uncomfortable. Without power we had way to run the well-pump and therefore no water either—ugh! We literally melted snow for water and cooked off the top of a buckstove like settlers on the frontier right in our basement where we kept warm. No TV—No internet back then—Yikes. But we did a lot of sledding and woodchopping, boiling water, and board games. Yea, we were all a little greasy by the end of the week, I won’t lie. But in spite of the headache and drama of it I remember it with fondness and gratefulness that we had that shared experience.
And now even those of us who are members of Grace who live alone this is our shared experience with you too. Your stories and experience is as much a part of mine. And so, I choose not to let fear get a footing in my emotions or in my thinking. I choose joy because of the opportunity that I have with you rather than giving into worrying about something I have no control over anyway. I encourage you to choose joy and to give thanks for this extremely rare time that has become so basic and beautiful.
Matthew 6 is Jesus’ truth not just mine. He’s the one that tells us not to worry. We may get uncomfortable. We may even get sick. We can’t always avoid those things anyway. On the other hand, we certainly want to be cautious and careful about such things. But again, that is a proactive mindset rather than a reactive one. Your Father knows what you need and certainly values you more than the birds of the air. I pray that you would trust in our Lord’s wisdom in Matthew 6 and value these days. I would pray that you would remember to give thanks for what you have rather than worry about what you can’t do much about. I would pray that your faith would be more real than the reality of our current state. I pray that Jesus fills our hearts more than your anxieties. And I pray that we take to heart the words of Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” May the Lord’s peace reign in the storm!
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord Look upon you with His favor and give you His peace.
Pastor Matthew Woods — John 3:30
WOODS VIDEO FOR 3-19-20 https://youtu.be/w-lNYsFNEDE
DAILY DEVOTION #1
A Word From Pastor Matthew Woods
March 18, 2020
I think by now we can all agree that the Coronavirus and the fear it has brought has plunged us rapidly into uncharted territory. We are learning new terms like “social distancing” and exercising self-isolation. We hear every day more and more about how the virus is impacting our country and now our community. And we don’t know if it will take weeks or months to recover. We have been exposed to a vulnerability unlike anything we have experienced in anyone’s lifetime.
Last evening (Tuesday, March 17) our church council gathered to develop a plan that would see us through this unprecedented time. We feel that it is important to act not only in our own interests but also in the best interest of our community. As Doctor Matthew Harris, our Synodical President, has stated recently–We will do well to practice our faith—Not to hurt or harm our neighbor in his body but to help and support him in every physical need. And so we hope to do our part in stemming any opportunity for the virus to get any foothold among our families especially our most vulnerable. This is why our leaders at Grace have decided to postpone most activities and to move its services online for at least the next couple of weeks and possibly longer. As things develop we will adapt and do our best to keep ministering to out folks with as much contact as possible. This is what we can do on this side of things. However, I pray that all of you will continue to be attentive to the health of your souls too. Such times as these usually have a strong impact long term. What’s doubly hard is that our instinct is to band together but this time we are being told to stay apart and isolate. Given today’s technology the Pastors are eager to stay connected to you.
I have to admit it’s hard not to think about all that is going on and to let my mind rest from it. But last night our family watched Frozen 2—not normally my kind of movie. Disney gave it an early release because so many are home hunkered down because of the virus. We even left the closed captioning on so my daughter-in-Law could sing along. But it was fun. We were all together with both boys and daughters-in-laws huddled together in Josh’s basement living room. I did find it interesting as I watched the news beforehand that all the commercials keep going as though nothing has changed. They still want us to buy their stuff. It’s interesting how irrelevant those commercials seemed given our current circumstances. Who’s thinking about a new car, or a new home loan, or a diet pill when it confronted with a sense of one’s well-being or safety. The commercials seemed shallow, empty, and trivial. I confess the movie was okay. Like all movies it was a nice distraction for a while. But we need more than just a distraction. As your pastor and as Christians I would invite you to get reacquainted with something real and timeless.
I can’t help but think of John 3 where Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus. Jesus references Numbers 21 in John 3:14-15. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” You probably remember in Numbers 21 that snakes were biting the people but God promised that if they looked at the serpent on the pole and believed God’s promise to save them they would live. Jesus connects the most famous verses (John 3:16-17) to this fact. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but the save the world through Him.” Looking at a cross one can’t miss that it is connected to Jesus and to His promise to be saved through Him.
Notice though God didn’t take away the snakes. Instead the Lord gave the Israelites a way to overcome the snakes by looking to His promise attached to the Serpent on the Pole. The world has seen many deadly things since that time in the wilderness and still calls us to look to His cross and its promise for deliverance. We don’t always get to follow Jesus during “comfortable times” or from “safe places” and history has shown us that bad things can and do happen to God’s people. If anything, however now we are called upon to remain faithful and to remember, “when I am weak, He is strong.” The Apostle Paul went through a lot of harsh living and still he believed Jesus is real and not just a Disney story. He literally bet his life on Jesus.
Even as we keep watch over our hearts and minds we will also do well to remember to pray for our government officials. They are I think doing their best at this point to figure this thing out. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and a for unprecedented cooperation for the sake of the country. Pray for our first responders like the doctors and nurses, and those on the front line of this thing. Pray for those already affected by the virus. Pray for courage in the face of fear and for humility in the face of things we cannot control.
Remember the plague of 1527 in Wittenberg? Maybe you haven’t. As others fled, Martin Luther in 1527 decided to stay when the Plague came to Wittenberg. He and his wife, Katie, who was pregnant at the time, decided to stay and they devoted all their efforts and their home to caring for the sick. It was also an unprecedented time, mired in fear as officials and citizens wondered what to do and what may yet come. It was in this time that Luther was inspired to write His most famous Hymn; “A Mighty Fortress is our God”, basically Psalm 46 put to music. Those on the front lines are exposed. Please keep them all in prayer. Pray also for Grace Lutheran and for the Body of Christ that we may remain faithful, adaptable, and viable throughout.
Some of us will not be the same after this. As least in one measure that may be a good thing. Now that so much that would ordinarily fill our time has been postponed or cancelled during this season of lent perhaps we get a chance to be more basic. Maybe we have a real chance to fast from the things that have distracted us for too long from our family time. Perhaps we can learn about ourselves and refine our priorities. Perhaps we needed to work from home and have a different pace to life and maybe we could use some time to get some needed rest. Maybe we needed to confront our idols in repentance. The Lord knows.
Often within trouble is the opportunity for God to do something He otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to do because any other time we may not be ready to listen or tune in. So often this is the case with our friends who are fighting cancer, for example. They learn to find God’s hand on everything. Just having the strength to go is counted as a blessing—the most basic of things are remembered as gifts. We don’t necessarily get out of such things unharmed and sometimes we are mortally wounded but the most spiritual journeys often find reality when trouble hits hardest.
I pray that you will find your refuge and strength in the Lord. Perhaps we are being tested. The key is found in which way we look for our help in this time of trouble. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent on the pole so too the Son of Man, Jesus is lifted up. I encourage you to look toward the cross in prayer and for courage.
Finally, I invite you to join us at our Web site (glcna.com) for daily updates and for further devotions. Look for us online for the broadcast of our church services this Sunday. They will be held at regular times and I pray that you would take advantage of our church app as well. Please continue to support the ministry of Grace and reach out to us with your ideas and concerns and especially let us know how you are doing. Thanks for taking a moment with me today.
The Lord Bless you and keep you, the Lord make His Face to shine upon you and give you His peace.