Bethlehem Lutheran Church - Aloha, OR

Seeing Clearly

The eye doctor tells me I have cataracts in both eyes.

It tells you what I know about such things that I thought cataracts were like rapids in a river.  The Nile River, for example, in Africa has rapids that are called “cataracts.”  So, I imagined cataracts to be like the rocks in a river that make rapids—something that could be removed so the river could flow easier. 

I had Jesus’ words about the log in my eye and the splinter in my neighbor’s eye come to mind.  Just a matter of removing what’s in the way and vision would be restored.  I tend to look at Matthew 7 that way—just take care of the immediate problem, the speck, the splinter or the log—and go forward.   Of course, Jesus is talking about a bigger change than that.  He’s talking about a change of heart. A change in the way you see yourself, your neighbor and Jesus.

You who have had cataract surgery know there is more involved that scraping off something from your eye.  While it’s an easier surgery than it was—remember how people were sandbagged in place for a week (mostly because of the spinal anesthesia)? —it’s still surgery.  Something needs to be removed—indeed, replaced—so I can see better.

I have noticed that there’s been a haziness occasionally in my vision.  I dismissed it as smoke in the air or the way the light was shining.  After all, it couldn’t be me that was wrong!  The problem, however, is me.  Something wrong with me is keeping me from seeing clearly or properly.  So, I will have that fixed.

In John 9, Jesus talks about seeing clearly as opposed to being blind.  While He has the man born blind as His sermon example, the Pharisees don’t see His point.  In fact, they become Jesus’ point.  They don’t see what’s wrong with them—in this case, pride, arrogance and a persevering clinging to the belief that they’re the only ones who really see—and so they are blind to who Jesus is.  Jesus fixes what’s wrong with the man born blind.   Jesus offers His “fix” to the Pharisees—the “fix” He makes on the cross and through the tomb for us.  His actions make the change in me so that I can really see myself and my need to be “fixed.”

I think that it’s kind of fun that we end the church liturgical year with Christ the King Sunday.  This year, Thanksgiving follows Christ the King.  Now, that’s appropriate!  We remember the whole of the “why” Jesus came; the “what” Jesus has done and continues to do as we wait for the final “when” He comes again so that we can truly see Him—and ourselves.

Waiting for that “when” we have…

…Joy in the journey,

Pastor Jeff Shearier

Take Courage

Written by Pastor Jeff Shearier

We have 3 families that arrived to us just after midnight Thursday night.  They escaped from 3 different cities in Ukraine – traveling to the Romanian border and the unknown.  They did not know each other before they ended up in a transport van together.  They left behind all they knew.  Originally there were 30 persons on their way to us but as the time got closer to crossing the border all but 10 had turned back.  They had heard scary stories of perhaps being trafficked for organ selling or sex-trafficking.  But, these 3 brave families traveled on.  The refugees were honest to tell me that Romania was one of the last places they wanted to go, wanting to head further West, but now they see that their reality here is so much better than what they imagined. None of them had ever left Ukraine before.  They were not in the first groups to leave Ukraine.  Those were people leaving with cars or money for traveling on somewhere further.  The families we have now and that will come are those without possibilities of traveling further.  These words were written by the director of the Heart of Hope International Ministries located in Sibiu, Romania (heartofhope.org)

Sibiu is eight hours from the Ukrainian border.  Heart of Hope International Ministries operates a Christian camp that has offered summer camps for orphans housed in the state-run orphanages.  Some of you may have travelled there a few years ago with Douglas and Karen Bernhardt.  Heart of Hope is now housing refugees from Ukraine.  They are offering a safe place, staffed with faith-filled volunteers and staff, for these who are fleeing a very unsafe situation. 

I am sharing this information with you for two reasons.

First, living in Oregon, Ukraine seems a place far away—a place seen in new stories on television.  It’s hard to know how to help—or even how to pray—when you don’t have a connection.  We do have a connection with Heart of Hope.  We’ve seen pictures of the place and the staff as they’ve served the orphans in the past.   Now they are doing something to help.  If you wish, you can go to the website to see pictures of the families and pray for them.  The website can direct you to other ways in which you can help as well.

The second reason for sharing this to show that the Christian church is not retreating in fear.  So many stories from our chaotic world would suggest that churches are closing, clergy are disrespected, and the Word of God is ignored.  A believer could feel that the Church is in retreat.  These pictures, these stories would show otherwise.

There are of course other stories that would show otherwise.  New churches are being organized—some in places that would surprise you.  Believers and church workers are holding faithful to God’s Word even in the face of persecution.  Remember when Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world.  Take courage!  I have overcome the world?” (John 16:33)

However, we are not waiting for the world to take its best shot.  Jesus describes His Church on the move.  In Matthew 16, Jesus assures us that He builds His Church on the “rock” of His Word and “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  We are on the move, pushing against those gates—each one forgiven, each one hoping, each one confessing in Jesus’ name—and Hades doesn’t win.  Jesus already has!  That’s Easter’s news.  That’s the ground of our trust and the reason for our mission.  It’s also the basis for our…

Joy in the journey,  

Pastor Jeff Shearier

Bethlehem VBS 2022

June 27 – July 1 2022
9:00am – 12:00pm

The Unstoppable Gospel

From the May 2019 STAR

I don’t know how true the story is—I would like it to be true, but I haven’t been able to find verification of the story.  The story is told that back in the 1920s—just after the Bolshevik Revolution established the Communists in power over Russia—a Soviet official visited a Russian Orthodox monastery. 

The official wanted the monks to understand that the Soviet man had no need of religion.  He lectured them about the superiority of the new ideas, Lenin’s Great Leap Forward and how those things promised by religion were being accomplished by the Party.  After he finished, he was greeted at first by silence.  He started to smile to himself, convinced that he had left them speechless. 

Easter’s news could not be stopped. Period.

Then, one of the monks shouted, “He is risen!”  The rest of the group shouted, “He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!”  Easter’s news could not be stopped by officials.  Easter’s news could not be stopped.  Period.

Mark tells us the women that first Easter said nothing to anyone.  That didn’t stop Easter’s news.  Luke tells us that the disciples didn’t know what to do with what the women told them, it seemed to them an idle tale.  That didn’t stop the news of Easter, either.  Whatever is going on in the world cannot stop the news.  Whatever is going in your world do not stop the news from being shared and heard.  Those things don’t win.  Jesus has had the victory.  He still does!

A friend of mine posted an article on his Facebook page the other day.  We’ve heard so much about the decline of Christianity in our culture recently.  Sometimes, it seems that those voices are right.  This article provided research contradicting those voices. The number of people who pray, who worship regularly, who believe God’s Word in the Bible remains consistent from generation to generation.  While the influence of Christians may be declining in Europe, the number of Christians in Asia, Africa and Latin America is multiplying.  Missionaries from Africa and Asia are being sent to Europe!  Easter’s news cannot be stopped!

So, continue to tell the story.  Let the story seep down into the details of your story and speak hope and forgiveness to your heart.  Let the story be lived in your actions and dealings with others as you share forgiveness and hope.  Easter’s news cannot be stopped!  He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

Joy in the journey,

Pastor Jeff

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