HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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Working Hard at Rest

rest areaSo then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
[Hebrews 4:9-11]

Anyone who has had to plan a holiday knows that relaxing takes a lot of effort. Work needs to be wrapped   I can leave it behind for a while. Plans put in place for while I am gone. The vacation itself needs to be planned (where are you going to be and who will you be with?), supplies need to be gathered, time allocated, and people informed.

Is it any wonder that very few of us are able to relax for the first few days of our holidays? We are still wound up, strung out, and in full work mode. The holiday doesn’t really begin until your head joins your body, leaving work and concerns behind. Yes, relaxation takes a lot of work if you are going to do it right. Rest means effort.

But the rewards are well worth it! Do you remember what you did at work last week? Last year? Ever? Of course not. Not really, anyway. But, do you remember that time at the lake with your family? Or that trip you took out of country as a youngster? Or that reunion so many years ago? Of course you do … and fondly too!

For many people work is how they spend their time. The weekend, the summer, the holidays are where they really live! The joy of that rest and relaxation gets people through the frustrations and tedium of 9-5.

But rest doesn’t just happen. That’s important for us Christians to remember. Just as our bodies need rest, so do our souls. It is why God made room for a Sabbath rest right from the very beginning. It is why He rested Himself. Not because He was tired, but because we will be. Our spiritual batteries need to be recharged regularly or we just won’t have what we need to get through this life.

But this kind of rest doesn’t come easy either. It is something that takes conscious effort. It takes planning and committment. It takes a conscious effort. Where are you going to be? Who will you be with? What will you need? How much time should you set aside? All these need to be worked out before the benefit of God’s rest can work its blessings in your life. Your heart needs to be there together with your bottom when you plunk it down in the pew. Being ready to receive God’s Rest means putting in the effort ahead of time to really appreciate it when it comes.

But the reward is well worth it! For where Christ (who is our Sabbath rest) is there God refreshes unto everlasting life. The precious words of Forgiveness, the unconditional love of our Saviour. The blood-bought gift of salvation and a peace that passes all understanding … a peace that even passes the terrible Wednesday slump. All these and more are ready and waiting for you in the Word and the Sacraments. Are you ready to get the most out of them?

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All The Good Stuff!

At the Maher household we are quickly approaching the season of Birthdays. It is a busy, but joyous time for our family. Birthday celebrations are a topic of increasing regularity and importance in our home. What kind of party would you like this year? Who will you invite? How many guests are we allowed? What would you like to eat? What activities would you like to do?

Birthdays are important events …  just ask my children. The celebration of life, the marking of milestones, the giving and receiving of gifts, fellowship and food – all the good stuff – it’s all there! So when was the last time you got really excited (little kid excited) about your birthday? When was the last time you made plans to really go all out and celebrate it?

What about the Church? Every year right around this time we mark one of the high festivals of the Church year … Pentecost. It is the story of the Birthday of the New Testament Church. And what a birthday it is! Life, gifts, fellowship – all the good stuff – its all there!

When was the last time the church got excited (little kid excited) about celebrating her birthday? What kind of party will we have? The very best kind. (The Divine Service) What kinds of activities will we do? The very best kind. (Sing, pray, rejoice, receive) What kind of food will we eat? The very best. (The Lord’s own Body and Blood) How many guests are allowed? (How many can you bring?) Who will you invite?

What would happen if we stopped looking at what we do here in church as just another chore, and started looking at it like children look at their birthday celebrations? Why don’t we find out …


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No Power But the Word of God

Here is a true gem for all of us in Christ’s Church from C.F.W. Walther. A reminder of where God’s promises lie, and where our hope as pastor and people forever dwells:

