It’s Really Not That Complicated

I pray all is well with you and your family as we dive deeper into the darker and colder months of the year here in Michigan. Those who know me best will agree that the further we go toward the seemingly sunless frigidity of winter, the more I’ll long for the clear blue skies and richly warm sunshine of summer. For me, summertime is not only a period for physical and mental rejuvenation, but it carries in its streaming rays a much simpler mode of life. Winter brings snow, extra layers of clothing, scraping windshields, shoveling and salting walkways—all of this just to go from one place to the next. For many, it means doing all of it in the dark, only to return home later that day in the same pitched shadows, with barely an opportunity in between to enjoy unobstructed sunshine.

Summer, on the other hand, is simpler. It means waking with the sun already nudging you with its warmth. It means walking directly to the car unhindered, driving to work in the sunlight, and returning home again with the same gleams of wellbeing caressing your face. It means after-dinner hours enjoying that same heavenly light and the beautiful landscape that light so effortlessly highlights for our viewing pleasure.

Winter has a sense of complication. Summer feels much easier.

Speaking of complicated versus easy, while at the same time still thinking about the events of our recent “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference, I’ve noticed from conversations with folks in attendance that no small number come to the event expecting the extraordinary woes of our day to be met with extraordinary solutions. And yet, when the emotion that’s almost always mixed in gets stripped away, it’s discovered that the problems themselves are often less complicated than we expected. In truth, the answers to the concerns are usually just as simple, requiring only the stamina of living every day according to one’s values, as opposed to formulating complex strategies that will, at some point, require brute force muscle.

In other words, our hearts and minds expect the astonishing when what we need is usually quite ordinary.

I more than hinted to this in my speech. I noticed Abby Johnson, Candace Owens, and Charlie Kirk all said more or less the same thing in theirs. And why? Because it’s true. While we like to complicate things, more often than not, the solutions we need are usually very simple.

That logic applies to salvation, too.

For starters, it’s not beyond us to complicate what God has done to win our forgiveness. Perhaps we find ourselves making deals with Him, promising to do this or that, all the while hoping that He’s figuring into His calculations our good deeds against our bad. Or maybe we try to avoid Him altogether, figuring we’ll never measure up to His expectations, ultimately finding ourselves in despair. But God’s simple reply to all of this is that His Son’s sacrifice on the cross was enough. No deals are necessary. No calculations are required. No need to avoid His presence. All is well between God and Man through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Believe this and all will be well with your eternity.

On the other hand, perhaps we look to our God expecting fantastical displays and magical deliverances. We ask to hear His voice. We pray for a sign. We expect a miracle. But in the end, His reaching to us occurs by way of very ordinary things. He gives us a book filled with the promises of His love (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 119:105). He sends us the Good News of our rescue through the preaching of a less-than-spectacular servant—a pastor (Romans 10:14-15). He claims us as His own by combining His Word with water to wash us clean in the blood of the Savior (Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:3-10; Galatians 3:27), and He attaches a promise to what He does there, saying, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He makes His presence among us, bringing even more of His wonderful love by means of commonplace food items—bread and wine (Matthew 26:17–29; Mark 14:12–25; Luke 22:7–38; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea, which in the end, is that your God doesn’t want you wrestling with the complication of uncertainty. He wants to assure you of His love through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He wants you to be uncomplicated by the fetters of sinful human tendency, which as I said, bears the potential for making something very easy into something very hard.

My advice: Look to the cross. Be reminded of the holy One who hung there. Rest assured that what He did on that cross was the most extraordinary act of God wrapped up in the unsettling usualness of a common criminal’s death. But there amid the agony and bloody sweat, among the excruciating sighs, and finally, by His dying breath, your complicated account was settled with God. Through faith in His sacrifice on your behalf, your eternal balance reads, “Amount due: $0.00.”

Believe this. It really is that simple.

Through to the End

What an amazing “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference we experienced yesterday! And the people of God here at Our Savior in Hartland who were responsible for making it happen should take Godly pride in its success. Not only did people come from all around the country to be with us—which means that what was provided will influence more than just our local community—but the guest speakers could not stop glowing about what this congregation has stepped up to do for the sake of the Gospel. Charlie, Candace, and Abby all said almost uncomfortably more than once how wonderful it is that Our Savior provides a tuition free opportunity to the public schools, that we’re doing what we can to unquestionably be the Church in the world around us, and that circling both of these things, is the desire to remain faithful to the Head of the Church—Jesus Christ—and to His Word. Those are their words, not mine. But, of course, I knew this about us already.

Those who were in attendance yesterday will know I’ve already taken aim at next year’s event. In fact, I’ve already confirmed most of the line-up. How is that possible? Well, for starters, I’m no procrastinator.

To be frank, I’ve never been a procrastinator. I have too much to do. As a result, and by way of observing procrastinators, I’ve found myself in agreement with folks like Lord Chesterfield, which is to say how strangely convenient it is that “the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in. One yawns, one procrastinates, one can do it when one will, and therefore one seldom does it at all.”

Be sure to share that bit of wisdom with the supposedly over-stressed, and yet chore-less, video gamer who can’t seem to get his or her room cleaned, or homework turned in on time. My guess is there’s very little in the way of their success.

On the other hand, and perhaps from another angle, it was Thomas Jefferson who said something about how delay is preferable to error. Of course, contemplative delay is far from procrastination. In my humble opinion, procrastination is a paramount form of immaturity, and the purest demonstration of irresponsibility. A project with a procrastinator at the helm will rarely result in producing anything that can be tagged as much more than “acceptable.”

But enough about that. There are other things to think about this morning.

I just finished reading a brief portion from Luther, and at one point in between his wit and wisdom, he wrote so plainly, “Life apart from Christ is a wretched business.” Someone should put that on a t-shirt. I know I’d wear it.

