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Pastoral Thoughts

What We Have Here Is A Failure to Mistrust

by Pastor John Lawrey

where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5:20b-21

If you are following along at home, you might be wondering “Dude, where’s my country?” I won’t recite the tedious list of wrongs done in the name of coronavirus, but one stands out head and shoulders above the rest: closed and restricted churches. The salt in the wound is that blue state governors have restricted churches at the same time they have provided unfettered access to abortion, marijuana, alcohol, and the somewhat misnamed “peaceful protest.”

Something ought to be said about the blatant inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and double standards, not to mention a two-tiered justice system, but this article is about something much bigger: Will we even have a civilization at the end of this, and if so, what kind? 

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On Authority & Boundaries

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus

I want to noodle over with you the notion of authority, the right to impose one’s will on something or someone else, which also comes with the right to inflict pain upon the non-compliant. Jesus claims all authority in heaven and on earth, which means he has the right to impose his will on anyone or anything. He will reward those who comply and punish those who don’t.

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Holy Kissin’

Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Romans 16:16

When I got in the truck to head to the church this morning (which Violet refers to as “Bob’s house”), I left with the kind of smile on my face that can only come from being kissed goodbye by a loving, lovely wife and an adoring, adorable two-year-old daughter. On my way, half-listening to John MacArthur’s excellent sermon from this past Sunday again, half musing on church life in the era of Covid, and half wondering why I enjoyed those kisses so much, my mind began to dwell on the Apostle’s oft-repeated exhortation to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

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Essential, pt. Deux

When I get to heaven, I plan to make two requests: First, and for obvious reasons, I will file for an exception to the no-marriage policy for Michele and me. Second, Vasiliy, “my Russian friend,” and I desire to be next-door neighbors for all eternity.

I hope to bring Vasiliy to Lewis Lake soon and ask him to recount how, in his younger years back in the Soviet Union, he used to wake up in the middle of the night (a different night each week), make his way down dark streets and alleys for a mile or so, careful to not rouse the dog stationed outside every house, sneak into a dimly lit, tightly shuttered home where he’d find a small group of Christians slowly assembling. To minimize suspicions they spaced out arrivals and departures, since being found out by the KGB could mean years in a Soviet prison, and believe me, that was no picnic. Finally assembled, a few songs were quietly whispered, prayers would be offered, someone would read the Bible, someone share a few words, then he’d slip silently back home, crawling into bed around 4AM, only to get back up at five to begin a grueling day of labor under the cruel, corrupt communist regime.

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Essential

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Psalm 122:1

Now that we are, for better or worse, temporarily but intentionally shuttering certain businesses, activities, and institutions, and I have my fingers crossed that the civil liberties taken from the American citizenry will be handed back to us as freely and quickly as they were taken, we find ourselves categorizing certain kinds of activity as “essential” and others as “non-essential.”

The concept of essential is simple enough: In this particular pandemic, the value of certain activities continuing outweighs the progress made against the coronavirus if they were stopped. The societal value of getting your hair cut and colored is less than the value of spreading COVID-19 to everyone at the salon, so let’s just all suck it up and deal with being and looking at uglier people for a while. In our purest moments, we admit that good looks are a luxury, not a necessity. On the other hand, if we, in the name of public health, quarantine the guys who feed the gerbils running the wheels at the electric company, we’ll quickly discover the tragedy of thousands dead from COVID-19 is a picnic compared to the catastrophe of world in blackout. You think life is hard now.

A hierarchy of essential is emerging. Doctors – essential. Theaters – not essential. Grocery delivery trucks – essential. Elective surgery – not essential. Dismembering the inconvenient unborn – essential. Liquor stores – essential. Eggs over easy, bacon, and white toast, served with a smile every Wednesday morning by Lois, my favorite waitress, who hasn’t bothered to take my order for a year because she already knows what I want – not essential. Lois and I, not to mention the café owner, might disagree.

Churches are now wrestling to find their place in this hierarchy – how essential are they? This is the question I want to explore for a little bit.

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Luther & Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague

Keeping in mind that 1527 is not 2020, Wittenberg Germany under Charles V (if memory serves – and it may not) is not Central Minnesota under Trump and Walz, and the Black Death is not COVID-19, basic human nature remains identical across the ages, medical mysteries still persist, the need for careful thinking and wisdom remains as persistent as ever, and the voices of the past whose value is proven by the fact they continually echo down the corridors of history nearly five centuries later are still worth hearing.

To that end, I encourage you to read some Luther as he wrestled through the advice he would offer to those seeking for a wise course of action during a time of plague. Basically the question was “stay, or flee?” I give you a sample here, at no expense to me, and hopefully great benefit to you:

We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God… If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us. Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done. I am thy lowly creature. Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.” If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God,
I am weak and fearful. Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it. I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me. Thy will be done. My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere. 

Martin Luther

Read the entire piece here (and I say this more by way of command than information).

The lazy may check out Dr. Steve Nichols’ treatment of it in five minutes, with a little Cranberries intro music thrown in here. Your indulgence will be smaller, but something is better than nothing.

Three in Coronavirus, One in Christ

But if you bite and devour one another,
watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:15

We’re living through a bit of a national nightmare right now. Maybe I should call it a bad dream, leaving room for it to get worse and then call it a nightmare. And it’s rather unsurprising that in this particular rough patch, when the pressures are mounting, some pretty deep fractures are beginning to appear in our society.

The sides being drawn up, and look roughly something like this:

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It’s Going to Be Okay!

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
– David, Psalm 27:1

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

– Jesus, Matthew 10:28

I want to offer up a few words of encouragement in light of the current state of affairs in which we find ourselves. The ranks of the fearful are swelling, and they want to know that it’s going to be okay. So let me begin by saying I’m not qualified to offer that kind of comfort just yet, because what do I know about tomorrow except that, in the words of our Lord, it has enough trouble of its own?

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More than God Intended

On the spectrum of male personalities, I fancy myself resting far more comfortably and happily on the “medieval Norseman devouring mutton off a rusty knife” side of things than the “Ken in the passenger seat of a pink Corvette” end. So it’s a sign of God’s good sense of humor that of the six children he has chosen to give me, five of them are lovely, very girly girls, meaning I live, move, and have my being in a world of dolls, dresses, and emotional roller coasters.

I have probably witnessed (and unwittingly caused) more female tears in my life than the Average Joe (zing!), but I tell you this: I wouldn’t trade any one of my daughters for a pack of sons. And I’ve found that nothing stirs up this old crustaceous soul like the love and affection I feel for my girls, not even a pallet of beef jerky, and that’s saying something. I don’t feel the least guilt about entering the door of my little tumble-down farmhouse-castle, taking my seat at the head of our rough wooden table lined on both sides by lovely ladies, diving into a meal fit for a king, prepared by my faithful wife. These women are my greatest treasures, and I’d die for any of them in a heartbeat. Burying one of them was, as you know, the worst. Alice used to show me her broken toys and say “Daddy fix it?” and as often as possible, Daddy did. So it nearly killed me when she was broken, and Daddy couldn’t fix it.

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