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Evalgelical Lutheran Church in America Northeastern Ohio Synod
Letters from Pastor Alan Smearsoll

March 2019

The season of Lent is upon us. I do love this time of year when we can purchase pierogies from a local church each Friday for supper. They are soooo good. Then there are the fish fries each week. Delicious! Both of these take a lot of preparation to fulfill the orders that are taken. Question:  Why is it that Friday night fish fries will draw more people around the table each week than will gather around the Lord’s table at worship? Why is it that March Madness will draw more viewers for a game than will come to worship? Why is it that a game of baseball or softball will bring more people out for a couple of hours two or three times a week than will venture out to worship for just an hour once a week?

These things are important in their own right and to the individual who fancies them, but how important is faith? What kind of a priority do we place on the one aspect of our lives that is life giving and eternal? Fish and pierogies will sustain for an evening, but nourishing the faith sustains a lifetime.

When we gather for worship, it is not about us. It is about God. Lutheran worship may seem blah and outdated at times, but there is a reason for that (not for it seeming blah and outdated J). Our liturgical pattern of worship helps us to center ourselves, not on us but on Christ, His word and Supper. It is never about the pastor. It is never about the musician. It is never about theatrics or entertainment. Worship has no entertainment value! This is one reason I have applause for special music held until the worship is over, for they did not sing to entertain and for their own praise, but to the glory of God and to enhance our worship.

We worship to give thanks and praise to the God who created all things, redeems all things and sustains all things. Even in the midst of our deepest pain, we can worship and give thanks for we know that our God enters into our pains with us and we receive a word of grace and mercy and a meal of assurance and hope. We are fed and our thirst is quenched by a cup that overflows.

One might be tempted to say that they don’t need worship or can’t worship because God certainly doesn’t seem to be very kind to them or the world at the moment. How can a gracious God allow this to happen, we might ask. Then, in worship, we see the cross and we realize that maybe it is not God that is not kind, but human sinfulness that casts a shadow on God’s kindness. His own son suffered from this cruel reality. Then the surprise of the resurrection reminds us of the victory over sin and death that God declared over the forces of evil around us. In worship we have the opportunity to share in the mutual burdens we bear and rejoice together with a resounding AMEN in support of one another and in praise to our God.

May this Lent be a time of renewal for you and a redirection of your hearts towards a more faithful response to the God who calls you by name, tirelessly walks with you every day, and brings you to everlasting life through his Son.

Pastor Alan

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