Indeed, a life that’s disconnected from the only One capable of bringing hope into this fallen world is a life lived in wretched despair. It’s not uncommon for me to hear Christians say, “I don’t know how people get by in this life without Christ.” I hear this most often at funerals, and in reply, I’ll say, “They don’t. At least, not with any real meaning.” I should add that the people I hear using this particular phrase are not doing so half-heartedly, as if to fill conversational space. They say it because they really believe it. They’re people who know life’s heavier difficulties. They’ve been neck deep in them. They’ve faced off with the monsters of this world—beasts that have consumed massive pieces of their lives—and yet they’ve somehow found a way through to the peace that surpasses all understanding that keeps the Christian heart and mind settled—the kind of peace described by Saint Paul in Philippians 4:6. In other words, when things didn’t make sense to them, when they didn’t know what was going on, they were able to go to what they did know, which is that Christ is the final word for everything between and after our first and last breaths; or as Saint Paul says in Romans 14:8:

“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

That makes little sense to the world. It makes every bit of sense to believers.

I suppose I’m sharing this with you for two reasons. The first is that our “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference this past weekend was not only filled with some really great speakers, collegial fellowship, and helpful information, but it also didn’t do much tiptoeing through the more troubling topics plaguing our nation, some of which seem almost insurmountable. It uncovered them, and it put them on plain display, leaving many people wondering how on earth any of it could be happening. The second reason I share this is because you need to know that what we’re facing as Christians isn’t insurmountable. We have Christ.

Now, I am by no means going to do what so many others do, which is to take the text of Philippians 4:13 out of context, claiming that nothing is impossible to the one who believes in Christ. There are plenty of impossible things we face as Christians. If they weren’t impossible, we wouldn’t actually need Jesus. And that’s precisely the point of that so-often misquoted text, which really needs verses 11 and 12 to complete it. The point is that while there are plenty of things we’ll experience in this life that we won’t be able to overcome, the promise is given that through faith in Christ, they won’t overcome us. Even when we’re in want, we can trust and be content. Even when we are facing our end, we have a hope that extends beyond this life’s mortal boundaries.

If you are at all like me, then you may be feeling a bit helpless by the fact that in response to the National School Boards Association referring to conservative parents as “domestic terrorists,” Joe Biden has weaponized the FBI for cracking down on parents who, out of concern for their children, are confronting their local school boards regarding the plague of indoctrinating curriculums pushing gender fluidity, Critical Race Theory, and so many other dumpster ideologies supported by the Democrat party. In other words, if you come to a meeting prepared to call them out, your president is happy to see you arrested, and ultimately, put on a watch list.

But that’s not the only sense of abandonment you may be feeling. Again, if you’re like me, you may be overwhelmed by the prospect of people losing their jobs unless they allow themselves to be injected with something they’d prefer not to put into their bodies, no matter the reason. And as if that weren’t enough, they feel helpless to do anything about the growing number of grocery stores and medical facilities denying services to anyone who can’t produce proof of vaccination. In other words, those who are currently at the helm of the federal government are pushing the standard of “comply or else,” even to the point of threatening the citizenry’s ability to care for their families.

These are terrifying things. And by the way, anyone who voted for this should be ashamed. The Word of God clearly stands against you.

Still, the Lord is with His people, and He will see all of this through to the end. And as He does, He promises to continue to equip the faithful by Word and Sacrament with the stamina for making it through. Whether that means the persecution that’s likely to come for open resistance, or it means existing in suffering in the shadows, either way, hope remains.

Remember that. And then go to church.

Friends are Friends

I’m sitting here wondering… who are the people in your life you trust, and why do you trust them? I know that’s a deeper question than it sounds. Each of us has people in our lives we’ll trust for one thing but not another. Still, there are those we keep close in everything. They are second selves in a way—people we’ll lean on no matter the circumstance.

I’m guessing that for many of you, it’s your family that best fits within the boundaries of this description. Speaking for myself, I can certainly affirm that my wife, Jennifer, is the one person I trust unreservedly with everything. She’s also the person I can trust to not pester me when there are situations happening that, while I need to keep them confidential, are clearly weighing me down. She never pries, but instead, does what she can to cheer me up, all the while encouraging me to keep pressing forward, especially when she can clearly see that I don’t feel like I can. This, again, is an aspect of her trustworthiness.

I have a trustworthy Bishop, too. He’s more than an ecclesiastical supervisor. He’s a friend. Even better, he’s a pastor’s pastor to all in the district. What I mean is that for any of the church professionals out there within reach of his supervision, if they have no one else to trust aside from Christ, they can trust him. I’m glad for that.

Since I mentioned the idea of confidential things, in contrast to those you’d trust, there are those around each of us who display a tendency for handling secrets in the same way they handle cash. They circulate them, using them to buy and sell with others. By the way, those folks are often the first ones to pester for secret information, ultimately betraying their lack of intention or ability for ever keeping to themselves whatever it is you may share. There’s another term for those people: Gossipers. For the record, I keep gossipers at arm’s length. In fact, anyone who knows me will know I have a tendency to come down hard on gossipers. Gossip is poison to the Church and it should never be tolerated.

Of course, keeping confidence isn’t the only thing that makes a person trustworthy. Again, speaking only for myself, the people I keep closest are the ones I know will receive my words honestly—easy or hard—and in turn, they know I’ll do the same with theirs. I hope Jennifer doesn’t mind that I’m repeatedly using her as an example, but this reminds me of something she articulated so wisely a few years ago. In fact, I mentioned it in The Angels’ Portion, Volume III. I may have shared it with you before. Either way, here’s what I wrote:

“‘Friends are friends until they’re not,’ my brilliant wife has observed. And the substance of her meaning is a direct outflow of her life as a pastor’s wife. She knows all too well that her husband is always just one decision, action, conversation, or sermon away from ticking someone off and seeing that which once was become a thing of the past. She knows all too well that if she shows up on Sunday and gets the cold shoulder from someone who only last week was as fresh and friendly as a springtime sprig, it’s because of something I did.”

Friends are friends until they’re not, which is why I’m guessing that like me, the people you trust the most are the ones who continue to prove the long-lasting nature of real friendship that can withstand being over-taxed by mistakes, careless words, or whatever else might cause division between people. Most often the first action of a trusted friend, at least the kind I’ve described so far, won’t be to attack you, but rather will be to seek peaceful ways to fortify his or her friendship with you through faithfulness to Christ.

I appreciate the phrase, “True friendship is never serene.” Marie de Sévigné said that. She was right. And her point: True friendships are not without turbulence. Still, I’m guessing they have something that other relationships do not: Humility and forgiveness.