Even though we possess no power but that of the Word, we nevertheless can and should carry on our work joyfully. Let us, therefore, esteemed sirs and brethren, use this power properly. Let us above all and in all matters be concerned about this, that the pure doctrine of our dear Evangelical Lutheran Church may become known more and more completely among us, that it may be in vogue in all of our congregations, and that it may be preserved from all adulteration and held fast as the most precious treasure. Let us not surrender one iota of the demands of the Word. Let us bring about its complete rule in our congregations and set aside nothing of it, even though for this reason things may happen to us, as God wills. Here let us be inflexible, here let us be adamant. If we do this, we need not worry about the success of our labor. Even though it should seem to us to be in vain, it cannot then be in vain, for the Word does not return void but prospers in the thing whereto to the Lord sent it [Isaiah 55:11]. By the Word alone, without any other power, the Church was founded. By the Word alone, all the great deeds recorded in Church history were accomplished. By the Word alone, the Church will most assuredly stand also in these last days of sore distress, to the end of days. Even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. “All flesh is as grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever” [1 Peter 1:24—25]. Amen.

The Synod has No Power But the Word of God, 1848 Synodical Address. Translated by Paul F. Koehneke, published in “At Home in the House of My Fathers”, by Matt Harrison. Lutheran Legacy, 2009.


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Yea Though I Walk …

WalkSunday afternoon was a beautiful day for a hike. My wife and kids and I went out to the Bruce trail to enjoy the warm sunshine and cool breezes of a pristine May weekend. Our walk began on an old overgrown country road, remnants of the long gone farms still visible peeking through the encroaching pine trees … old apple trees in full bloom, raspberry bushes pushing up through tall grasses and old fence posts and bird houses peeking out from beyond abandoned lanes.

Soon we moved into the cool shade of the bluff’s mixed forest. The Trillium’s in bloom below and the branches full of bird song up above. What’s this? What’s that? I don’t know … take a picture and we will check the book when we get home. The little ones at times running on ahead in unbridled glee, at other times falling behind as they stooped to play with some twig or root or stone. At times the offered hands were taken, but often they were dismissed with all the force a two and a half year old can muster.Crevice

From the top of the bluff we took the Keyhole side trail. This one not long, but full of twists and turns, dropping down into crevices and scrambling back up and out again. Some still sheltered the last banks of winter’s snow in their shadowy recesses. Sometimes the path got rather narrow and dark, sometimes the footing got a little treacherous, (once I may even have taken a wrong turn) but by helping each other out we came through without incident. Then a short snack in the sunshine streaming to the bottom of one of the gullies, before squeezing through the keyhole itself and making our way back.

And as I hiked along with those I love most I couldn’t help but allegorize just a little.

For no matter how over-grown this world may become, those of us who walk together as Christ’s church can find the wholesome fruits of the faith past down from those who have gone before us. The times and the landscape may change but the gifts are still there … in the prayers, the hymns, the liturgy, and writings of the faithful … even in the Snackmidst of the growing wilderness of this modern day world.

And as we travel we may not always know what to think of everything we see. Much we see in the world around us is both strange and strangely beautiful … but is it safe? Is it good to consume? Will I regret coming into contact with it later on? There is one way to find out … check with The Book. And the more you check, the more you commit to memory, the more you will be able to discern at first glance. Oh yes, I’ve seen this before … best stay clear!

But the most moving part of the allegory came in the most difficult part of the hike. For precisely where things got the most trying they also became the most stunning. As the walls of the crevice began to close in overhead, the beauty began to unfold in unsuspected ways … in the willingness of our group to pull together and help one another, to hold on to each other and step forward in faith and wonder. Then in the midst of it all a small rock, a bright beam of sunshine and a family meal! Does the imagery get any better than this?

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the face oKeyholef mine enemies …

And if that wasn’t good enough, the icing on the cake was the Keyhole itself. Stunningly beautiful … it was impassable unless you got down on your knees! There was no going home, no getting through unless you humbled yourself. And when this walk of life is over and each of us are called to take the hand of our Good Shepherd and follow Him home, isn’t that what each of us will find? This journey through the wilderness, with all it’s beauty and dangers, can only be enjoyed if it is undertaken humbly, and with the help of those whom God has gifted us with … most especially His Son Jesus, and His bride the Church.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


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Think Again!

