As we celebrate the 497th anniversary of the catalyst of the Reformation when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther posted those 95 Theses on the that door of the church in Wittenberg I am in the midst of doing those preps for this Sunday’s All Saint’s Sunday message. The readings are the standard readings in the Lectionary for All Saint’s – Revelation 7:9-17, 1 John 3:13, and Matthew 5:1-12. As I prepare remembering the glorious gift we have been given in Christ and the promise we have received in Him through His death and resurrection, I want to reflect on some of the events that have been occurring in ministry.
As a father, I have had some major issues in the congregation that truly pull on my strings as families have been confronted with some major issues. One I still am praying for the family as they struggle with the implications of what has happened to their child which is still unresolved as I have prayed and wept with them and in my own prayer. Another is a true miracle. A young man, Logan Doseck, was in the hospital last week with liver failure and we were praying that the numbers would improve on his liver function or he may need a liver transplant. As we prayed and heard the progress as the numbers went down on Thursday all things sounded good, but then he went into a coma and his brain was swelling. By midnight Friday morning the fear was brain death and by the afternoon they were giving this 22 year old man very little chance of survival. On Saturday there were doctors that wanted to remove him from the ventilator and had given up, except one who came to the family and said that there was still a slim chance and at that point they gave him a 5% chance of survival. With prayers being lifted and more and more prayer chains contacted we did not give hope. The announcement to the congregation on Sunday was tear filled and difficult, but Logan was still hanging on. They did an MRI and found the damage was not as severe, though he had a brain hernia and on Tuesday they removed the dialysis machine on Logan’s liver and his liver functions were back to normal – no transplant needed, then they removed his ventilator and Logan spoke. God performed a miracle.
As I reflect on these events and then I look to the 1 John 3 reading (vv 1-3, ESV), “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” In this I see the promise we are given. We are chosen by God, but not just as friends or followers, but as children. These words are the words of adoption, but how often do we take them for granted. When I see children in public speaking back to their parents or saying bad things it bothers me, but how often are we like that with God. Growing up my mother would often remind me, “We don’t owe you anything!” Some of you may think that was harsh and it was, but there were the times that those words were well-deserved. It also shaped my thinking, if my parents don’t “owe” me anything and they are the ones whom I was entrusted to by God then the world most certainly doesn’t owe me anything and I don’t deserve certain things.
This does not mean that it is fine to be treated poorly nor does it mean that we shouldn’t be treated with dignity, but the reality is that the world is harsh and may be unforgiving. At the same time we have a God who is not. The miracle that occurred with Logan is a glorious and wonderful thing, but I am also reminded of those that have not had such miracles occur. This comes to the point that I am making, God did not have to heal Logan. That was not owed to his parents nor was it deserved, it was a precious gift. The reality is the gift was the child in the first place. I have known and met many people that have lost loved ones and I have heard the anger they have held against God for taking away the loved ones. I have cried out when I have had people that I love dearly die on me, it’s our nature. As I reflect on this pain I come to understand more of what it is that Jesus is saying when He speaks in Matthew (10:37, ESV), “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” When our love for others is greater than our love of the Lord it is a tool that can create separation from God especially when things happen and this I have seen over and over. Wives or husbands leave the faith because of difficulty or tragedy, parents no longer believe after the death of a child, and even children who fall away because mom or dad dies and prayers seem to have gone unanswered. It is the spirit of the world that feels that we are owed, we are entitled by God to have things our way.
Fortunately, the adoption of God is not of our choosing and we can cling to the promises given even when we falter in our faith, but the witness to those who do not know God is diminished or nonexistent. I pray, that I don’t have to face these tragedies with my own children, but moreover I pray that in the midst of difficulty that God give me the faith to carry on. As I reflect on the Reformation Day and look forward to All Saint’s I am thankful for the witness of so many that have passed before me and also am gladdened by how my faith has been fed in years and the witness I am able to give. I know I am not perfect nor will ever be in this mortal coil, but it is God’s grace that sustains me. As I pray for the family in the midst of the struggle and celebrate the glorious miracle I have been able to celebrate with Logan’s family and my new church family in Fort Wayne, I am able to celebrate the greatest miracle in my life – God chose me. God chose me and adopted me as His son brother to the Son who has redeemed me. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and glorious children, that though they may be a handful at times and cry out, “UNFAIR” when I take away privileges because of bad behavior, I know that they are a gift and I am thankful. Christ has blessed us. I have been very blessed and there are many saints that I can remember this All Saint’s my mother-in-law, Wanda, who was such a blessing in my life and saw God’s light in me, my grandmother, Kay, who was such a great teacher, mentor, and friend, my grandfather, George, who was always there when I was a kid and went to most of my events growing up, my step-grandfather, Jerome a.k.a. Duke, and the many people that I was able to get to know that are now resting in the Lord’s hands. I have been blessed, as a pastor, to sit by many a bedside of people preparing to enter into eternity and have some great memories and witnessed God’s hands at work. The undeserved grace He pours out with great abundance. As I reflect, I can smile, with a tinge of sadness with some memories because of the people I miss, but I know that God has given me a greater life than I deserve. May Christ’s love fill you abundantly in your reflections too!