Humility will always be a sturdy bridge for carrying heavier issues over from one person to another. And if forgiveness is there waiting on the other side, the friendship will be proven capable of withstanding what breaks all other relationships.

Christians, in particular, know these things very well. And why wouldn’t we? We know that even as we were God’s enemies, completely dead in our trespasses and sins, Christ humbly submitted Himself to death on our behalf (Ephesians 2:1; Romans 5:6). The forgiveness He won for us by His death is the foundation of our very identity as human beings. From this, we know without question that He is the absolute epitome of “friend,” having made clear to us that there is no greater love to be found among friends than that one would be self-sacrificing, that one would lay down his life for the other (John 15:13). When Jesus speaks this way, of course He’s referring to Himself as the only One capable of being the truest friend. And yet, He certainly gives this faithful Word in order to establish the same selfless relationships between His people, knowing that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we would be found emitting to each other in much simpler ways what He first demonstrated to us in the greatest of ways.

You may have other criteria behind your determining of trusted friends. I certainly have others I’ve not shared. Nevertheless, what I can tell you with relative simplicity is that when humility and forgiveness are present in a person, the rest of what we might consider to be not-so-likeable qualities are most often barely noticeable—which makes complete sense. It’s a lot harder to see the bad stuff when Jesus is blocking your view.

Sunhat

Being the lurker that I sometimes am on news media outlets, I read a comment beneath an article on the topic of transgenderism that said, essentially, all things have a hidden meaning, and it’s our duty as humans to discover those meanings.

My first thought was, “No, everything does not have a hidden meaning.” And then with my guts irritated, I reached toward the keyboard and typed, “What a remarkably Marxist thing to say.”

Truth be told, I didn’t post the reply. Instead, I held the backspace button down until I could replace the previous sentence with, “Sometimes a sunhat is just a sunhat,” which is a line from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that Jennifer and I use with one another on occasion. Essentially, it communicates that nothing other than what was said was intended, and that the other person should just stick with the clear meaning of the words.

I know it’s a bit of a tangent, but I should probably tell you why I called the comment on the post “Marxist.” I did this because the starry-eyed notion of looking for utopian societal order beyond what can be readily observed and discerned through natural and moral law was something Karl Marx claimed as central to his own philosophy. As one would suspect, it became natural for him to see sinister ghosts behind most everything in the West. By the way, this is just a sliver-sized hint from the forest of reasons Critical Race Theory, namely Black Lives Matter, fits its Marxist label. It seeks to fundamentally transform society in order to fix problems that don’t exist.

But, anyway.

Sometimes I think that if everything in creation actually did have a hidden meaning hovering somewhere between its molecules, it’s likely the meanings would be written in some sort of unintelligible gibberish only interpretable to the kind of philosophers who struggle most of the time to communicate anything of value to the rest of us, anyway. And who might be considered a philosopher of this sort? Well, you know. They’re the kind who sit in coffee shops talking with one another about how to unweave rainbows—folks like Karl Marx. In a mindful society, the only people who’d take them seriously are themselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against philosophy as a discipline. Curiosity is the instigator of genuine philosophy, and by nature, I’m a fairly inquisitive guy. But still, sometimes there’s nothing to philosophize. As a proven system for lifting people from poverty, Capitalism works the best. Marxism—which in theory involves a society stair-stepping into Socialism that it would ultimately become Communist—does not. Marxism’s greatest historical achievement appears to be its mastery for filling graves in large quantities and in short periods of time.

To that end, and to come back around to where I began, sometimes the thoughts, words, and deeds comprising a particular circumstance require simple human-to-human skills of observation and listening, with little to no deeper interpretation.

Sometimes a sunhat is just a sunhat.

Having somehow wandered into this stuff, you might be wondering what any of it has to do with anything else. Well, I did have one thought while tapping away this morning.

I was reading the Epistle appointed for this morning from 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. In particular, I appreciate verse 9, which reads: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

God is faithful. How? Look to Jesus Christ and you’ll see. Listen to Him say he loves you—that you are precious to Him; that He went to the cross for you. It’s valuable to study the depths of this truth, and yet at the same time, don’t necessarily try to grasp at every strand of this divine mystery of unfathomable love, perhaps wondering what it is about you that might stir His affections. You’ll go off the deep end of uncertainty with that nonsense. Besides, the short answer to your wondering is, well, nothing. There’s nothing loveable about you. In Sin, we’re all pretty worthless.

But again, we’re not talking about us. We’re talking about God.

The Gospel is not about our abilities to engage Him, but rather His innate desire to engage us. He is faithful. It’s His nature to be this way. This means that even though you’re prone to letting Him down, He won’t let you down. He is reliable in every circumstance. This leaves little interpretation to His promises. When He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him, you can rest assured that He will. When He promises that no matter what His Word brings to you, it will be something you can trust, you can know this is true. When He tells you He loves you, you can believe it.

Again, don’t try to complicate any of these things by inserting some sort of hidden meaning into the mix. Take the Gospel of His faithfulness for what it is: He loves you so much that He sacrificed His own Son to save you, and now, through faith in Him, eternal condemnation is not a part of your future, but rather eternal life (John 3:16). Those are pretty simple words that are very easy to understand. Sometimes a sunhat is just a sunhat.

A Beeline to Faithfulness

That was quite the wind and rain we experienced last week, wouldn’t you say? I think it’s safe to say that autumn has arrived.

Being unable to move very quickly because of my injury, the normally simple inconvenience rain causes became a bit more concerning. At one point on Tuesday, my daughter, Evelyn, and I were standing beneath the canopy near the church’s main entrance trying to decide how we would go about making our way to the car in what had suddenly become a torrential downpour. Thankfully, I had already moved the car into the circle drive near the entrance, so it was only about fifty feet away from us. Still, she was concerned that at my pace, I would be drenched by the time I made it, and so she offered to run to the car to fetch my umbrella and then come right back, and then together we’d make our way over.

What a sweetie.

