Sunday, April 19, 2009

Newsletter Article

The following was written for the Spring 2009 issue of the Olla Podrida, the quarterly newsletter of Our Savior Lutheran Church of Norwood Park. It's posted here both for your edification, and so that the editor (hi, Rosalie!) can cut-and-paste it into the newsletter since I kinda missed the deadline. Oops. :)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

I have now been serving as your vacancy pastor for nearly half a year. In some ways, it doesn't seem like it's been nearly that long, and in other ways I feel like I've been here longer, in the sense that I feel comfortable and at home serving at your altar and providing pastoral care to you, the members of the congregation. I am very grateful for the way in which you have helped Tina and I feel at home at Our Savior, and for the many ways you have helped us and wished us well as we have been commuting weekly or more from Racine. We truly appreciate it.

Recently the Church celebrated the highest and most important festival of the Christian Year, the Resurrection of our Lord. The extra touches added to worship, including a small chamber orchestra accompanying the hymns, the return of the Alleluias and the Gloria in Excelsis, reminded us of just how wonderful it is that our Lord rose from the dead and became the first-fruits of the new creation.

It might be tempting to wish every service was like that. We all want to see the good and true and noble parts of our life together as Christians. But the reality is that we live in this old, sin-filled world. Disease and death are still with us. So are grudges, gossip, hate, and hurt feelings. So are worries about finances and the future. Church festivals may allow us to put these things from our minds for a time, but sooner than we'd like they intrude on us again.

It's not God's intention, nor the Church's, to "distract" us from the problems we face. If that were the case, Karl Marx would have been right when he judged religion to be the "opiate of the people." Rather, what we preach is not a distraction from our problems, but the resolution to them. Christ didn't rise from the dead to undo Good Friday; rather his resurrection is the proclamation of the victory over sin and death He won on Good Friday. He doesn't just wave His hand and make our problems and troubles go away, He took them upon Himself and defeated them on the cross. And so while we still live in this old world and must face its problems, both in our secular vocations and in our congregation, we know that these troubles have been overcome already. The sins of Christians against each other aren't ignored, they are nailed to the cross. The disease and death that we all see and experience aren't ignored with "positive thinking" or "health and wealth" preaching, they are met with sympathy and love which flows from a Savior who has himself experienced all of it.

That's what we celebrate, not only on Easter, but at every Divine Service. That's also why we study the Word and engage in daily prayer, to remind ourselves and each other of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. It's not about pretending our problems don't exist. It's not about distracting ourselves from them or minimizing them or trying to ignore them. Rather, we are citizens of the kingdom Christ reigns over from the cross, the kingdom won for us by suffering and death for the sins of the whole world. In this kingdom, sin and suffering aren't ignored or denied, they are, in fact, experienced by our God Himself in our place. That's why the Christian Church exists, and that's the purpose for our congregation to exist. We're not trying to pretend we're better than anyone else, but rather we are sinners who come to be served by a God who died and rose again, killing our sins and our problems and giving us eternity itself in return.

-Pastor Schellenbach

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