When we were on vacation in Cincinnati last summer, my family stopped for a snack at Tom and Chee’s restaurant, which is across from the Newport Aquarium. We ordered their world-famous Grilled Cheese Donut. It is exactly what the name implies – a perfectly made melted cheese sandwich on a wonderfully grilled donut. It was heavenly! (Although, I’m probably going to heaven sooner after having eaten it.)
There was a certain rich man who was decked out in the finest clothing. Every day was a feast. His closest friends gathered round about him, delighting in his company, and he in theirs. This rich man led the best of lives, had the best things in this world. He was a blessed man.
And this rich man’s name was Lazarus.
I recently read an article entitled, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.” It was written by Pastor Carey Nieuwhof, who is not a Lutheran pastor. In the article, the author suggests that churches will not grow numerically if the pastor is busy visiting the sick, the elderly, the infirm, and the straying. Taking the time to do that work means that he does not have time to plan, organize, and evangelize.
Have you ever felt discouraged? Despair? Depression? Loneliness?
Depression is a fog that surrounds you. It clouds your mind. It saps your energy. It distorts your view of reality. When depression descends, you can’t see anything good, everything feels sad, everything appears gloomy and dark. Then, the loneliness can set in. Friends and family leave you alone because depressed people are not especially fun to be around.
As you read these words, an old adage (saying) comes to mind: Familiarity breeds contempt. Someone once said that 48% of those who live within five miles of Disneyland have never visited the park. That seemed odd to me until I realized that I have lived in Wisconsin for over 30 years and have never been to the House on the Rock, or even to the Racine 4th of July parade for that matter. The old joke is that you have to move away from the state so that you can come back as a visitor to see the sights you never took the time to enjoy. Familiarity breeds contempt.
We just sang, “Day by Day.” This hymn was written by a young Swedish woman named Lina Sandell Berg. Because Lina was never strong as a child, she spent most of her time in her father’s study rather than playing outside. Lina grew very close with her father, who was a Lutheran minister.
When she was twenty-six, Lina accompanied her father on a voyage to Gothenburg. But, tragedy struck before they could reach their destination. As they stood together on deck, the boat lurched and her father fell overboard. The crew tried to save him, but they couldn’t. Lina’s father watched her father drown.
It was Christmas morning many, many years ago. One of my relatives was attending a University of Wisconsin school and had been taken in by the liberal philosophies of the professors and the evolution evangelized in the biology and science classes she took. She decided that Christmas morning was an appropriate time to challenge me on the truth of the Bible.
My dad is the youngest of five children. My dad’s mother died when he was only 4 years old. That left my dad’s father with five children to raise on his own. It was too much for him. A year later, my dad’s father died from a nervous breakdown.
Within a year, my dad had lost both of his parents. He was now an orphan.
This past month, the blood pressure of one of our members skyrocketed. It caused her to go into a coma. In less than a week, God called her home.
Within that same month, about a dozen of our members spent time in the hospital because of cancer, strokes, falls, infections, and a myriad of other ailments.
As the school year came to an end, I dealt with grumpy parents, grumpier students, and probably the grumpiest of all – teachers. I gave advice or counseled people for addictions, anger issues, and guilt. I did marriage counseling with couples who were butting heads. And, I did pre-marriage counseling with couples to prevent them from butting heads in the future.
When I was blessed to take a tour of the Holy Land in 2010, our group spent a few days in Jerusalem. We stayed in a large, twelve story hotel. There is nothing unique about that.
What was unique was Friday evening to Saturday evening – the Sabbath. There were two elevators in the hotel. One was a regular elevator. I pushed the button and it took me from the lobby to the tenth floor, where my room was.