The best thing that could happen on Monday

Image result for great american solar eclipse

On Monday, August 21, 2017, much of America will experience a Solar Eclipse, with a large section of the county experiencing a total eclipse, or near total eclipse.

As with all things, there is much speculation that this eclipse marks the end of the world; and as with all other things, authorities are encouraging everyone to exercise caution in anticipation of the crowds that will descend on areas, and for animals and children who will likely be confused by the sudden darkness midday; and there are round the clock warnings that whatever you do, don’t look at the eclipse.

Part of me questions the arrival of large crowds and the projected insanity expected for what will amount to a 5 minute show.  But I could be wrong about that.

If nothing else, Monday’s eclipse will provide a brief break from the insanity of what now surrounds us.  My Facebook feed is somehow worse than it was during the election, with friends bickering over elected officials and the removal or the preservation of statues; not to mention the typical drama that occurs on a daily basis.

Which is why I am hoping for something on Monday, and you should too.  Pray that the eclipse would knock out internet service for all Americans for at least a week.  Honestly, we could all use the break.

Give us all a week to go to our rooms and think about what we have done.  Give us a week to cool off from the round the clock arguing that dominates so much our lives.  Give us a week to regain some focus on the meaning of life.  Give us a week to not hear the echo chamber we each live in, which is only interrupted by those who dare have a contrary opinion.

Give each of us a week to screw our heads back on and look back on what we have become as individuals and as a nation, and ask ourselves: don’t we have better things to do?

What if after 5 minutes of not looking at the sun, we were all given a week of not looking at our phones or tablets or computers, or anything else that transmits social media or email or a comment section?

You say it can’t happen?  Consider that the last eclipse was in 1979, before all this technology was available; before social media; before the world went mad.  All there was, was Walter Cronkite describing the events, and then wishing everyone a good night.

We can at least hope, can’t we?

Because if we are honest about it, we could all use the break.

It’s the best thing that could happen to America on Monday.

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A desolate place

Pentecost 9 – St. Matthew 14:13-22

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A time to plant.

First Lutheran Church   Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

August, 2017

If you look at a map of the state of Kansas, and on that map you put a pin everywhere there is an LCMS church, a few things would stand out to you.

One is that there are a lot of LCMS churches in the state of Kansas, over 160 of them in fact.  Another thing you would notice is that some towns have several congregations.  And finally, you would notice that some significant towns and areas do not have LCMS churches.

It is that last one that we will be focusing on in this newsletter.  Many years ago, there was a gentlemen’s agreement between the LCMS and the ALC that they would not plant churches in the same community.  Ergo, if a town already had an LCMS church, the ALC would not plant a congregation there, and vice versa.  At the time, this was generally a fair practice as the two were fairly similar in doctrine and practice and were even in fellowship for a brief time.

Since then, the ALC has become the ELCA and no longer bears a similar doctrine and practice as the LCMS.  The gentlemen’s agreement no longer holds.  What does this mean?  It means those living in the old ALC communities are not being properly served by faithful congregations and pastors.

In some cases, there is not much that can be done.  The communities are small and cannot support a congregation, and many are close enough to an LCMS congregation that the people can be cared for properly.  In other cases, there is room a potential congregation.

One such case, is Concordia, Kansas.  Concordia is a larger community in north-central Kansas.  Concordia is an old ALC town that has never had an LCMS congregation.  The closest LCMS churches are Downs to the west, Salina to the south, and Palmer and Linn to the east, and Nebraska to the north.  Without looking at a map, you can already tell that is a HUGE area; the closest LCMS churches are all over an hour away.

What does this mean?  It means the fields are ripe for harvest!  Recently, a handful of LCMS families have moved to that area, and have expressed a desire to remain LCMS and be served by LCMS pastors, with the hope of planting a congregation.

Planting a congregation is no small task.  On the first Sunday in June, an afternoon Bible study began with a rotation of 4 LCMS pastors; a Facebook page has been established and a newsletter is in the works.  Some benchmarks have been set for when to begin holding worship services, first monthly, and then weekly.

Perhaps you are asking why couldn’t these families just drive elsewhere on Sunday morning?  Why go through the work of planting a congregation?  Valid questions indeed, and while the faithful and devout might do so, what about others in the community?  Churches are not just planted for the convenience of a few, but so that many might hear the Gospel.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the hope is that many might hear the Gospel and believe.

At least for now, our role is limited in this process.  If you know of someone in Concordia who might benefit from the planting of an LCMS congregation, please do not hesitate to tell me so that they can be contacted.  And please pray for this exciting opportunity.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would stir the hearts of many to come and hear the Gospel; pray for patience among those attending the Bible studies, that though numbers may be small for a time, the Lord is watching over them; and pray that the Lord would continue to open up new opportunities for sharing the Good News of Christ crucified and risen for all people.

God Bless!

Pastor Schmidt

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Unexpectedly Chosen

Pentecost 8 – Deuteronomy 7:6-9

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The curiosity of Mormons

The American Southwest is Mormon country.  Or at least that is what it seemed to be in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  For on a recent vacation, whether by luck or by irony, we found ourselves encountering Mormons in unusual ways.

