"Pastor Charlie Woodward", "Charlie Woodward"Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the pandemic days until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. As the title states, we are in the wilderness alone, but we are still together. We may feel isolated and on our own. But we are in this together. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to stay connected. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  

Find a link to each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the Devotions distribution list.

This is an opportunity for us to be present with each other in the days to come. You can be present by sharing your comments, insights, prayers and pictures in response to what Pastor Charlie shares in the coming days. For we are in this together. And where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present, too.

God Wins.

First let me ask if any of you have any questions about the Book of Revelation. Any questions?

(Pause for questions)

Good. Hearing none, I will move on!

Just kidding.

I have led a couple of Bible studies on Revelation over the years, and I’ve found them to be challenging. Two things I share – these are very broad and general, I know:

  1. Context, context, context. For whom is this material being shared? What was their situation, and the political and social structure in that time and place? This is so very important for understanding this book.
  2. In the end, God wins! 

 

God wins.

With those two lenses, I believe there are words of hope we can glean from Revelation, which is a source of many texts for our Lutheran liturgies.

Amidst suffering, there is hope.

Several years ago, my wife and I attended a funeral for our friend’s son, who was murdered on his front lawn in front of his own home. The service was held at a Baptist Church in Columbus, near where we lived. At that funeral one of the ministers shared a story about his time in third grade, when his favorite teacher asked the students to write a paper on what they wanted to be when they grew up. The minister was so excited, because he wanted to impress his teacher, and he wrote the best paper he could. He thought it was an incredible masterpiece. He was confident that he would get an “A” on the composition. He wrote and wrote and wrote. His teacher was going to be amazed.

But when he got the paper back, he was sad to see that instead of the “A” that he expected, he got a “C-.” The teacher wrote on the paper that the information was good, but that he didn’t use any punctuation.

He went on to preach that, over the years, he has learned the importance of punctuation. And he has learned there is a difference between a comma and a period, and that the good news of great joy is that Jesus’ death on the cross is not a period, but a comma.

Death is not the final word. Death is not the last word of the book.

Because of Jesus Christ, the final word is life.

And after that word “life” an exclamation point is appropriate.

Punctuation is important.

Questions are good. God’s answers are even better!

God wins!

Revelation 2:8-10 

 

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

 

“I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 
 
 
 
 

Let us pray:

Help us to trust in you for the things we do not know or do not completely understand. Listen to our questions; help us to find the answers only you can give. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



Slow to Anger

Slow to anger. Abounding in steadfast love.

In the early 1990’s, I served as the Associate Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Massillon. In those years, I learned many valuable lessons that you can’t learn from a book or in a classroom, things you can only learn by experiencing.

One week comes to mind. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had drafted its first social statement on human sexuality. It was a draft. When it was released, the first copies were received by the media before pastors and churches got a chance to see it. It made the news. Even Paul Harvey was talking about it (Ask your parents who he is…“Good Day!”). It was not good. How were we to address the topic without having the document in our possession? 

That same week, a man in Massillon made the news with an announcement that he was going to open a “Christian Strip Club” – it would be a juice bar with no alcohol, and the dancers would be good church-going women and dance to Christian music, like songs by Amy Grant. TRUE STORY! 

Oh my!

The local clergy scrambled to gather to figure out how to respond. We Lutheran pastors had both issues before us. How to respond?

My colleague, the senior pastor at the church, gave wise counsel. He said, “We are not going to answer the phones!” 

The juice bar never came to be, and the human sexuality statement took on many more revisions over several years. But that week, in the middle of it all, the anxiety and turmoil were begging for quick responses and immediate action.

How often do things arise that cause you to be thrown off course, change direction and seek quick answers? How quickly do these emotions arise? How fast does anger, bitterness, hatred, worry, (you can name your own emotion here) take over?

How often do you wish you could turn off the phone, the news and the noise, and be at peace?

A legend attributed to the Native American Cherokees:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

Psalm 86:11-17

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,

    that I may walk in your truth;

    give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

    and I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;

    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

 

14 O God, the insolent rise up against me;

    a band of ruffians seeks my life,

    and they do not set you before them.

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;

    give your strength to your servant;

    save the child of your serving girl.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

    so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,

    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
 

photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
 

It may not be as simple as turning off the phone. It may be what wolf we feed. 

I have learned in years of ministry that the question that is out of our control is, “Why do these things happen?” The question we CAN answer is, “How do we, as Children of God, respond?” 

 

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

 

Let us pray:

Almighty God, help us to turn from bitterness and anger. Slow us in our responses. Give us the power and strength to follow in your ways of steadfast love and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.