A man called me this morning who is friends with several of our members. He grew up Catholic while his wife grew up Lutheran. Neither have been active worshipers as adults. She passed away 3 weeks ago. Worried about her salvation, he was told by a Catholic friend that he could pray her way out of purgatory and into heaven. He called me to ask if that was possible according to Lutheran theology.
It took a little time, but a synopsis of the 16th century reformation during which Luther proclaimed there is no biblical basis for purgatory helped him rethink what he believed. As a priest and monk, Luther pointed out that the church was telling people they could buy and pray their dead relatives out of purgatory and into heaven through a nice donation to help build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. You received a nice certificate called an “indulgence” which made it so.
I turn 60 on March 1, which means my mom turns 80 on April 11. Yesterday, February 4, I retrieved my mom from the Southwest emergency room after she had fallen on her front steps while bringing in the morning Gazette. Her head was scraped, no cuts, no broken bones, but lots of blood due to her blood thinner pill – one of many pills. It was the fourth time I’ve taken her home from Southwest Hospital in the past two months. An ongoing UTI caused the first three visits.
When I dropped her off at 11:30 a.m., I had her take her morning pills. When Danette and Micah checked on her later in the afternoon, they discovered she had taken her morning pills for the next day as well. They brought her to our house to stay.
On Saturday, January 5th, we were driving home from a week of 81 degrees on New Smyrna Beach in Florida. We were high in the West Virginia mountains when the snow began to fall and we needed to stop for gas and other necessities. I was standing at the gas pump with my Browns jacket on when a F350 Ford pick-up (big) pulled up behind me pulling a trailer.
A crew cut man slowly lowered himself down from the pick-up to fill up his tank. He looked like he’d been on the church diet even longer than I’ve been.
Digest articles are due at the beginning of the previous month. Today is Monday, December 3, two weeks after Thanksgiving and three weeks before Christmas. I’m thinking about all the people crying in our sanctuary on Saturday. We especially feel the pain of our grief during our first holidays without the person we love.
Winter might be the best time to let the inevitable waves of grief come over us. This is the time when we have “permission” to do less because the weather is working against us. Most of us no longer have to “do chores and feed the animals” before school or carry in wood to keep the fires burning to heat the house.
One of the joys of preparing for Christmas Eve worship is asking young parents with a baby to be the holy family during our celebration of the birth of the Christ – child. Some couples are eager (usually the mothers) and some are hesitant. Pastor Doug has asked us to put on a Mary and Joseph head dress, robes and sandals to join with the shepherds in a live nativity. We are to be the holiest of families for 10 minutes as the children gather around to get a glimpse of baby Jesus.
This year, we especially need a glimpse of the Christ – child. We need a breathtakingly beautiful portrait of the reality of God incarnate in the baby Jesus. We need love, forgiveness, and hope in the midst of hatred, judgment, and fear.