FROM THE PASTORS DESK
Please read the devotion and click on the link at the bottom to access the song, where you will be redirected from this website so you can listen and watch a video of the song's performance.
I have prepared songs for the coming days. If there is a hymn that speaks to you, I would welcome suggestions.
So tomorrow it’s really here, my last day as Pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Portland, MI. And so today I will publish my last song devotion. It took a while to choose the song or hymn, but you know it had to be about Jesus because that is what my ministry has always been centered in.
Our Scripture for today from Paul’s letter Galatians, chapter 2, verse 20 says it all. It is the way I want to live my life and the way I have encourage you all to live yours. Paul says it better than I ever could: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” And what better hymn could there be to explain how that works than “What Wondrous Love Is This?”
The first song verse talks about the same thing Paul does in Galatian 2 as the verse says, “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.” The Lord of bliss is, of course, Jesus and the curse was going to the cross for us. Many times, as the second verse describes, I and all the world have been sinking down because of the weight of our sin. That sin, as the hymn says, caused Jesus to lay down his crown for our souls. What Jesus the Lamb has done for us is something we’ve sung about together in worship for over 30 years.
The third verse of the hymn says, “To God to the lamb, I will sing.” We can look forward to doing that together in heaven as well, as the last verse of the hymn says, “and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on of his love for me, and through eternity I’ll sing on.” This is what our life together has been all about, joining Jesus in heaven.
I’m praying that’s how it will be for all of us together in heaven someday. Until then, let’s marvel together at the Wondrous Love of Jesus! God’s peace be with you!
Today is song devotion 288 if my calculations are right and after today, I will publish one more and then I will be done. Retirement awaits and I pray that all of you have gotten as much out of reading them and listening to the songs as I have writing them. Who knew 27 months ago that COVID would still be rearing its ugly head today. Not me for sure! Now granted, it’s calmed down and most people have gone back to living life in a way similar to what they did 27 months ago. But it’s still here and will be for a while I am guessing.
Most of you said when COVID began, “Jesus take the wheel,” because everything else we trusted in and enjoyed was gone, at least for a short time. Today’s song from Brandon Heath, “See Me Through it” uses those exact words. Now, one of the things I learned early in my ministry is that it’s not enough to let Jesus take the wheel in times of crisis like COVID. He needs to be and is in charge all of the time. He is the only one who can and has saved us. As Heath sings in the song, “I don’t got this, I know you’ve got this.” If we are going to survive both here on earth and into eternity, we need to realize that we need to depend on Jesus for everything. God the Father sent him to the cross for us and, willingly, Jesus gave up all for us.
Paul poses the question then in Romans 8 that helps me to understand this dependence. If God is willing to give us Jesus in this way, won’t he give us all things we need? As we deal with life, I urge you then to seek God’s will. Instead of letting Jesus take the wheel as the song says in the difficult times, let’s have him be in control always. That is God’s will for us.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, as we often do, that God would take the cup of suffering away that awaited him but, as he said, only if it is God’s will. His exact words were “yet not my will, but yours be done.” That is our Scripture for today from Luke 22:42. As I retire and look at repurposing to serve God in new ways, it is also my prayer. May it also be yours as you continue to serve in various ways in Portland and particularly at St. Andrew.
For all of my life, but especially the last 34 years in ministry, this song title has been my prayer, God, “see me through.” He has done that for you and for me. Remember that as you listen to the song and thank God for Brandon Heath and the funky way he teaches us this important lesson!
It’s mid-June and in two weeks I will be publishing my last song devotion on the day before I officially retire. As I look back over my time of ministry, spanning almost 45 years between the 10 years of teaching in Lutheran schools and the just about 34 years as Pastor here at St. Andrew, the devil tempts me often to focus on all the things I haven’t accomplished, the times when I have failed to be the teacher or Pastor God wanted me to be. If the devil had his way, I’d end my ministry imprisoned in the guilt of my sin thinking that the verdict for my ministry is guilty and I might just as well give up. That’s what the devil would want. And that is what is happening with too many Pastors right now. They are giving up.
COVID and our culture have overcome them. Pastors are leaving the ministry at a rate never seen before. Today’s song by Micah Tyler called “Walking Free,” does a great job of combating the devil’s schemes, showing us that we should be walking free as he sings, that one day he found the key to the cell that the devil would try to lock us in. He sings that the debt we owed has been paid by someone else and now he is walking free.
For the past 44 years Micah Tyler’s message in this song has been my theme to share as well. It’s all about Jesus. It’s his perfect life, death, and resurrection that has set me free from the guilt that the devil tries to lay on me. It’s the peace that Jesus in Scripture says he gives us, peace that the world cannot give. If I look at the baptisms, confirmations, and new church members I’ve welcomed as the measure of my ministry, I would know it’s not been enough. There are still many that I failed to reach. If I measured it in weddings I’ve done, there would be too many that have failed despite my efforts and those of the couples I’ve counseled. Whenever we try to count our successes or compare ourselves to others we will fail. As Tyler says, those chains have been released and there’s victory ahead because there’s a Savior. we strive and labor not because it gains us anything but as Paul points out in our Scripture today from I Timothy 4:10, it's because of Jesus. Paul writes "That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially those who believe." Again Jesus has always and will continue to be the center of my ministry as i move on to serving my Savior in different ways. I thank God that because I have been able to share Jesus with you, many of you are also “Walking Free!” Join us the next two Sundays in church as we celebrate Jesus together!
If you were in church last Sunday, you know that we have now entered the second half of the church year where we focus on what life is all about now that Jesus has gone back to heaven. Just over 10 days ago the church celebrated Ascension, the day when Jesus left his disciples and went back to heaven. Then last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, the day when Jesus kept another of his promises and sent the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith and to remind us again all that Jesus taught while he was on earth.
This Sunday we will celebrate the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, most commonly known as Trinity Sunday. Many churches, as we will, will be using the Athanasian Creed, probably for the only time all year. This creed is long, one of the reasons we only use it once a year, and very full of doctrine, another reason we use it once a year. But it clearly lays out the doctrine of the Trinity which is the reason we use it on this Sunday.
In our service we split the creed up in sections to help us focus on who our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is. And in between each section we will use the hymn I have chosen for today’s devotion. It’s Holy God, We Praise Thy Name. It begins by reminding us that all in heaven and on earth bow before God and adore him because He is Lord of heaven and earth and vast is his domain.
The creatures in heaven explain why we do this in Revelation 4:8 where John writes of his vision: “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD ALMIGHTY,’ WHO WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME.” And the second verse of our hymn describes the angel doing what John saw, even ending with the angel’s words, “Holy, holy, holy Lord!”
Because of our sinfulness we can never truly understand who God is, but Scripture and our hymn describe him. Because of all he has done, creating us, redeeming us, and bringing us to faith and a right relationship with Him again, it is important to, at least one day each year, focus on who is. As the last verse of our hymn, based on God’s revelation of who He is in Scripture, describes Him, “Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name Thee; Though is essence only one, Undivided God, we claim Thee And adoring, bend the knee, While we own the mystery.”
Because of our sinfulness when things get rough, as they are in so many ways now, we can’t figure out why God allows things to be this way. And short of heaven we won’t. But we celebrate this week that way because of who God is: he has rescued us from the mess we’re in- in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of the Son, and someday these tough times will end as we praise God together with the angels in heaven. Listen to hymn and be encouraged and read the Scripture and look forward to seeing our Holy, holy, holy Lord!