trust

  • I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve driven down to see Neal Guthmiller who is still in the hospital. Our visits had been pretty similar for the past several weeks. I’d read Scripture to Neal and pray over him, but his response and alertness had been minimal. I’d get updates from his family and do my best to provide pastoral care for them as well in this challenging time.

    But this past Wednesday saw a much improved Neal. He was alert, sitting up, able to control his motions (though not with perfect fine motor skills quite yet). He’s trying to talk and write and communicate. It’s not always easy to understand him, but one thing is clear to me at this point: he’s the same, classic Neal with his sense of humor and everything.

    When I visited on Wednesday, I told him that everybody at First had been so worried about him and had been praying for him constantly. His response? He told me, “Sometimes people worry too much.” Yes, indeed we do. I’ve been very worried about Neal. But in his steady, faithful way, even from the ICU, he calls us all back to trust in the Lord.

    Neal has a tattoo on his arm of a bird in a nest with “Matthew 6:25-30.” It’s the section of Jesus’ sermon on the mount that speaks about not worrying.

    How fitting.

    The question from that chapter that is most compelling is: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” The answer is none of us.

    Trusting in the Lord’s plan and purpose is not easy. Worrying is much easier, but worrying does us no good. Neal reminds us all that we can keep praying for his recovery while laying our worries down at the foot of the cross and asking Jesus to take care it.

    What a blessing to have such faith on display, such witness of God’s provision.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • When Stephanie and I were living in Germany, we had the opportunity to travel to Paris for our fifth wedding anniversary. Paris is a beautiful city. Iconic sites like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triumphe do not disappoint.

    And then of course there is the Cathedral of Notre Dame which was so sadly engulfed in flames last week.

    Before the flames had even been put out, while the building was still smoldering, people from France and around the world were dedicating millions of dollars to rebuilding this beloved building so rich in history and beauty.

    Yet the dedication of so much money to such a landmark was criticized by some who would rather see such donations go to food, clean water, and medicine to those who lack such things.

    The whole situation got me thinking about a lot of things. But we all face such decisions and criticism related to our stewardship, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s not always money that is the concern. Sometimes it is our energy, sometimes our skills, sometimes our time.

    I face this dilemma as a pastor with some frequency. I don’t have an infinite amount of energy and time, so how do I spend the 50 or so hours I work in a week? How much do I dedicate to preparing for Sunday morning? How much to time with the preschool? How much to visiting shut-ins? How much to outreach and being in the community? How much to serving the church at large, the circuit, the district, the synod? If you all got to choose what my time allotment would be, I doubt any two people would choose the same schedule for me.

    All of this leads me to appreciate the importance of two things: grace and trust.

    We all make different choices with our lives, with our time, with our money. We should have enough grace with our fellow human beings to let them focus where they feel led to focus, and we should focus where we feel led to focus. Complaining that a billionaire doesn’t give money to the poor is ironic and hypocritical if I am not giving any money to the poor. As Jesus says in Luke 16:10, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Let’s be gracious and faithful with whatever we have.

    Finally, thank you for your trust. You have entrusted me with the spiritual care of this congregation. Such care is something I do not take lightly. As I continue to learn how to be your pastor, I hope you will continue to grace me with your trust as we continue to follow where the Lord leads, together.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • This Sunday will mark exactly four months since Stephanie and I arrived in California. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, but I figured now would be a good time to review the vows I took at my ordination and installation as pastor of First Lutheran Church and Preschool. One of the things I was asked to promise was this:

    “Will you faithfully instruct both young and old in the chief articles of the Christian doctrine, will you forgive the sins of those who repent, and will you promise never to divulge the sins confessed to you?”

    Trust is perhaps the most important aspect in the relationship between a congregation and its pastor. As pastors begin to serve in a new call, earning the trust of the congregation can take quite a while.

    Trust is earned by preaching faithful sermons, leading faithful Bible studies, and being steady during times of uncertainty. Losing the trust of the congregation often takes only one mistake, and once trust is broken, it may never be restored.

    The way many pastors lose the trust of their congregations is by failing to keep confidentiality. The gravity of confidentiality is something I take quite seriously. If you share something personal with me, it will stay with me. If you confess a sin to me, it will never reach anyone else. This is what I promised to you four months ago when I was ordained. I will never divulge the sins confessed to me. I will never tell your story to another person if you share it privately with me.

    I’m still getting to know all of you, and you’re still getting to know me, but I hope the trust between us continues to grow through the future months and years.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

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