In the end, we decided just to make a run for it. Well, she ran. I hobbled with fierce determination. Although, we only did this after first calculating another option and its possible outcomes. Essentially, we measured a simple dash to the car against Evelyn running to the vehicle, opening the hatch to retrieve the umbrella, and then running back to me, only for the two of us to then return to the car holding the sail-like device amid the blustering rainstorm, stopping at one door to allow one of us to climb inside as the other then circled around to the other to get in, being sure to first close and shake the umbrella. In the end, a beeline to the car seemed the better plan. Taking a hint from Longfellow, sometimes the best thing any of us can do when it’s raining is to let it rain. In other words, sometimes things are what they are and there’s nothing we can do to change them.

I suppose another lesson to be learned by this artless scenario is that our over-contemplated attempts at avoiding the discomforting things in life often result in making things worse rather than better. Digging even deeper into the moment, I’d say we sorted through the distinction between simply talking about doing and actually doing. As Evelyn and I negotiated, the rain only seemed to get worse. Had we made straight for the car when we first came out, we’d have been a lot less wet. But we didn’t. We stood there trying to decide what we were going to do, which involved a second option involving excessive details that, the more we talked about them, the more cumbersome and toll-exacting they seemed to become. I don’t know if it relates completely, but as I type this, I’m remembering the way Saint Paul often spends time in his epistles dealing with the contours of the Christian life.

I’m guessing there are plenty of folks who, when they visit with those portions of Paul’s writings in which he speaks about genuine Godliness, figure he’s being prescriptive, that is, he’s telling his readers how to live their lives in the world. That may be true some of the time, but not always. Occasionally he’s being descriptive, which means he’s simply describing what Christians have become by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel for faith in Christ. When he does this, there’s an accompanying sense that enough time has already been spent talking about what it all means and now it’s time to just go and be it. I suppose in a practical sense, the more time we spend being unnecessarily cerebral about all of it, the more allowance for devastation our inaction seems to prove.

Think about it in a localized sense. There’s a reason why Saint Paul urges Christians not to let the sun go down on their anger (Ephesians 4:26). He knows the tendencies of Man. He knows that the longer we wait to reconcile, the more likely it is that the rainstorm of hatred will intensify. Of course, as the hatred grows fiercer, the worse things become and the less likely it will be that the two people will ever truly dry off in peace. On a larger scale, the more sedentary Christians remain, prattling away on social media about our troubled world without ever lifting a finger to change anything, the worse things are likely to become. One only needs to look around to see the necessity of Christian action. A glance will reveal the spin-rate of this world’s undoneness is continually picking up speed. School Boards across the country are often unopposed when they introduce sexually explicit materials and Critical Race Theory curriculums in their districts, often beginning as early as preschool. Christian business owners are taken to court and oftentimes fined out of existence simply for holding to the tenets of their faith and the basic science of Natural Law. What was once the quieter, but nonetheless satanic, mantra of “safe but rare” has become the full-throated cry of “Shout your abortion!” and the call for legalized slaughter of full term infants.

The rain is falling, folks. Sure, you can take some time to examine the best way through it, but one way or the other, you’re going to have to get wet. So, stop talking about it and get going. Make a beeline for faithfulness. Of course, the best place to start is by going to church. There’s not much use in trying to weather the storms if you haven’t been equipped accordingly to do so. You need what Christ gives by His Word and Sacrament gifts. Strengthened by these, may I suggest your next few steps for steering into the downpour be ones of faithfulness in your vocation as parent, child, friend, or worker? A lot can be accomplished simply by teaching your little ones while standing true to Christian conviction before family, friends, and co-workers. As you pick up speed in this, think about getting involved with your local Pro-life organization. Or perhaps you might help register Christian voters before the next election. Heck, I say if the Spirit is carrying you along with a brisk enough stride, take a chance at running for office. I already hinted at how holding a seat on your local School Board could make all the difference in the world to the next generation of citizens.

Whatever you’re thinking about doing, don’t think too long. Get out there and be who God has already made you to be. Yes, you’re going to get wet. That comes with the territory. But no matter the outcomes, the calculations for a beeline to your eternal life were already made by Christ through His life, death, and resurrection. By His victory, the courage you need for the first few steps has already been delivered. The words “It is finished!” (John 19:30) are the clarion call.

The Fulfillment of Time

I gave a speech in Muskegon on Thursday night, and making my way back to the east side early Friday morning, I think I may have complained to myself five or six times along the way, “This is a long drive.” While I don’t necessarily mind traveling long distances, what I do struggle with is the feeling of time being frittered away unproductively. I’m a doer. Minutes are important to me. Losing two-and-a-half hours behind the wheel of a car makes my primary motor cortex—the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement—start to itch. This is why, as someone who uses a treadmill to stay fit (at least, I did before my injury), a simple walk on the machine is tantamount to torture. I can’t even do it listening to music or watching a movie. I have to accomplish something. I have to produce something. As a result, and because my health matters to me, I made a tray of sorts that fits to the treadmill. It’s perfect for holding my laptop, and it even has a little space for one or two books.

I tell you, many a sermon or article has been written at five-miles-per-hour.

But back to where I began. The issue for me is the feeling of wasting time.

We’re all acquainted with the adages about time. “The time is now.” “Life is short.” “It’s about time.” “Time waits for no one.” “Time flies.” As a colloquialism, the saying “time flies” has had me thinking on more than one occasion. To say time flies is to say it goes away. But from another perspective, I don’t remember seeing my wristwatch ceasing to function at the funerals I’ve attended. It continued to tick. It’s the person in the casket who stopped. It’s the person in the casket who went away. Perhaps I’ve shared with you before my appreciation for Lord Chesterfield’s advice to his son. “Take care of the minutes,” he said, “for the hours will take care of themselves.” These are wise words, and I think about them often. They certainly put into proper perspective the little dash mark between the dates on a gravestone. In a way, that line is all the passerby is given for knowing the details of the deceased person’s life. Even more interesting, whether the person lived a full century or passed away shortly after birth, the line is relatively short. Some might think that makes life insignificant. I think it reveals the intrinsic value to the minutes God gives to each and every moment.

The Psalms have a lot to say about time. Throughout this wonderful hymn book of the Bible, we are called to the remembrance that God has ordered time (104:19), that backward or forward, God is in the midst of each of the moments on the timeline at the same time (90:1-17), that our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12), that He is with us without fail throughout the span of our years (27:1-2; 31:5, and countless others).

Two times Saint Paul urges Christians to make the best use of their time in this life, both in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5. Those who are familiar with Saint Paul know that when he repeats himself, it’s because what he’s saying is important, which means we’d do well to listen.

