From the Pastor

Pastor Bob Albing

My father was always a man of few words. Even before the dementia. My mother did most of the talking when they were together. But my father taught me much. Most of it I learned by observing him. I learned the values of perseverance, honesty, patience, humility, and the importance of faith. I learned this as I watched him fix his 1969 VW, work on household repairs, deal with neighbors, and attend worship services every Sunday.

Last month he was still teaching me, as my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews moved him into an assisted living facility.

The second day he and I were sitting out in the small courtyard. He pointed out the gutter system on the building, “Look at all the joints in that gutter.” I said, “That took a lot of work, didn’t it?” “It sure did.” he replied. Then he pointed out the contrails in the blue sky above us. “Look how high up those clouds are.” And then when we were inside again, he commented on how well built the building was and the sprinkler system that was integrated into the ceiling.

What was he teaching me?

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes that we should translate, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” in a way that gets at our human propensity to wonder. Rather we should read, “Awe is the beginning of wisdom.” Our ability to be awed by what is in front of us, be it the Grand Canyon, a night sky filled with stars, an ocean, or a well-made gutter is the beginning of wisdom. I think that is what Albert Einstein meant when he said, “Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is.”

My father’s dementia is fairly pronounced but even so, he is still awed by what he sees. He still sings God’s praises at the worship services at this new home. And he is still giving me reasons to give thanks. As you gather with family and friends, or Facetime or call them, as you pause at the end of this month, I hope you have something to be grateful for that still brings a sense of wonder to you, that makes you become silent in its presence, that causes you to be in awe.

God’s peace,

Pr. Bob Albing

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