It’s a cold, hard end of 2013 in southeastern Wisconsin, currently 1 degree F. I like it. It’s a bone chilling cold, the type so necessary in this part of the world to thoroughly route those pests that wait in the ground and cause havoc to farmers.
This cold is a reminder that God kills and makes alive. Jesus says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24, ESV)
St. Paul, after whom the congregation I serve is named, echoes this with a household and worship metaphor:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3–4, ESV)
The water of Holy Baptism may seem like plain water, but united with the double-edged sword of Christ’s Word it both kills and makes alive. Baptism unites us to the death and life of Jesus; thus, calling us to daily repentance, to follow Christ in the way of the cross.
In southeastern Wisconsin, if we wish to have fertile ground in the spring it is best prepared with deathly cold. Likewise, if we hunger and thirst for a life rich in God’s grace it is necessary that our “old sinful nature” is killed by the Word of God’s Law.
Thus, as Iooked out my home office window on this last day of Anno Domini 2013 I was reminded of Isaiah 1:8:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, ESV)
My life goals are simple, to be a faithful husband, father, and pastor.
In so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways I tried to mess it up this last year on all three of these fronts, yet as I look back there was (and is!) so much good. My wife patiently, faithfully, and forgivingly bears the cross that I so often force upon her with my forgetfulness and self-centeredness; likewise, my children.
Thank you, Lord, for my family.
And, the people the congregation I am called to serve (St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) saw a lot more warts in their pastor this year. We passed through the honeymoon into a more mature life together. They know me a lot better now. I’m thankful that in spite of this they forgive me and welcome my service among them. I am especially thankful that they don’t hold the sins of their pastor against the pastor’s family. Words fail here. The warmth that my wife and children enjoy at St. Paul’s is nothing less than a gift from God. This reminds me of James 1 and Philippians 1:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17–18, ESV)
Thank you, Lord, for my church family.
Indeed, may the Lord, “who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion at the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)