There’s another point related to faith in Christ that Paul repeats on occasion. In Romans 13:11 he says emphatically, “You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep!” In 2 Corinthians 6:2 he writes with similar enthusiasm, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” By the time we arrive to 2 Thessalonians 5:1 and read the words, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you,” while the potency of his words is no less than before, he does seem to assume the reader’s awareness of something very important that has occurred—something that relates to time itself.

Paul wrote in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Here he communicates to us very simply the single most time-altering event that ever occurred: the death of Jesus for sinners. Again, sort of repeating himself, later on in his epistle to the Galatians, Paul gives another accounting of this “right time,” except he gives the sense of it being a fulfillment by the person and work of Jesus.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).

Here Paul holds nothing back. He stakes a claim in the incarnation of Jesus, reminding us that the Son of God crossed over from the eternal spheres of the divine. He took upon Himself human flesh and joined with us in every one of our seconds, minutes, and hours in slavery to Sin beneath the burden of the Law. He did this to win for us adoption into God’s family, having stolen away the unending fate of eternal Death awaiting all of us beyond that second date engraved on our headstones. He made us heirs, not of this world, but of the world to come, and He did all of it by sacrificing His own life that one particular Friday on the timeline so many years ago.

That one moment was the fulfillment of all time.

And now we live in time knowing that Death is not our end, which means we can (as Saint Paul already encouraged us) know how to live our lives making the best use of our time. Of course, this begins first and foremost with hearts set for the regular reception of His gifts of forgiveness doled out through Word and Sacrament. These make for the spiritual food that strengthen us for being His people in the here and now, for becoming attuned to knowing that an hour and twenty minutes in worship each week is not wasted time, but is instead a critical moment giving us the merits of “the fullness of time” located in Jesus. We become fashioned for understanding and committing to producing the genuine fruits born by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in this Gospel. We become people who know “the time is now” for serving others, because, indeed, “life is short.” We know “it’s about time” we reconsider our levels of giving back to Christ from what He has given to us, because we know our lives in this world will end and we won’t be taking any of it with us, anyway. We also know that because “time waits for no one,” every opportunity to give the Gospel to family, friends, and neighbors is a crucial endeavor. We know that soon all are found out of reach from such things—flown away, as it were—and we have retooled hearts for seeing them become members of God’s family, just like us.

Autumn through a Christian Lens

As is always the case, when I arrive at the church early on Sunday mornings, I dive into my usual routine. The first part of that routine is to do a little bit of reading from a smattering of sources. Of course, I always start by visiting God’s Word, but after that, I take a few minutes with the news, maybe a short portion from a book, perhaps a quick dip into email, but always a scan of social media. As those who know me best might guess, it’s from any or all these moments a morning epistle to all of you emerges.

I am, for the most part, disinterested in talking about the first thing I stumbled across on social media this morning, which was a back-and-forth between two mostly like-minded people throttling one another’s individual views on the Afghanistan withdrawal. But I will briefly confess to having observed and learned something about human character, and strangely, it’s something we can actually thank social media for uncovering. Having met these people in person, I learned by their online exchange that perhaps you don’t really absorb as much as you might think of a person’s character through face-to-face conversations. However, it seems you may be able to tell a lot more from his or her swiftly typed responses threaded together with misspelled words and doled out during a sketchy online argument. These remarks seem to be written in a hurry, and most likely, reflect a person’s first thoughts, making them an unobstructed window of sorts.

Still, I don’t really feel like going any further with that lesson, and so, take from the observation what you will. I’d rather talk about what I see through a different window.

Apart from the unusually summer-like warmth of the early morning air, it would appear that a handful of leaves on the bush just outside my office window are beginning to tinge with red. You know what that means, right? It means the changing of seasons is once again upon us.

For all my talk of love for the summertime sun, I’ll admit there remains in my heart a secret compartment devoted to autumn. A minute or two examining its landscapes are all that’s needed for understanding why. Every year it’s an ensemble of visual delights—abundant greens having turned to variations of bright yellows through to deep scarlets, flowers that were once reaching skyward now bent and hidden beneath leaves being kissed by a cooler autumn sun, those same leaves often being stirred up suddenly in a swirl by a wailing wind, as if following along on the tail of an invisible kite. For anyone willing to consider the beauty of God’s well-ordered world, even in its tiniest parts, autumn’s scenes are moving.

There’s an emotional richness to autumn, too. It carries in its frosty breezes a strange combination of melancholy and gladness. It bears the crisply hollow feeling of something’s absence. Take a stroll through one of fall’s naked forests and you’ll see. Life itself seems to be sleeping so deeply that nothing can wake it, and all around is damp and dying. And yet, visit that same scene wearing your favorite hat and your coziest coat. Be ready to sense the child-like urge to kick through a leaf pile before leaving to visit the nearby orchard for cider, cinnamon doughnuts, and a chance at picking the best pumpkin for carving.

Autumn is made paradoxically thick by these competing portraits. Through the lens of the Christian faith, perhaps more so than any other season, I’d say autumn silently communicates some of the most important things about life in this world.

For example, autumn more than presents the fall into Sin and the cruel nakedness of regret. It brings the indisputable reminder that our shame is uncovered. It tells us everything has changed and it’s completely beyond our capacity for returning things to what they once were. It whispers the sweeping reality of Death—the inescapability of its laying all things bare before the Creator, its far-reaching aim toward an oncoming winter of eternal condemnation, its frosty residue of guilt that covers everything it touches along the way, the penetrating chill of its finality that can shiver any and all of us to tears.

These are the stanzas of autumn’s dirge-like song. That is, unless you have Jesus. Again, through the lens of faith in Christ, autumn’s singing can turn to something altogether different.

By the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, believers know they are not without Jesus in these autumnal-like moments of bleakness. He’s with them (Matthew 28:20; Psalm 23:4; Joshua 1:9; Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:38-39). He’s strolling alongside, countering gloom with hope, drawing Christian eyes to His glorious purposes nestled and germinating among the leaves, clothing His people in a thickly warm baptismal robe of righteousness that covers Sin and repels the wrath that Sin deserves, exchanging their melancholy for joy, and promising the certainty of a heavenly spring—the resurrection from Death.

