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Our Hiding Place

"Our Hiding Place" - The Pastor's Windshield - September 2023

 


When Jimmy Buffet died this summer, many people shared their opinions about his life and legacy. Buffet made a career of writing escapist, “beach bum” songs. His most famous line was, of course, “wasting away again in Margaritaville.”

If it’s been a while since your last getaway, maybe wasting away in some tropical sunshine sounds pretty good about now! We all need to get away, perhaps to our own backyards, or to a good book, or to a vacation hideaway. We are created to need rest, time in God’s creation, and other healthy forms of refreshment.

Sometimes, however, Christians have been characterized as escapists, as if believing in Jesus is just a coping mechanism or a way of hiding from the troubles of life. What do you think? Is that what we are as Christians, people running away from life’s stresses and problems and hiding away in our theology or churchly bubbles?

It's my belief, though, that the Christian faith is far more than escapism. I believe that Christianity is objectively true, and I personally believe that Christ is not only our Savior, but also our Strength as we face such things as illness, bad news, broken relationships, and all the other trials of this life.

King David faced no shortage of real-life struggles. In the Psalms, he frequently referred to the Lord as his strength, refuge, and shield, as he lived through war, family strife, and the consequences of his own sinful actions. In Psalm 32:7 he writes, “You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance.” Is this an example of escapism to be avoided or of faith to be imitated?

I once had a parishioner challenge me on how and why “hiding” could be a good thing in our faith. To this individual, hiding was viewed negatively. It sounded like running away, operating from fear rather than faith. But here is how I see it: we can either hide in the Lord or (try to) hide from Him. But imagine trying to outrun God. How far would you get? There is no escape from the One who is almighty and all-knowing! Try as we may – and we dotry – we cannot outrun or hide from God. 

God is after us, to be sure, but is He after us like a bounty hunter aiming to make us pay for our transgressions, or is He after us like the loving Father that He is, wanting only to draw us back to Him through repentance and faith? Through His Word, God clearly shows us that He pursues us out of long-suffering, never-failing love. We try to run away from Him, maybe out of guilt, maybe because He has something to say about how we’re living, or maybe because we’re angry with what He’s allowed to occur in our lives.

But even when we run, God is there, both with us and before us, because what He wants more than anything is for each of us to run to Him, to find our only Refuge and Hiding Place in Him. He is your Hiding Place even when you come to Him with all your sin and guilt – even the “worst” of it! He can handle it. He can forgive you. In fact, He already has at Christ’s cross! 

He is also a Hiding Place for you when people let you down – your spouse, friend, teammate, coworker, etc. Every human being – from those closest to us to those in positions of power and influence – will let us down at some point because they’re sinful people like us. But those are times when God wants us to run to Him in prayer, to “hide” in His promises and His loving presence, and then to turn and face life’s pressures or letdowns once more, in the assurance that He will not fail us.

You may be familiar with the old hymn, “Rock of Ages.” The hymn prays that God would free us from sin’s guilt and power in our lives. The hymn also looks ahead to standing before God’s judgment throne. What hope will we have on that Day? In the words of the hymn, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”

No other “hiding places” will work – not our good deeds or intentions, nor other people or anything else in this world. We cannot escape from God. But, we can “escape” to Him and hide in Him. 

Christ Jesus is our Hiding Place. We can always run to Him with the realities of our sins and troubles, confident that He will receive us in forgiveness and strengthen us with His grace. Some may call this “escapism,” but for us, it’s simply exercising our faith in Christ our Savior.

In Him,

                  Pastor Kory Janneke

A Devotion on the Fourth Commandment

Showing Honor

Our Savior Jesus shows us the most amazing honor! He entered our earth and took on our human flesh, he wore a crown of thorns and suffered in our place upon His cross, and He rose to new life for us and as a guarantee of our crown of life to come. None of this is deserved on our part.

As His people seeking to obey the Fourth Commandment, we are called to show honor in turn. We first honor God Himself by worshipping Him, gratefully receiving His gifts, seeking Him in prayer, living as faithful stewards, and more. We also honor the Lord by how we treat our neighbor, and in the case of the Fourth Commandment, how we treat our neighbors in positions of authority over us. 

The Fourth Commandment teaches us to honor our father and mother. Our parents are the most basic authority figures provided to us by God - and that's the primary reason we honor Him - because they are God-given, not because they are perfect people or because they do what we want or like.

The wider meaning of the Fourth Commandment includes honoring a variety of authorities in our lives: in both the state and the church, in our workplaces and schools, and beyond. It's not easy to serve in positions of authority, having difficult decisions and pressures on your shoulders and having to deal with all sorts of "people issues" on a regular basis. This is a good reminder that the authorities in our lives and in our wider world need our prayer and support, and as long as they are promoting what is God-pleasing, we owe them our obedience and cooperation as well.

Out of fear and love for the Lord our God, Christians must seek to honor parents and other God-given authorities, and in doing so, set an honorable example for others to follow as well. 

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The Pastor's Windshield article for July 2023

I haven’t watched a lot of the classic sitcom, “Cheers,” but I do know the refrain of the opening song. I wonder if you remember it? 

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You want be where you can see

Our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name

Now, if you frequent a bar like “Cheers” so much that everybody literally knows your name, that’s probably not a healthy thing! More seriously though, don’t you appreciate being in a setting in which you’re known and welcome? Isn’t it nice to be called by name? Don’t you love it when someone lets you know they’re glad to see you?

Being a place “where everybody knows your name” is a good goal for a Christian congregation like ours, wouldn’t you say?

I hold in my hands the first draft of St. Matthew’s new pictorial directory. It’s a simple printout of names of individuals, couples, and families with our photos and contact information. And it’s a tool to help us learn just a little bit more about one another.

I want to challenge our members to use this directory to learn as many names as you’re able. Then, when you see those folks, call them by name. Help us make St. Matthew an even more warm and inviting church than it already is.

Our new directory, coming in this 25th year of St. Matthew’ ministry, is another step in looking ahead to our next 25 years. In the coming years, the individual faces will change. New faces will be added. Faces will mature. Photos of some faces will remind us of saints who departed to be with Christ.

We confess that our Lord’s church isn’t built on you or me, or on any other individuals, past, present, or future. It is built on Jesus Christ our Lord! He is our one Foundation. He is the Rock on which we stand firm, no matter what may be happening around us in this troubled world.

Peter called us Christians “living stones … being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Paul used a metaphor for the church of one body and many members: “all the members of the body, though many, are one body … For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). 

I would suggest an additional metaphor for the church: we are a people whose faces, names, and lives reflect the loving face of Jesus. 

A photo in our church entryway is designed with this in mind. Each individual photo from St. Matthew is blended into the portrait to become part of a much more important image, that of Christ Jesus.

It's the same for us. Each one of us who is part of the life of this congregation has been united with the other members to reflect the life and love of Jesus, both within our fellowship and in our service to those outside of the congregation. Knowing this, let’s continue to learn one another’s names and stories within our congregation, and then together, let’s share the great name of Jesus and reflect Him both on our individual faces and in our personal acts of witness and throughout our shared life as His church.

In Christ’s peace,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke

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