The first was in St. George, Utah, a community founded by Mormons, where we stopped for the night and before leaving the next morning decided to explore the local Mormon Temple and Visitor Center.

St. George actually has the oldest Mormon temple, built around 1870.  But of course, you cannot enter it; unless of course you are a Mormon in good standing.  The Visitors Center is a far different story; anyone can go in there, and take whatever pictures you like.

But that is hardly the only contrast here.  The Visitors Center was very appealing; in fact, one could hardly complain about it.  There was a statue of Jesus, with a recording of various verses from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, all of which sounded good and pleasing.  There was also a room depicting scenes from a typical family’s life, all of which would be very familiar to any family, and all of which could easily be commended.  The Visitors Center also offered any number of resources for free for any who might have even the most passing interest in anything they saw or heard.

Compare that, with the temple a mere 100 yards away.  Visitors could walk around the highly manicured grounds and take pictures of the outside of the temple; but there was no entry allowed.  In fact, the doors were all locked; windows blacked out; and the only people who we did see enter through a back door, had to be buzzed in.  Whereas anyone could go into the visitors center and feel at home and familiar with the teachings and Jesus portrayed there; what happened in the temple, the rituals and ceremonies that only the most devout Mormons could partake in, was closed off; presumably for fear of what outsiders might think, let alone say or do.

Which brings us to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  On Sunday morning we visited an LCMS church, which by happenstance was built directly across the street from a Mormon temple.  This temple was likewise locked up, windows blacked out, and no one was nearby.  The LCMS church on the other hand was bustling with activity on Sunday morning, with about 150 in attendance.  My wife and I were visitors, and yet we were welcomed to join in all the rights and ceremonies taking place, including Lord’s Supper.  And even if we were not in altar fellowship, we still would have been allowed to stay and worship.  Nothing was hidden, nothing was held back, we saw firsthand the worship and the life of the church.

When we departed following the service, the Mormon temple was still all locked up across the street, without even a gate visible to enter in to park.

This brings to mind Jesus word’s in the Garden of Gethsemane in St. Matthew 26:55: Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to capture me?  Day after day I sat in the temple teaching and you did not seize me.  Jesus words and teachings are public, not meant to be hidden or held back; but Satan works in darkness, using deception, seeking to devour all who believe.

The Visitors Center was bright and open and very welcoming indeed in St. George; but the temples in St. George and in Albuquerque were dark; contrast that with the LCMS church in Albuquerque which was very bright and open, with all focus on Jesus.

Which would you prefer?

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Greetings from America

My grandparents visited in one way or another, all 50 states.  Alaska was the last one, and they took a cruise on what was one of their last big trips together.

Of course, not every trip was the big deal that Alaska was; for instance, they only drove through a northern portion of Florida on their way someplace else.  But they did it.  Whether they planned to or not, whether they wanted to or not; they made it to all 50 states.

I think about that as I have just returned from a trip of some 3600 miles, where I was able to cross 5 states off my own list toward visiting all 50 states.

Granted there were times during both the planning and the execution of this trip, where the question of flying was broached.  Would you not enjoy more of your vacation if you were not cooped up in a car for a third of it?  Would you not spend the same amount on plane tickets as you would on gas and hotels and food?

And yet for better or for worse, we drove; and I’m glad we did.  First and foremost: flying only saves you money when you travel alone.  Gas and hotels are going to cost the same whether it is one person or 4, whereas each individual needs to purchase their own plane ticket.

But more importantly, was that while we spent a great deal of time in the car, it was not wasted hours; we got to see America.  We drove through the Rocky Mountains, which was quite incredible.  We drove through the Mojave Desert; which was far different than anything we had ever seen.  And because we drove, we were able to stop in Moab, Utah and explore Arches National Park; as well as St. George, Utah, and visit a Mormon Temple; not to mention seeing the Hoover Dam in Nevada.  We also got to stop at a variety of Welcome Centers, and dream of future trips.

None of which would have happened if we were in a plane.

Technology is an amazing thing; and it is a wonder of wonders that planes can cross the country in just a few hours, cutting travel time by literally days from what our ancestors traveled in covered wagons.  But for as impressive as it is to fly into New York City and peer down at the skyscrapers from above, I would rather drive and see all that is between here and there, and discover America all over again.

I am reminded of the scene in The Muppet Movie, where driving cross-county in his trusty Studebaker, Fozzie Bear sings America the Beautiful.  Truer words were never spoken: America is beautiful, and it is even more so when you are driving around, seeing the sights and the places that are impossible to see 20,000 feet in the air.

Who knows if we’ll make it to all 50 states; Hawaii may have to wait a while; and Montana and Idaho are kind of out of the way and may end up being like Florida was for my grandparents, just a drive through on the way to someplace else.

But the road maps are ready should the opportunity arise.  We pray it does, if for no other reason than while the bathrooms in airports may be cleaner and more easily accessible, the scenery is not nearly as impressive on your way to them.

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Seeking rest.

Pentecost 5 – St. Matthew 11:25-30

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