Side by side with Christ, trusting in His life, death, and resurrection for our transgressions, we know in all of our naked forests and rotting leaf piles the same thing we know while drinking cider, eating cinnamon doughnuts, and carving pumpkins: Spring is coming. It cannot be stopped. It’s approaching like a juggernaut from another sphere and it will break through winter’s borders, consuming the entirety of its kingdom. It’s only a matter of time.

While the world keeps spinning, and the people in it continue to reveal the disappointing character of Sin’s nature, isn’t it wonderful how the Gospel for faith can bring a reminder of Christian hope simply by way of a few tinted leaves outside an office window? Indeed, the Bible rings true regarding the assertion of God’s love ever-resonating even among His well-ordered creation (Matthew 6:25-33; Psalm 19:1; Psalm 96:11-12; Romans 8:19).

May God grant you comfort by these words.

Settling in with Christ

Glancing around my office while sitting here, if you were to ever stop by for a visit, apart from the books on my shelves, you’d also discover a strange variety of things scattered across the space, eye-candy type things I keep on display that make me smile.

Of course, I have things you’d expect—crucifixes and various Christian images, both on the walls and on the shelves. But I also have a few full-sized Star Wars helmets. These are accompanied by statuettes of Winston Churchill, the Ark of the Covenant, R2D2, and other things sharing space with matryoshka dolls, wood carvings, and Russian military hats. I have a replica of a 9th century Teutonic knight’s helmet serving as a bookend to my books on the liturgy. A few paces away and perched beside my computer printer is a Yautja’s bio mask from the film “Predator.” A few feet from that is a disposable M72 shoulder-fired rocket launcher from the Vietnam era—no longer usable, of course. Strewn among all these things are watercolor portraits my wife has painted, pictures of my family, photos with friends, and greeting cards from so many people I cherish.

Let it be said, there’s a lot in my office besides books to explore and enjoy. And while it might all appear somewhat out of place and weirdly disconnected, together it forms a comfortable matrix for me—a peaceful asylum, of sorts—a physical context apart from the world’s swirling spaces where it so often feels like everything is coming undone. It’s a place where I can settle in and get my bearings for keeping my head about me.

Amusingly, it was Jean Kerr who wrote in her splendid little book Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s possible you haven’t grasped the situation.” I find Kerr’s words so funny because in their context, they’re spoken by someone who just can’t understand how certain people can be so calm during times of crisis. Her satirical answer: They must not fully comprehend what’s going on around them. Her words are even funnier when you realize their broader insinuation, which is that unless you have a frantically unsettled mind like everyone else, you’re weird.

By this definition, Christians are noticeably weird. At least we’re supposed to be. On one hand, God calls for us to be fully aware of the world’s treacheries—to be actively engaged, and in some circumstances, found steering right into the heart of its tempests. We are not to be ignorant of the seriousness of it all. And yet at the same time, God promises we will know and exhibit a peace that surpasses all understanding, no matter what we are facing or what our mortal futures may hold.

Saint Paul says the axis of this peace is Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). But that’s just one item among many on the Biblical shelf.

Looking around, we see it was Jesus who so gently encouraged believers not to be anxious about life in this world (Matthew 6:25; John 16:33). He did this by reminding us of the Heavenly Father’s careful concern for those who are His by faith in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son on their behalf. With Jesus Himself not only being the actual embodiment of God’s Word, but also its absolute centerpiece, it makes sense, then, that we’d continue to find this same comforting reminder taking various shapes and sizes, and being scattered across the bookshelves of the entire Bible. Every single book of the Bible, though each may be unique in its details and style, will at some point along the way bring the light of divine encouragement to the darkness of concern. Together, these reassurances make a space for us to settle in, get the proper bearings, and keep our heads about us.

If I could be certain that you’d take time to read a longer than usual note from me, I’d provide an illustration from every single book. That being said, I can at least provide a few samples.

Starting with Genesis, we’re barely into the Bible before the comforting promise of a Savior is given (Genesis 3:15). Further in, Moses records God’s heart-strengthening pledge that He will not abandon His people (Deuteronomy 31:8). Randomly glancing from shelf to shelf, we see Isaiah proclaiming peace to all whose minds are fixed on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). Jeremiah delivers the promise that, like a green leaf in the middle of drought, God will calm the anxious hearts of His believers (Jeremiah 17:7-8). The Book of Proverbs is absolutely brimming with the same assurances (Proverbs 3:5-6; 29:25). The Psalms are, too, with so many of them being in place to lift and sustain the fearful (Psalm 23, 27, 34, 46, 56, and others). Of course, the Gospel writers never fail to keep this same comfort before us (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 13:11; Luke 10:41-42; John 14:27). How could they not, since they bring to us the very narrative of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul continues this powerful cadence by his epistles (Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:6; Colossians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:16). Saint Peter and Saint John do the same (1 Peter 5:7; 1 John 4:18; Revelation 21 and 22).

As I said, I could list countless more, venturing from cover to cover, but I think you get the idea.

In the end, and I suppose as it was sparked by observing the various smile-inducing knick-knacks I keep in my office, the promises of God’s ever-present care given in various circumstances throughout His Word join to form the only sure place we can go to truly get our bearings and keep our wits about us in this world’s turbulence. Without God’s Word of comfort in Christ, we would be without hope.

But we’re not without hope. For Christians, hope is the key ingredient for keeping a level head in any situation of concern. It’s something that will forever be a species of divine confidence that can exist in any environment, no matter the climate or terrain. My prayer for you today is that this same hope born from faith in Christ will be yours in the days ahead.

The Barometer of Shame

I’m very capable of “stupid.” We all are. It’s in our nature to be Sin’s fool. And then, lest we think we can hide it, our thoughts, words, and deeds prove to others just how deep the roots of Sin’s foolishness go.

I could share plenty of personal examples of my stupidity. But I really don’t want to. And why not? Because, as I’m sure it is with you, I’m ashamed of my foolishness—my failings, my flaws, my deficiencies. Although, for the sake of piloting toward something worthwhile this morning, this discussion brings to mind a generality that likely applies to us both—but only if as Christians we are willing to deal in honesty.

