Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,
Can you believe it? Just about the time we wondered where 2018 went, today, we wonder where the month of January went! How is it that we can already be moving into February? I pray that this last month has allowed you opportunity to regroup from a busy, oftentimes hectic, December.
As we leave January, we continue to embrace the sacred season of the church year called Epiphany. Epiphany accents the Divinity of Jesus. Consequently, our Sunday Bible readings highlight Jesus’ extra-ordinary abilities. During Epiphany, we note how Jesus walks on water. He exorcises the demons. Jesus teaches with astonishing authority. Christ stills the wind and the sea. All our Sunday morning texts, during the sacred season of Epiphany, accent Jesus’ “Otherness.” How wonderful to know that we have a God so very “Other” YET PERSONAL who knowing us through and through, even better than we know ourselves. In extra-ordinary ways, God meets us where we are in both better and worst times. Jesus, the Divine One, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Ever-Loving, Emmanuel in our midst, promises to hold us in His care.
What an Epiphany!
Yesterday, as I visited Bert Carlson at Cherry Creek Care Center, (Edie his wife having had an eye surgery), I left the center with an Epiphany of my own. As I walked to my car, I saw a frisky little brown dog prancing in the snow. Perhaps he was prancing because it was cold. Maybe he was jumping about because he enjoyed the outdoors. Who knows? He seemed to be having a glorious time, until that is, he threw up in the middle of the street! As I looked more closely at this cute, playful puppy, I realized he was not wearing a collar. Immediately, I looked around for a concerned owner. No one was in sight. I wondered if the puppy was lost or maybe even sick. Perhaps he was prancing around because he had hurt a paw or jumping about because his paws were so very cold. I approached the little, brown, playful, cute, but now scared puppy. I still remember his eyes as he looked at me with both curiosity and fear. What thoughts must have run through his little head as he wondered about this stranger approaching him!
I tried speaking tenderly to the puppy to coax him to come closer. This puppy, suspect of my intentions no doubt, decided to prance in a different direction! With his tail between his legs, he ran off away from my reach. For the next 10 minutes I drove around the apartment complex across the street from Cherry Creek worried about this lost, perhaps even hurt puppy. I tried, in vain, to find where he had run.
Just about the time I had given up on his whereabouts, I had an Epiphany of my own. As I was walking back to my car, I saw his brown little body in the distance, outlined by the white snow backdrop. I approached the puppy again, this time from my car. Pulling up close to him, pleading lovingly, “C’mon Honey, come here,” I opened my car door in the hopes he would jump in. No such luck! The puppy, continuing to be scared, hurried off in a quick attempt to get away from my voice and presence. Once again, I drove around the apartment complex looking for him. I prayed to God asking that the Jesus of Epiphany, the Divine one, Ever-Knowing, Ever-Powerful, Ever-Loving, would show compassion for this precious, scared, maybe even sick little one. I prayed that he would be safe and reunited with a family of love and care.
About the time I had resolved I would not find the puppy, there was a lady who ran at me from the shadows, waving her hands and yelling, “Hey you! Hey!” She was disheveled, her hair a matted mess. She was wearing a bathrobe and bedroom slippers. She must have seen me slowing driving through her neighborhood, scouring the apartment complex. She had concluded that I was searching for something. Looking both exasperated and relieved, out of breath, she managed to tell me that she had found her lost little dog. She informed me that the puppy’s name was Milo and that Milo was too smart for his own little good! He had learned how to open his in/out door on his own! The lady (Margaret) thanked me for my interest and assured me Milo was home and drinking water from his dish that moment. I thought to myself, “Wow, God sure answered that prayer in a hurry!” My heart was at ease knowing this little brown puppy, Milo, was now at home.
How often do we go through a day with our cares, anxieties and worries choosing to run from the One who wants to help us? How frustrating it must be for God to drive around our neighborhoods, calling our name, hoping we all jump in the car to him! If only we would but trust! If only we would heed the call of the One who loves us so very much. This Epiphany God is so very capable, doing far more than we could ever imagine and yet we distrust Him. We choose to prance around any number of places before…coming home.
As we move through the season of Epiphany, with new revelations about Jesus and our faith, may we resolve quickly to depend on God’s promises this new year? The groundhog may choose to hide his head on February 2nd. Let US choose not to burrow in our apprehensions and worries but instead call on the Epiphany God who always calls out to us in love. Let us trust that Jesus is both willing and wanting to help us. Let us run to Him instead of running away from Him! What’s an Epiphany to know of Jesus’ always searching, always loving heart towards us! Let’s jump in the car with Christ this year, allowing Him to do the driving, as we trust, as we count, on God’s love, care and grace!
Happy Epiphany, Cross of Glory!
Pastor Mike Lemke
Happy New Year Cross of Glory!
Yes! As we continue to move through the Twelve Days of Christmas, we experience yet another brand new year! We welcome 2019! Over the past year, there have been the special times and tougher occasions. We hope that 2019 will be even better for us congregationally and personally.
As the ball dropped in Times Square December 31st, now with Ryan Seacrest replacing the ageless Dick Clark, did you begin to FEEL new? Now that January is here, do you FEEL different, newer, than you did a month ago?