I’m not often moved by sentimentality, but sometimes a moment is captured that can’t help but tug a little at the heart strings. One such moment for me was with the video of Ms. Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. Setting up the scene much better than I, in a recent blog post this is what Sarah Liss had to say:

What’s marvelous about Boyle is how she managed to completely challenge not just our preconceived expectations (and those of the Britain’s Got Talent judges) but also the collective perception of what an undiscovered star looks like. Watch the initial moments of the clip and you can tell that the producers are salivating over Boyle’s potential as a wacky character who’ll make great television fodder. An unemployed, eccentric dowager from a small Scottish village who lives alone with her cat, Pebbles? A 47-year-old clad in an unflattering taupe housedress who claims not only that she’s never been married, but that she’s never been kissed? “This?” they’re silently guffawing, “This woman thinks she’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming a professional singer?”

The set-up is cruel: a collection of spliced-together clips of Boyle making doddering, off-colour comments, snarky tween audience members rolling their eyes and the Britain’s Got Talent judges addressing the self-proclaimed singer as though she’s a recent escapee from a mental institution … But Boyle screwed all of that up. When she opened her mouth to sing, something exquisite and jarring came out …

What moved me most as I watched this all unfold on my computer screen, was that what I saw before me was a fitting picture of the church. The comparisons are just too wonderful to pass up! (Now please understand that I am not saying any of this as a commentary on the life, or beliefs of Ms. Boyle – neither of which I know anything about).

Just like Ms. Boyle, the church is often written off, simply because she is not what people today are looking for. She appears a little eccentric, what she has to say sometimes comes off as socially awkward. She is a little old and out-of-touch – past her best before date. The hip youngsters roll their eyes – “like she could have anything to share with me!” Those who know how the world works chuckle under their breath “Her, I don’t think so – maybe when we were both younger, but it’s too late now!”

Yet the church, just like Ms. Boyle, knows that she has a song to sing no matter what anyone else might think. It is a song of love and forgiveness. Of longing and mercy. It is a song of salvation and joy and peace. It is a song of a cross and an empty tomb. And when the Church opens her mouth and lets that sweet Gospel sound forth … WOW! Chins drop, mouths hang open and hearts are moved!

So thank you Ms. Boyle for the moving performance, and for the much needed reminder to think twice about the Bride of Christ, and the power of her song!


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Sooo Many Things Wrong With This!

I am truly amazed (and more than a little terrified) by the overwhelming gun culture of our Southern neighbours (and the increasing spill-over up here too). I found this article while surfing the web today and all I can say is “WOW”!  How can people think that ANY good will come of such a worldly (and just plain dangerous) idea?  What do you think?

jesus-is-the-riflemanArkansas House approves bill allowing guns in churches

Published: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | 9:37 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas House has approved a bill allowing concealed handguns in churches, despite hearing arguments that lawmakers should put their faith in God, not guns.

The bill passed on a 57-42 vote and now heads to the Senate. It removes churches and other houses of worship from the list of places where concealed handguns are banned.

Currently, the only private entities where concealed weapons are banned are churches and bars.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Beverly Pyle, said she introduced the measure after a series of church shootings across the country.

She said it would be up to each individual church whether to allow the concealed guns.

“It is time we changed our concealed-handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches,” she said.

Pyle said at least 20 states have similar laws allowing churches to decide whether to permit concealed guns.

The measure drew opposition from a pair of pastors who are also legislators.

Representative Steven Breedlove, a minister at the Valley View Church of Christ, said allowing concealed handguns won’t stop someone from opening fire inside a church.

“Ronald Reagan was completely surrounded by armed guards and he was still shot,” Breedlove said.

“And that is why we must put our faith in God and not put our faith in something else. Let us keep the sanctity of churches and put our faith in God and not in guns.”

© The Canadian Press, 2009