Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Anyone who has traveled by road this summer probably has a "detour story." Detours can be irritating and inconvenient. They slow you down, disrupt your schedule, and may even ruin your plans. Detours make us wonder why and why now?

When we're forced to take a detour, something that may help is seeing if there is there a reason beyond the road construction, the repair or even serious accident that has caused us to take a different route. Are we being taught patience? Is our detour showing us a part of God's creation we would otherwise have missed? Have we avoided something worse if we'd have stayed on our planned road?

Detours often come on our road of life, times when we're prevented from doing what we'd planned or hoped. Illness, bad experience or some kind of loss may cause us to ask "Why?" We want to know why we can't get to our longed-for goal. What is God trying to teach us? Why couldn't He have done it some other way?

In time we may discover the reason, that this "detour" was a better way for us, but right now we can't see it. We may even try to take a different route than the detour signs direct us. (I once took a "better way" and ended up in a field of mud!) Detours are there for a reason, and we'd best stay on the recommended road.

We humans also make sinful detours away from God, into fields of mud and sin that can sink us. That's why Jesus had to take a detour from His eternal glory road to live a few years in this world so that He could help us. His detour led Him to the cross. He went there so we wouldn't have to. Calvary consumed Him for a short time so that we could spend an eternity in heaven.

Let's trust the Lord for what He has done, and follow those road signs!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Who can forgive our sins? And how is it done? I recently saw "The Last Sin Eater," a film about the Welsh practice of trying to cleanse the sins of a deceased person. At the funeral, a beggar-outcast of the community, designated "the sin eater," is given ritual food and drink and thereby takes away (absolves) the sins of the deceased person so (s)he can rest in peace. The sin eater is otherwise shunned by the people, for in him they saw the embodiment of all their sins and evil deeds.

This ancient practice is linked with the basic human need to have one's sins forgiven. The Old Testament Israelites for a time had the practice of a "scapegoat," a live goat over whose head the high priest confessed all the sins of the Israelites. This goat was then sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), to symbolize the removal of their sins. It was a fore-shadowing of the work of Jesus.

In "The Last Sin Eater," the 1850s Appalachian community finally stopped using this practice after being reminded of the Gospel in which Jesus was the final sin eater, the last scapegoat. Today we know that His words, "It is finished," signalled the end of all such human attempts to remove sin. You and I can't do it. Only God removes sin - no human ritual can do what He does.

On September 11, the anniversary of the death of nearly 3,000 innocent people, we need to think about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean excusing sin, or even making friends of those who have offended us. It does not mean letting our guard down. It is laying aside our rightful retribution. It is our decision not to pursue what is justly ours, but to give it to God who balances the scales. Forgiveness is what God did for us in Jesus. He punished Him, made Him the scapegoat, and in the cross absorbed our sins. By the punishment He took, we are forgiven.

As much as we might like to, we cannot make Moslems our scapegoat. They are not the cause of evil in the world. All humans need Jesus Christ, for without Him we will but wander in the wilderness of sin and misery. When we trust in the merits of our Lord Jesus, when we have faith in Him, our sins are forgiven and we can also forgive others. We all need Jesus Christ and the blessings which He alone can give.

Today I hope you will forgive someone.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Where did Labor Day come from? History has almost forgotten Peter McGuire, an Irish-American cabinet maker who proposed a day dedicated to all who labor. Old records describe him as a red-headed, fiery, eloquent leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. McGuire introduced his idea in 1882. "Let us have, a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry," he said.

The following September, New York workers staged a parade up Broadway to Union Square, despite warnings against doing so. McGuire's holiday eventually moved across the country as did recognition of the rights of the working man. In 1884, Detroit workers celebrated their first Labor Day. Finally in 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a Labor Day holiday bill, making it a national observance. The timing was ironic since earlier that year he had called up federal troops in a failed attempt to stop a strike by the American Railway Union (ARU). The creation of Labor Day, therefore, was most certainly part of American political history.

Despite the fact that our sweat and hard work come as a result of human sin, Almighty God gives human labor dignity and value. But He also gives us a day of rest. Sunday is the Christian "sabbath", the day when people can and ought to rest from their labors and take time for worship. An hour or two each week in God's house to receive God's Word and Sacrament is far more valuable than any amount of money we can earn during that time. And it's worth more than our "sleeping in" as well, for the rest God gives goes beyond bodily needs. It gives rest and refreshment to our souls.

Last week Carol and I joined a small mission church about 20 minutes from our home. It's the first church I've joined where I chose to. We really enjoy our new church and volunteered to take over a project there to develop a "home-made" pictorial membership directory. I mention this because to us, belonging to a church means doing something helpful there. Church membership is active, not merely passive. We receive from the Lord, but we also give back, out of gratitude. Offerings are part of worship, and part of our offerings are helpful activities.

Give thanks to God this weekend for the privilege of work. Most people no longer engage in the kind of heavy physical labor once common to all, but we still labor to earn a living and to help others in some day.

May all your labors be good.