My Dad wants to go home. He is 97 and is suffering from dementia. He lives with my brother Bill and his wife in North Carolina. The other day while Bill and Virginia were out, Dad decided to head home. He packed up some things in a plastic grocery sack, put it in his Rolator (wheeled walker) and left their house. He made it about 6 blocks, which is more than he has walked in a few years and would have kept going but a neighbor saw him and called the police. When the officers stopped him, Dad could not remember Bill’s address. When they searched his belongings and found some letters that had the address on it, they returned him to the house. Bill and Virginia were contacted and rushed home.

When they asked him where he was going, Dad told them. “I was walking home.” He has lived with my brother for 5 years now, but the dementia has robbed him of all but his distant memories. He was heading back to his parent’s home. They lived in Buffalo, NY and have both been gone for more than 50 years.

In a sense, I think we all want to go home. Our national pastime is baseball, the goal of which is to get home. Most of us are children of immigrants. So, I think it is in our DNA, that longing to be “home” in the place where everything is familiar, where we feel we belong and are surrounded by those who love us.

My Dad may be heading “home” to heaven soon, but he cannot return to the home of his youth. You and I cannot go “home” either. We cannot go back to the time before Covid-19, before 9/11, before technology and social media affected every aspect of our lives, before we received that diagnosis. We can’t go back to the way things were, before. We can only live in the here and now, and deal with the changes that are happening all around us and in us. (II Corinthians 6:2…now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.)

God is here. God is in the here and now. God has not gone anywhere just because we feel overwhelmed or confused. God is at work, even in things that throw us off balance. God is here to bless us in new and unexpected ways. God is at work in the changes around us, to change us in ways that will bring blessings to others.

Faith is trusting that God is still on our side and can wring a blessing out of things that feel like trials, or mistakes, or problems to us. I believe that God still has work for you to do, and for us to do as a congregation in this neighborhood and the world. Even if the “how” of it has changed, the grace of God is unchanging. Even if the future seems more uncertain than ever, we always have a home with the One who is constantly pulling us into the present moment and saying to us, “I am. I am here. I am here and now. Abide with me.”

God’s peace to you,

Pr. Bob

2 Peter 1:5-7 “For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.”

“Why is it that God speaks to Christians differently?” That was the question I received in an email recently. The writer wanted to know how it is that dedicated, faithful Christians can come down on different sides of an issue and often be very far apart. It is a good question. I wish I had an answer.

Rev. Dr. David Preuss, former president of the American Lutheran Church, a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was asked a question very similar to the one I received. And his response was something like, “So that we remember that we are saved, not by the Law but by Grace.”

Being right does not make us right with God. Being saved by grace does.

Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, “be right all the time.” NOT! His new commandment was, love one another. That is our job, our calling, our work as Christians. Imagine what a witness that would be to the world if all Christians were to love each other.

Love enables us to seek what is best for those we disagree with. Love enables us to draw boundaries and speak the truth with respect.

And one more thing:

We all know how polarized our country is politically. Politics by nature is polarizing. Anything that is important to people will cause disagreement. And as Americans we seem to have strong opinions on everything! When was the last time you heard someone say, “I don’t have an opinion on that.” or, “I don’t really know enough to have an opinion on that topic.”?

This fall promises to be every bit as contentious as the fall of 2020. There will be much to disagree about. And much to be loving about. And much to be praying about. Read those verses from Second Peter one more time, please.

God’s peace,

Pr. Bob

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,

to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Wildfires, smoky skies, record breaking hot temperatures, the new delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, 15,000+ Afghan allies left behind as US troops depart, a drought that is engulfing much of the western half of our country, and closer to home, the death of loved ones, the long good-bye brought on by dementia, the increased polarization of our society, and the list goes on, of things we have no control over.

We are bombarded every day with news and information that leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. We take in hours of screen time and pages of information on things we can do nothing about. “Learned helplessness” is the term that psychologists use to describe what happens to us after years of exposure to all this bad news. On a subconscious level we reason: since I can’t stop the war in Yemen or reverse sea level rise, then there is nothing I can do about anything.

Of course, when you stop and think about it, you realize that is not true. There is a lot you can do about a lot of things in life. We are not helpless victims of life. It is indeed true that you cannot stop the war in Yemen or reverse sea level rise, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do about anything.

You and I have the power to make ours and others lives better, or worse for that matter. The ones closest to us, the ones we interact with each day are affected by us in ways we may not even be aware of. To combat “learned helplessness” pay attention to the things you can change, like your diet, your exercise routine, your tone of voice, your attitude.

And remember the power you have to connect with others, with neighbors, family, friends and complete strangers. Just starting a conversation can change your day, or theirs. And, yes, you cannot stop wildfires, but you can prepare to evacuate your home, you can prepare a “grab and go” bag or bin. You can’t stop loved ones from dying but you can grieve, you can mark the occasion of their death.

You are not helpless. There is always something you have the power to affect even if it is only your response to what is happening to you.

And finally pay attention to matters of your soul. Learned helplessness can only control you when you forget who is really in control. Every day you pray, you remember. That is what sabbath rest is for. It is to remember who you are and whose you are. And be thankful. Gratitude is the container that receives the grace of God.

God’s peace to you,

Pr. Bob