Oh to be like Mary

Pentecost 6 – St. Luke 10:38-42

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My pleasure

Pentecost 5 – Leviticus 19:9-18

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Are zoo’s next?

Any trip home to New York features three things: family, food and the Bronx Zoo.  The first two are obvious; seeing family takes precedence, and a get together of the extended family is always scheduled.  Food is also obvious, as there are just certain New York delicacies that one cannot find anywhere else.

The Bronx Zoo might seem strange, after all, there are zoo’s nationwide, and after so many trips, how could one possibly still find joy and excitement in a zoo?

And yet, the Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the nation; and along with the San Diego Zoo, possibly the most famous.  The Bronx Zoo is a massive sprawling zoo, nestled in the middle of the Bronx, one can literally walk around the zoo, this picturesque place, surrounded by trees and plants, and glance over and see high-rise apartment complexes just on the other side of the fence.  As we left the Zoo, we mused as to whether or not those near the top could look in and see the animals from their windows.

And yet, zoos are in danger.  While engaging in another New York specialty – two daily newspapers, my eye caught an editorial, in which the author was calling on the Bronx Zoo to transfer its elephant to a wildlife refuge in Tennessee.  The elephant, named Happy, was not happy in the Bronx, and the cure-all was to move the elephant to a more expansive place, where she would be with other elephants.

To its credit, the Bronx Zoo has dismissed this idea, saying the elephant is fine, just temperamental, much like humans, and would not prosper elsewhere.

Again to the Zoo’s credit, whatever one may think of Happy’s current habitat, it is infinitely better than the old one.  I remember as a child seeing the elephants, presumably including Happy who is 48, in a much smaller area, even inside a building in a small area during the winter.  Happy now is in a much more spacious area, more suitable for an elephant; although not as conducive to being seen by visitors.

But what happens when Happy dies?  Will there be a new elephant to replace her?  It is interesting that the zoo’s polar bear died and has yet to be replaced; the reason?  The habitat is no longer considered suitable for the animal.

I am by no means advocating for the animals to be mistreated, or even housed in less than ideal conditions; but one should also remember what zoos are.  Most of us will never go on an African safari and see elephants in their natural habitat; nor will we be able to go to the North Pole and see a polar bear in the wild.  Zoo’s show us these animals, live, in person, that we had previously only seen on television and in picture books.

What happens when Happy dies and the Bronx Zoo never gets another elephant?  What happens if the polar bear is never replaced?  What happens when the brown bears, or the sea lions, or the rhinoceros, or the tiger die, and they are not replaced?

Will people still come to the zoo to see pictures of animals that used to be there?

It is interesting that less than a year after announcing elephants would no longer be a part of the circus, the Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Baily Circus folded.

Oh, the most popular attraction on a Monday in late June at the zoo?  An exhibit featuring animatronic dinosaurs.

Go to the zoo now; they might not be worth going to in another generation as they are just a picture book of animals that used to be there.

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Rejoice in heaven

Pentecost 4 – St. Luke 10:1-20

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Joy:Fully Lutheran

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

July, 2019

Why are you a Lutheran?

That question comes up from time to time, often with the assumed answer being that I am a Lutheran because that is what my parents were.  To be honest, for a long time, I have not really had a good answer as to why I am a Lutheran, and often thought, well, maybe it is just because my parents were Lutheran.

Except that the parental reason would have expired, at the latest, when I turned 18.  So why remain Lutheran, why not join another church?  And in particular, why remain a member of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod?

It’s an interesting question, especially today when so many jump from church to church based on music and the personality of the pastor; and so many others just stop going to church altogether.  Why do I, and to a greater extent, why do you, remain Lutheran?

The answer is at the same time both simple and complex.  The simple answer is that we believe that this Church, this branch of Christendom, faithfully proclaims Christ crucified, and rightly administers the sacraments.  You can say that in heaven these Church divisions will fall away, and they will, but that also says that they don’t matter now; but they do.  Baptism matters, Lord’s Supper matters, the authority of the Word of God matters.  The truth, is that in heaven, we will all believe the same thing, and we will all believe the correct thing; and argue if you wish, but right now, our confession of faith is that what we believe regarding Baptism, Lord’s Supper, the Word of God and the rest, is the truth.  So yes, to put in in simple terms, in heaven, we will all be Lutheran, in that we will all believe the same, and we believe right now that what we believe is the truth.