Consider what was going on a month ago. We resolved around Thanksgiving that we would not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of too often December rushes. Then the first week of December came, and to our surprise, our intentions to slow down were left to the wayside like cookies left for Santa! We tried to keep it together. We tried to remain calm! But Christmas cards needed addressing. Aunt Doris decided out of the blue to drop over for the holidays. Our Thanksgiving resolution to ENJOY December raced past us like Santa’s magical sleigh!
Too often, the beauty of the Christmas season is blanketed not so much with snow as it is our stress. After the parties and pageants, the malls and the mailings, the New Year comes upon us and we feel anything but new! We instead feel worn-out and wearied. We feel beat and battered.
I lived in Sioux Falls as a kid. Gary lived next door to us. I remember Mom asking him one day what was new. Gary, probably six at the time, responded, “Nothing! All we have is old stuff!”
I think we are pitied people if to the question, “What’s new?” we respond, “The same old, same old!” At the very least, as Christians, we should be able to say to our friends, “I am!” “I am new!” “I’m not quite yet what I hope to be, but I thank God I am not longer what I used to be!”
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore if any person is in Christ, he/she is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come!” John, given a revelation on Patmos wrote, “And God Himself will wipe away our tears.There will be no more crying, no more pain. The former things will have passed away. Behold, He who sits upon the throne makes all things new!” As Christians, daily, we are encouraged to conform to the image of Christ. We are to lay aside those things impeding our ability to be more like Jesus. Each day we should be working on our “newness.”
There is a church around the corner from where I live that puts cutesy sayings on its outdoor sign. Recently the sign read, “Christianity is a journey not a destination.” I need to remember that. When I get discouraged, I need to remember that tomorrow is another day… a new chance for me to be all that God wants me to be. When I allow sin to get the better of me… when I am failing miserably in following Jesus… I need to remember that regardless of HOW I FEEL, “I AM NEW in Christ!” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” There are those times we FEEL pretty lost. But it is precisely at those times that we need to believe God knows where we are and that God, Emmanuel presence, will direct our ways. Jesus redeemed us. God bought us. We are His… and… we are new. We are brand new! As we face the joys and challenges of a new year, congregationally and personally, we can be assured of God’s support and lead. Baptized, Called,
Equipped, Sent, we DO ministry knowing the God who made us, RE-CREATES US, RE-FRESHES US, and MAKES US new indeed. We do not know what 2019 has in store for us, but God does!
Over the centuries, there have been so many exaggerated stories about Martin Luther. As his influence spread well beyond Germany, tales about him turned into far-out legends. Some say for instance that Luther was responsible for the Christmas tree. Looking out his window one snowy afternoon, many contend he remarked to his wife Katie, “My, how beautiful that pine tree is! It is white… though forever green… ever green… hmmmm, EVERGREEN! Let’s run outside right now, chop it down and put candles on it! We will call it a Christmas tree and urge all villagers to do the same.” This is most certainly true… NOT!
I would like to believe certain fanciful stories told about Luther, principally, the one about his throwing ink bottles at the devil and the one about his hanging a sign around his neck that said, “I am baptized!” You see, if great people like Luther needed to go to such lengths, even hokey ones, to remind themselves they belong to God while FEELING defeated, I might just believe that I, we, are taking steps towards the Kingdom even when occasionally taking steps backwards! We ARE journeying towards a distant country, this a Heavenly one… even while FEELING old and not new.
I want to thank Cross of Glory ahead of time for helping ME attempt to be NEW, refreshed and better equipped to responsibly BE your pastor. For the last year, your Church Council has encouraged me to take a Sabbatical. A Sabbatical is a three-month educational experience AWAY from the congregation, in addition to vacation, that hopefully translates into practical ministry-building helps. Our Rocky Mountain Synod urges pastors to take a Sabbatical every “three to five years in the present call.” I have been a pastor for close to thirty-four years. I have never gone on Sabbatical. I am excited about the prospect and I have begun to share with your Church Council some ideas about how I intend to spend Sabbatical months away from church this 2019.
Of course, whether this happens is speculative. So much depends on pressing needs in our congregation and the ability to responsibly cover and expand present pastoral and congregational ministry obligations and opportunities. I will try to take Sabbatical in conjunction with my wife, Pastor Barb Lemke. Her congregation, Bethel Lutheran, is encouraging Barb to take a Sabbatical in 2019 also. Barb and I hope to spend part of our Sabbaticals together, learning alongside one another while being refreshed (and better equipped and energized) to DO ministry with you.
Thank you for your kind consideration ALWAYS but especially as I wonder about the ability (responsibly, practically and financially) to be physically away from Denver for extended time this year. I know that I will not be taking Sabbatical in a three-month block. I envision the three-month period split up between one 6-week segment this Spring and the other 6-week segment later on this year. I will be very busy this month, working with your Church Council, in making preparations. I look forward to visiting with you soon as I may be asking you to “take on” certain tasks, needed helps. Please start thinking now about practical ways you may help us additionally at Cross of Glory. Share with me your ideas. I WOULD SO APPRECIATE IT!
So Happy New Year Cross of Glory! Let’s lean on one another in 2019! Dick Clark may have SEEMED like the ageless one. In reality, it is God who is ageless. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. God holds the ages, and us, in His care and it is God who promises to make us NEW this year and beyond. This is most certainly true!
Pastor Mike Lemke