First, this week’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
“And the word became flesh and lived among us”! I love this part of John’s Gospel where it all starts out with the word and Jesus and all that you and I have been given. Oh, did you miss that part? In the third paragraph above, “to all who believed in his name” (Jesus) “he gave power to become children of God”… . So while Jesus might be God’s only son we, you and I, are God’s children. Thanks be to God!
This will be sent out before we celebrate our savior’s birth so I would like to wish each and every one a Merry Christmas. This past year has been one of many struggles for us locally, our state, nation and world. I would like to take a moment to remind you that we, the “children of God” are still here. “Hearing God’s word and doings God’s work.” Jesus may have left the building (along with the rest of us), but we are encouraged to be out in the neighborhood hard at work. And I believe that there is hope on the horizon of us returning to our community worship and communion together in 2021.
Part of my mission in the church is that of pastoral care. I was required to complete at least one round of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at St. Cloud Hospital before I could be ordained as a priest. I choose to complete two units and I may go back for more. I find that this ministry of presence is one in which I can serve my fellow human beings during some of the hardest and most difficult times in their lives. Yes, there were good moments also during CPE too. For instance the first time I was called to the birthing unit I became part of blessing a newborn. I was also witness to a person on the oncology floor who got good news that their cancer was gone. The Chinese might say that pastoral presence envelops us in the yin & yang of each other’s lives.
My point in mentioning all of this is to let you know that it’s been a hard year for many of us. Not everyone has come through the fire unscathed. I offer and bring my listening presence to you and those who need it here at St. John’s. But here’s the hard part, as good as I am at some things I’m not a mind reader and I can’t know all things intuitively. I need you to call on me when you need an attentive ear or just someone to sit and stare at. I promise you, I don’t have all the answers or have it all figured out. But through prayer and listening to the spirit I think together we can find a way forward.
A text from one of my CPE classes (Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care) describes pastoral care as including:
Just being there
Not having an agenda
Having the time to listen
If any of that sounds like something that you are in need of I’m as close as an email or phone call away. We can meet in person, on zoom or on the phone. St John’s also has a pastoral care team which includes, myself, David Kroger and Rose Oswald. David and Rose embody the characteristics listed above.
Speaking of email, my new one dedicated to only church business is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace and blessings to you at this most Holy time of year.