It seems to me that for an honest person, a telltale sign in most circumstances that you’re being Sin’s fool is to make excuses for something you feel shameful for doing. In other words, you know it’s wrong, and you get a sense of indecency from it, but you commit to doing it, anyway. And then from there, hoping to feel better about it, you do what you can to convince yourself (and others) it was virtuous.

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the sadness we sometimes experience in certain situations. Sometimes sadness happens when we’re doing something right. I often experience sadness when punishing my children. I don’t enjoy it, and yet, I know that correcting them is the right thing to do. But if while disciplining them, I do something I shamefully regret—let’s say I’m so angry that the punishment I inflict clearly exceeds the crime—then I know by shame’s pestering that I should repent and amend my behavior, even though I’m pretty sure I could, like most parents trying to save face, conjure countless rationalizations for staying the course.

In short, when you’re doing something that stirs your inner shame, but still you find yourself making excuses for the behavior—projecting it as dutiful, or describing it as your only option, or perhaps worse, scrambling to defend it by lifting portions of God’s Word from their appropriate contexts—it could be in those moments you’ve been duped into embracing Sin; or as I said before, you’re being Sin’s fool.

“Well, I know you said you didn’t want to,” you might interject, “but can you provide an example, something that comes to mind that you can share to shed light on this?”

Sure. The first example that comes to mind as the pastor of a school is the idea of making our students wear masks. Now, having let you into my feeble mind, give me some room to explain.

For starters, if you were to look backward across the expanse of everything I’ve ever written or said publicly over the last eighteen months, you’d discover that I rarely, if ever, used my energy to argue for or against masks. Those closest to me know I’m against wearing them. They also know my reasons, which I prefer not to cram down anyone else’s throat. Instead, my steady goal has simply been to do what I can to help keep people connected to Christ during a time when the government seems to be doing everything it can to divide Christians from Him. Of course, I’ve experienced circumstances requiring me to face off with the mask issue as it relates to the State’s impositions on churches. When that happened, I made it clear that requiring masks in public worship or study, no matter how people tried to twist the “love thy neighbor” premise, was not something I would impose because it would mean straying beyond the boundaries of God’s Word. I knew the issue to be one of Christian liberty. If you wanted to wear a mask in church, you were free to do so. If you didn’t, that was okay, too. But whichever you preferred, no matter your reasoning, I could not establish your preference as a law that could potentially prevent others from being in the presence of God to receive His Word and Sacrament gifts.

Getting closer to the point, I’d say some of the same theological principles spill over and into the practice of mandating the masking of children in schools.

Aside from the serious physical, psychological, and pedagogical damages masking causes among children—all of which form a mountain of absolute wrongness I’d feel shameful while climbing—I’m far more concerned about the shame found in trespassing God’s will. I say this knowing that the authority of God vested in the Fourth Commandment and given to parents to raise and care for their children is not something I’m allowed to usurp. It is the sole duty of parents to decide if their children should or should not be masked, and for me to impose such a rule without leaving room for parental exemption or recourse would be to stray beyond the borders of God’s Word and wield a sovereignty He did not grant to me. Even worse, if I did decide to participate in it—if I try to justify it by saying I’m obligated to comply with the Health Department, or it’s my duty as a Christian according to Romans 13 to abide, or that there’s no reasonable doctrinal stance that can be taken against it—I’d be defending something I know is wrong and I’d experience shame. I’d be Sin’s fool.

That’s the example that comes to mind.

But since I brought up Romans 13 (v. 1), I might as well go a little further, because it’s likely someone has already started pulling the pin from the “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” hand grenade and is thinking of throwing it. Preemptively, I should say that I doubt in this circumstance it will detonate as expected. And why? Because as it meets with the discussion, there are plenty of other similarly minded Bible passages that help define and then test the legitimacy of governing authorities to be obeyed. Simultaneously, I’d say the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and its centuries-old confessional documents have a pretty good handle on such texts, ultimately realizing their depth in the “Two Kingdoms” doctrine, which is the biblical teaching that not only understands the authority of the Church and the authority of the State, but also when, where, and how these two kingdoms meet. By this doctrine, Christians can know and understand what it means to be subject to a legitimate government established by God. And by legitimate, we mean that it maintains its divine ordination and does not transgress God’s moral law. Likewise, we can know by the Two Kingdoms doctrine the possibility of a ruling authority’s delegitimization, thereby knowing when we, as Christians, may find ourselves in an unfortunate situation requiring us to disobey men in order to remain faithful to God (Acts 5:29).

Digging a little deeper, especially since we’ve now gone down the rabbit hole of governments maintaining their ordination, we need to remember that the United States government, as well as the state and local governments, are not sovereign entities. In the U.S., all people, Christian or otherwise, live within the contours of a constitutional republic established on the premise that the citizenry is the sovereign authority. In other words, all federal, state, and local governments are, by design, holders of limited authority over and against the citizenry’s personal liberties and their right to act and defend according to concern of conscience.

That’s our form of government in a nutshell. It was thoughtfully constructed in a way that its executive, legislative, judicial, and all leadership bodies by extension would not be found suppressing its citizens’ lives, liberties, and pursuit of happiness.

This means, then, that when a body of unelected appointees, such as a Health Department, begins governing with seemingly inescapable sovereignty, the kind that leaves no room by exemption for citizens to self-determine in these ways, it becomes delegitimized, and I dare say a Christian is no longer bound to obey.

Now, I know this was a lengthy answer, but you asked for an example, and this is the one that came to mind. This is true, most likely, because I’ve had so many conversations about it lately. It certainly is a relevant topic right now.

In the end, as the pastor of a school, I pray we don’t have to face off with these things again. My hope is that the Livingston County Health Department will simply leave things alone, allowing the individual schools to determine their own fate. If that’s the case, then things will be a lot easier for leadership around here at Our Savior. But if they don’t, well then, we already know that doing the right thing can sometimes bring a measure of sadness. For the record, I’m willing to accept the reward of sadness dished out by the world for doing what’s right rather than to experience shame before God for doing what I know is wrong.

God’s Shame

I want to start off by saying thank you to all who’ve reached out to me to show their care and concern following the surgery. Your love has been an uplifting thing, and I truly appreciate it.