A more complex answer, and this only recently was made clear to me, is that being Lutheran, being an LCMS Lutheran, brings me joy.

In college, as part of a class on Worship, we were assigned to visit different types of churches.  It was an interesting experience, to sit in an unfamiliar church, and to observe what was going on (one such occurrence was particularly bizarre).  But at the end of the morning, when the service was over, my reaction was that I would have much rather been at my home congregation.

Being Lutheran brings joy to life.  Joy in that the hymns are not the latest top 40 hits, but that they are tested and true over the centuries.  Joy that in the Word, there is no doubt about what God means.  Joy that in the sermon, there will be condemning Law and the sweetness of the Gospel.  Joy that when persecution comes, it is not because I did not do enough or pray hard enough, but rather the joy will be that I, we, will be persecuted for our faith.

There is joy in being Lutheran; there is joy in the Word and in the sacraments; there is joy in being with fellow believers, who love Jesus and who love His Church.

The joy that other churches offer is always superficial.  They pump themselves up with adrenaline, but the further away they get from the source of that adrenaline, the less joy they actually have.  Their joy is only a façade, as they seek the true joy that is only found in Christ.

Thanks be to God that our joy is true; that our joy is not based on anything we do, but is based solely on Christ and what He has done for us.

This month is a busy one for the LCMS, pray for our youth as they attend the National Youth Gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota July 11-15; and pray for our Synod as it gathers in convention in Tampa, Florida July 20-25.

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

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Where is your God now?

Pentecost 2 – Isaiah 65:1-9

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Miraculous Mission

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

June, 2019

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  St. John 3:16

That is the theme verse for our Vacation Bible School this year: Miraculous Mission: Jesus Saves the World from Concordia Publishing House.  VBS will be June 3-7.

Think about the world for a moment: 7 continents; 195 countries; 7.5 billion people.

How do you manage something so big?  How do you stand out in such a crowd?

Now expand it out; that it’s not just the 7.5 billion alive and walking around today; but it is the millions upon billions upon trillions who have ever walked the earth; all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

How can a God have so much love for so many people?  Most of us have a few close friends and our families, and really don’t give a hoot about the rest of the world; and yet here we see that God doesn’t just come to save a few, or to save a set number, however large that number may be; but that God sends His Son into the world to save the entire world; even those who we might not care so much about.  Not all will go to heaven of course, that is only for those who believe, but the invitation is extended to all.

That is the amazing thing: Jesus Christ comes into the world to open up salvation to all people: the Canaanites who fought Israel in the Promised Land; the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans who used their power to dominate Israel; the barbarians and the Turks of the Middle Ages; and even today, those who mean the Church harm, Christ died for them all, that should the day come when they confess Him as Lord, they too would enter into eternal life.

It is an incredible realization to sit back and think about all the people who have ever been on earth, who are on earth, and who ever will be on the earth, and know that they are all covered by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is seemingly impossible to contemplate that God could have so much love to go around to so many people, spread out over such an expanse of space and time.  And yet, He does love each and every person who has called earth home, so much so that Christ died for them.

And yet, in the midst of such a large and expansive love, there is one important thing to remember: that if there were no one else on earth who needed to be saved but you, God would send His Son into the world just to save you.

At a workshop some years ago, the presenter had us place our own names into the verse, so that it read like this: For God so loved _____, that He gave His only Son, that _____, who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

That is the other amazing thing about this verse: first that God could love the whole world so much that He would desire to save it, but also that God should love you so much, that He would desire to save you.

In a world of 7.5 billion people, you may feel lost, as though you do not stand out at all; wondering how could God possibly know who you are, as opposed to putting you in with the whole bunch on one side or the other?

And yet, in a world of billions, you are loved by God as though there were no one else.  That is the depths of God’s love: He loves billions upon trillions individually.

Please remember to pray for our Vacation Bible School; both those who learn and those who teach and help, that many may know the depths of God’s amazing love!

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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