November 2017

Pastor Loren Mai After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:9-17

Dear Friends in Christ,

       John, in his vision, wonders who these people are, and he is told, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are the ones we traditionally have call the “saints,” because they have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior despite enduring persecution and trials for their faith in him.

       It may be difficult for us to identify with these “saints.” Have you ever been persecuted for your faith in Jesus? I never have. Yet you and I are numbered among the saints, for in baptism we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Our sin has been covered over by the white garment that is Jesus, covered by his righteousness, cleansed of our sin, put right with God. This is God’s action, God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ. So this vision of the multitude of people praising God in heaven includes us. We, too, have the promise of life with no more hunger or thirst, no more heat stroke, no more tears! We may not have ever been truly hungry or thirsty, although there are times we thought we were. But tears we know: tears of loss, tears of grief, tears of pain, tears of heartbreak, tears of sadness, tears of remorse. These tears all come with life in a sinful world, a world estranged from the God who created it.

       Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection our tears will be no more. We will be filled with joy for all eter-nity. But what about now? Jesus in his Beatitudes speaks of the future and of the present. He speaks of the poor, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted as being “blessed” now. It is a sense of delight in God’s presence and promise in Christ. There is a future aspect to this, but for these people, who would not be listed on any worldly list of Who’s Who or MVPs, theirs “is” the kingdom of heaven. Ours is the kingdom of heaven, already now! We may yet experi-ence great pain and trouble in life, yet Jesus calls us to rejoice in the promise he gives us of eternal life in heaven. We may not know exactly what is coming, but one thing we know is that in Christ God has made us children of God and heirs of eternal life. We can rejoice with all the saints because we belong to Christ—in life, in death, and through all eternity.

       Let us pray. Gracious God, we thank you for the forgiveness and new and eternal life you give us in Christ. Help us in the midst of the difficulties of life to rejoice in your love and presence and to hope in promise in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

       I have very much enjoyed my three-month sojourn with you. May the Lord bless you and keep you in Christ’s Love, Joy, and Peace,

Pastor Jim

A WORD FROM PHIL

Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
       Have you ever been so angry that you didn’t know whether to scream or cry? Do you let it out in a fit of rage or bottle it up inside? Have you ever been so angry that anger seems like all you know and that nothing else matters? I have. We all have. Anger is an emotion that we all share and is part of what makes us who we are.

       Now, have you ever felt that same anger turned towards God? I admit that I have. In fact, I am still angry at God over the death of my friend Tim who died of cancer four years ago. The truth is that when you feel anger towards God you are not alone. In fact, you only need to open the Bible to find common company. Lamentations, Job, even the Gospels contain ac-counts of people angry with God. It is most evident in the Psalms, many of which seem to even challenge the presence of God in the midst of their anger. My favorite being Psalm 22 which says, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” The very same words uttered by Christ on the cross. But the Psalmist does not stop there and goes on to write, “Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” These are not the words of a content individual. There is anger behind what is being written because the author is feeling abandoned and alone. This is a com-mon thread running through the Bible and running through our own lives as well. So, we get angry.

       Yet, when we feel anger, especially anger directed at God, we often follow it with guilt, shame and worry. Guilt that we should even feel this way towards God, shame at expressing those feelings, and worry that somehow God will punish us because of our anger. My friends, I do not believe that God punishes, I believe God heals. God heals our brokenness not through guilt or shame, but through love. God is with us in our fears, in our shame, and in our worry. And God is with us when we are angry, even when we are angry back at God. Anger is not sin. Anger is a deep, common human emotion. Sin happens when we harm others or harm our-selves because of our anger. On the contrary, anger can lead to good. When we use our anger, especially anger at injustices or evil, it can lead to real change for the better. Even anger at God can lead to a deeper relationship with God when we refrain from holding back and let God in on our anger. That deeper relationship, even through anger, is what God desires the most.

       Am I still angry at God? Sometimes. The death of my friend four years ago still sits with me today. Even though I have reached a sense of peace I can’t help but feel anger towards God at times. But, the good news of the Gospel is that even in our anger, God is there with us. God can take our feelings and frustration. After all, God created them. And God created us, to love and to share all of life’s ups and downs with God in return. Anger and all.

Phillip Hett