Some Random Pastoral Ponderings…
“As I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, all people
will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another”.
In this month of February, our minds turn to thoughts of love. I remember the first time I fell in love. I was in the fifth grade. The girl who captured my heart was a member of our church youth group. Although we had been friends for a year or so, our relationship as boyfriend-girlfriend only lasted about a month. When we broke up, she gave me a note that simply said, “You only have to tell me once that you hate me, and I will remember it for the rest of my life, but you have to tell me you love me every single day”.
I don’t remember ever telling her I hated her (maybe I did once), but I do know that I probably didn’t tell her I loved her every single day. Those are difficult words for a fifth-grade boy to say. Sometimes they’re hard words for us, as adults, to say as well.
I have thought about that note many times over the years, and one day it occurred to me that its sentiment is precisely the reason we need to (not should) come to church every week. Throughout the week we are constantly being told that we messed this up, we didn’t do that right, or we didn’t measure up to someone’s expectations…maybe even our own. Then we come to church where, if the church is being faithful, we are told, “Yes, maybe you messed up, maybe you didn’t do that right, but you are forgiven and still loved. Here’s a little bread. Here’s a little wine. They’re the visible word of God’s love and forgiveness for you. Now get and get back out there and tell others about my unconditional love for everybody! And if you mess up again and feel like everybody hates you, don’t worry. Come back to be reminded again that you are loved with a love that will never fail you or forsake you.”
Jesus calls us to love one another with that same kind of love…for it is by our love that people know that we are his disciples. If it is hard for us to express our love with words, perhaps we can speak through our actions.
There’s a church I know that created T-shirts for their members to wear when they’re doing ministry in the community. On the back, they printed the slogan, “The church has left the building”. It’s a catchy way to emphasize that the Church is not a building or a place but people called to share God’s love by feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, befriending the marginalized, and a host of other ways in the community around us. The church is a body of believers who encourage each other to make a difference in people’s lives…who share Christ’s love in meaningful ways… and who take care of each other.
How do we, at St. Paul’s, tell each other and the community around us that they are loved?
Music to Our Ears…
Each month we include a little article about a favorite hymn. Do you have a hymn that gets stuck in your head like ear candy? Is there a hymn that touches your spirit deeply each time you hear it? Perhaps you have a hymn that always gives you a sense of peace when your heart is troubled. Do you want to know a bit of the backstory behind that hymn? If so, you can submit your suggestions by e-mailing either Pastor Karl at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . Although it isn’t necessary, we would love it if you would include a little story telling us why this is your favorite hymn.
Our selection this month, It Is Well With My Soul (ELW #785), was submitted by Tina Mack, who said she is impressed by the extraordinary events that led up to the composing of this hymn. Thank you, Tina!
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers us out of them all.
When the great Chicago fire (the one attributed to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow) consumed the Windy City in 1871, Horatio G. Spafford, an attorney heavily invested in real estate, lost a fortune. About that time, his only son…a rambunctious four-year-old…died of scarlet fever. Horatio drowned his grief in his work, pouring himself into rebuilding the city and assisting the 100,000 people who had been left homeless by the fire.
In November of 1873, he decided to take his wife and daughters to Europe. Horatio was close to the famous evangelists D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey, and he wanted to visit their evangelistic meetings in England, followed by a family vacation.
When an urgent business matter detained Horatio in New York, he decided to send his wife, Anna, and their four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, on ahead. As he saw then settle into their cabin aboard the luxurious French ocean liner Ville du Havre, he had an uneasy feeling and had them moved to a cabin closer to the bow of the ship. Then he bade goodbye, promising to join them in England very soon.
During the early hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre sailed over smooth seas, the passengers were jolted from their bunks as the ship collided with an iron sailing vessel. Water poured like Niagara through a gash on the side of the ship. As the Ville du Havre tilted dangerously, screams of terror, prayers, and oaths merged into a nightmare of unimaginable terror. Passengers clung to posts, tumbled through the darkness, and were swept away by the powerful currents of an icy ocean. Loved ones were torn from each other’s grasp and disappeared into the foamy blackness of the sea. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the waters. The 226 fatalities included all of Horatio’s daughters. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. When the forty-seven survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved alone”.
Horatio immediately booked a passage to join his wife. En route, on a cold December night, the captain called Horatio aside and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville di Havre went down”. Spafford went to his cabin but, as you might imagine, found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “It is well: the will of God be done.” He later wrote his famous hymn based on these words.
The melody for “It Is Well”, also known as “When Peace Like A River” titled Ville du Havre, was written by Philip Bliss, who himself was soon to perish, along with his wife, in a terrible train wreck in Ohio. Philip Bliss was a traveling musician who also wrote I Will Sing of My Redeemer.
Philippians Bible Study
Philippians is the most personal of Paul’s letters. He wrote this joyous, affectionate letter from prison to thank the church at Philippi for sending a man named Epaphroditus with a gift of money. Paul uses this thank-you letter as an opportunity to encourage the young church at Philippi to remain steadfast in their faith in the face of opposition and persecution by inviting them to imitate his devotion to Christ.
Although it is a very brief letter (only four chapters), it is one of the most cherished books of the New Testament. It contains some of the most memorized and quoted verses in the Bible, such as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:3)
Come and join us on Monday evenings from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. starting February 6th for four (maybe five) weeks of exploring Paul’s Epistle of Joy. Hope to see you there!