This morning’s attempt at some sort of message to you is really my first time back at the keyboard since the surgery. I just haven’t had the energy for much. I still kind of don’t. I know others have far more difficult roads to travel than the one I’m currently on. Still, I won’t lie. It’s been a rough week. For one, I think I can officially say I miss sleeping far more than walking.

My plan was to forego the prescribed pain medications for as long as I could, but as it would go, I ended up taking them, anyway. Once I did, the pain lessened, but the typical difficulties I experience with the medications began. After a little more than a day of nausea, headaches, and sweating, I decidedly went cold turkey (except for Tylenol), having realized that all the discomforts brought on by the surgery were far preferable.

Of course, as some of you know, things got even more complicated this past week. Less than twenty-four hours after surgery, a terrible storm blew through and we lost power, which didn’t get repaired until Friday morning. Thankfully, we invested in a generator a few years ago. When the storm was at its worst and the lights were flickering, Madeline was over at her grandma’s house and Jennifer was running some necessary errands. Harrison and Evelyn were here with me. I probably shouldn’t have, but when the power finally did go out, I managed to hobble from my upstairs bedroom to the basement to help get the generator up and running. Harrison and Evelyn did the heavy lifting to get it outside and gassed up. Josh drove from his apartment in Argentine (through a warzone of fallen trees, as he described it) to take and fill our other gas cans. I directed traffic on breaker boxes, switches, and hookups. Once everything was in place, Evelyn covered my leg with a towel while I crutched outside in the rain to pull the startup. Not long after that, Jen made it home, and like a champ, took everything from there. I could see she’d already switched into “prepper” mode as she went right into doing things like putting flashlights in each of the bedrooms, giving directions on what things could or could not be operated while the generator was engaged, and making a point to go outside every twelve hours or so to shut the generator down to let it cool before refilling it with gas. Of course, while doing all of this, she was also making sure I had everything I needed.

I am, indeed, a blessed man with a wonderful family. And so, here we are together a few days beyond all the excitement and well on our way to greeting whatever new and exciting things may be coming over the horizon.

I won’t keep you long this morning. Again, I don’t have much energy for sharing at the moment. I guess I’ll say that for me personally, the last few days have been nothing short of constant conversation with God. Prayer, that is. I’ve been sending along a steady stream of anything and everything to His listening ears. I’m praying while eating. I’m praying in the shower. I’m praying at two o’clock in the morning. Sometimes it’s little more than unintelligible mutterings as my calf muscle cramps and pulls on the newly sewn tendon. In those moments I’m just begging for relief because the Tylenol does very little to help. In between, I’m telling Him random things that come to mind; things that pertain to my family, things that meet with many of you as individuals, things relative to the entire church family at Our Savior and beyond. Other times, my words to Him are self-analyzing. They’re honest communications telling Him what I really think about things; about myself, about what’s happening right now, about what’s going on in our world, about the things I do or don’t do that I want to change for the better.

Thankfully, God is so graciously willing to hear all these things, especially when it comes to the darker moments of genuine contrition or concern. I assure you that devout prayer does turn in such directions sometimes, so be ready.

Of course, and technically, God knows every little detail behind every possible thing we could share before we utter the first word. And yet, how incredibly comforting it is to know that He still craves for His children to spill it all, that He wants to hear our voices in His divine ears, that He wants us to know that He is listening and won’t turn us away. He loves us.

You should know that this love is what fuels His very core, and its most vivid display can be seen in the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17).

We’d expect the world to disparage the crucifixion of Jesus, and so it does. It’s strange, then, that here at 3:50 AM I’d stumble across a few Christian friends on social media expressing in passing their general discomfort with crosses and crucifixes. While I don’t know the math behind Facebook’s algorithms, I’m guessing there’s a chance these friends might read this. Still, I’m pretty sleep-deprived and in pain, so, whatever.

Firstly, and for the record, I prefer crucifixes over crosses. The corpus—the body of the Lord on the cross—matters to me. Secondly, what are you, vampires?! Why would a Christian be offended by the symbol of the Lord’s work to save us? How is it at all possible to be offended by the depiction—the visible communication, the visual transmission, the observable delivery—of the very act that rescued the world from Sin, Death, and the power of the devil?

No wonder Christianity is slipping away in America.

Although, what should I expect? So many of our mainstream churches are believing and teaching some ridiculous things these days. It should be no surprise to me, then, that there’s a pretty popular megachurch in Brighton, Michigan teaching that both crosses and crucifixes are offensive to visitors, and as a result, they refuse to display them anywhere in their facility. Think about that for a second.

Saint Paul dealt with this kind of idiocy in various places in his ministry, one of which he addresses in the very first chapter of 1 Corinthians (vv. 18-31). By the way, this was a letter written to a church filled with Christians who thought they knew better than the rest of Christendom. In many circumstances, they thought they knew better than Saint Paul, himself! So, from there, I think I’ll just say that any Christian or church offended by a crucifix needs to rethink things—a lot. I honestly don’t know how anyone can look at a crucifix and, in any way, disregard the all-important Gospel message it is silently proclaiming—which is that God was indeed ready and willing to meet us in our filth, that He wanted to be the absolute miracle of relief we needed in our most dreadful of hours. And how did He bring forth and accomplish this aid? By His Son’s death on the cross.

As this meets with prayer—since that’s what I was originally talking about—I don’t know how anyone can look at a crucifix and say honestly that God does not care enough to hear our cries no matter the hour or the need.

To close, there’s something else to consider when approaching prayer from this gritty perspective. I’d urge you to keep in mind the nature of the things you’re sharing with God and then ask yourself, “Would I be willing to publish on social media what I’m sharing with God right now?” If the answer is a red-faced “no,” then you’ve taken one step closer to the deeper teaching value of a crucifix: to the visceral nature behind something unseen becoming seen. I suppose in one sense you can know that seen or unseen, you have a “seen-it-all” God who loves and receives you as others couldn’t and wouldn’t. But then in tandem, you can be mindful that your God didn’t rescue you from your darkest, most secretive, sins by some private act. His death was a humiliating public spectacle—a sanctioned execution. He was tortured and propped up for all. His death for all sins for all time was meant to be seen. And I dare say, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. I’m guessing that while God is okay with your shame remaining hidden from the masses, He thinks it’s better for His to be out there in the open.

I’ll just leave you with that.