Sunday, June 25, 2017
My mother and father’s families came to America around the turn of the 20th Century as immigrants. History tells us most people have migrated to other lands as refugees seeking safety, sustenance and a better life. They may not have wanted to leave their homes, but in order to live they were forced to.
Nursing a coffee in a small cafe in Berat, Albania, Nevila Muka recalled the effects the 1990s Kosovo War had on her country. To escape the death and devastation of war, more than 500,000 Kosovo refugees fled to Albania. Muka hadn’t only observed the mass exodus from a distance, she had lived in it.
“It’s a strong Albanian tradition to welcome strangers,” she said, “In the old times, if you were a traveler or seeking refuge, you could knock on the door of a house and ask, ‘Head of the house, do you want guests?’ And the owner would have to take you in. We actually took in a family,” Muka said.
“I was young, so I played with their kids a lot. They were really good bakers and made the best bread I’ve ever tasted.” “Didn’t that ever get difficult?” Muka was asked. “Not really for us,” she replied, “since we had enough. But for many families it was a struggle. Some barely had enough to support the refugees and even went into debt doing it. But they would never turn anyone away.” When asked why, she said, “It’s Besa, the Albanian way.”
Besa is an Albanian code of conduct that dictates generous hospitality. If someone comes to you looking for help, you give them a place to stay. It is based on the concept that, “Before the house belongs to the owner, it first belongs to God and to the guest.” This concept might also apply to citizens of a country.
Unknown to most, Albania was the only European country to emerge from WWII with a larger Jewish population than it had at the start, saving nearly all of its original Jews while offering refuge to more than 2,000 others from surrounding countries. Despite pressure from Italian and Nazi fascists, the Albanians refused to yield their guests to the enemy.
Although some of the more rigid aspects of Besa today have lost their hold with the passage of time, this sense of dutiful hospitality has endured in the Albanian people, and the Kosovo War of the 1990s provided proof.
Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” There may seem many reasons today to distrust refugees, but perhaps we might ask ourselves, “What would Jesus want us to do?”
Would you be willing to open your home to strangers in need?
Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com
Monday, June 19, 2017
Yesterday son Chuck and I were privileged to present the Father’s Day message at Christ Lutheran, Phoenix, where Chuck teaches. He and I presented a dialogue, “Fathers and Sons Together”, at their four Sunday morning services. Since I’m weary from the “red-eye” weekend flights, I am not going to write something new, but quote some of what I said.
“As earthly fathers, we make mistakes, plenty of them. But our children can learn a lot from how they see us handle our mistakes. Psalm 103 says God knows us inside and out and still loves us anyway. Fathers and sons are grateful God does this for us. Following Jesus helps us be better persons. God loves us in spite of our sins and forgives us because of Jesus. He loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done, and for that we are most thankful.
“Father’s Day is a good time to give thanks for our families, and also to remember we have two fathers, an earthly father and a Heavenly One, too. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” God knew even before we were born that He would bring us into our earthy families as well as His holy family in the Christian Church. All this is from His amazing grace, and it has given us incredible blessings here on earth and hereafter in eternity.”
God has blessed me with two fine sons, and also two loving families, our earthly dear family and our spiritual church family. Chuck was my “driver” Sunday, as I also helped install a new pastor at our winter congregation, Christ Lutheran, Coolidge, AZ. Being with my son, his wife and children, and presenting the Gospel during worship made this Father’s Day memorable, a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Thank You, Father, for giving us two families,
Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com
Monday, June 12, 2017
There is a saying: “What goes around comes around.” I think that means what we do now may come back to haunt us. It could also mean what the Bible says about the sins of the fathers being visited on the children. It could even mean something questionable done long ago returns again, this time as fashionable.
When our boys were born in North Dakota during the 1970s, we had to drive sixty miles to the Bismarck hospital for their delivery. When Brian was born, his older brother Charles wanted to play with his Mommy on the way home, so little Brian was relegated to sleeping in a cardboard grocery box in the back seat for the trip.
This morning I read a trend has now become fashionable in Scandinavian countries, hospitals giving new parents baby items in a box that can double as its first bed. Several American states are starting their own baby box giveaway programs as well, with, of course, advice and instructions on safe box usage. We can all be sure there are already rules drawn up so the government can regulate our baby box use. Maybe this will even merit a new Cabinet position.
Imagine the horror expressed if anyone today did what we did back in 1974 - drove those sixty miles without little Brian being strapped into an approved car seat! In those days seat belts and car seats were seen as optional. And while I’m certainly not advocating that practice again, it illustrates another use of the saying, “What goes around comes around.”
I just published The Searching Disciple, a study on Ecclesiastes which begins with the words, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9) In it, the writer says history just repeats itself, so don’t get your hopes up. But his thinking is tainted by his cynicism and especially by not knowing there is a Messiah to come who will deliver us from the sins of the past. As we learned back in the sixties, “There’s no new morality, just old immorality in a new form.”
Give thanks today that we see our Savior Jesus in our rear view mirror, forgiving us for our foolishness of the past, and giving us hope as we face today and whatever the future road has in store for us.
“The times really aren’t a-changing all that much.” (This Bob, not the Nobel Laureate)
Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Life is short. I once asked my aged father what interesting things he remembered happening in life, and he said he wasn’t sure because it all happened so fast. Born in 1898 and died in 1995, he was alive from the Wright Brothers through the World Wars, to man walking on the moon, to laptop computers. Back then he didn’t know or care much about laptops, but if he were alive today, I think he’d find them fascinating, especially the tiny ones we call “smartphones.” You know - those hand-held things that run out of battery just when we need it.
Whatever we may have experienced in life, we must all admit life is short. There is little that is truly constant and invariable in our human experiences on earth. Einstein taught us this with his theory of relativity. Just realizing how long some moments can be, or how fast a life slips away, gives us insight how time moves so fast or so slow.
God’s Word in the Bible gives us something to hold onto, however. Our Creator God cares for us and has given us this fascinating world in which we can live, move and have our being. His presence and mercy are our constancies. We believe God and His good will are unchangeable, but, of course, people certainly aren’t. Tainted by sin, our fickle natures and opinions last only as long as the next idea comes along.
We often preface what we say with, “if only…” “If only I were out of school. If only I had enough money. If only I could be married. If only I had a better job. If only I could retire.” Then when some or most of those things do take place, we wonder where our short life has gone.
Carol and I took our family of twelve on a short Bahama cruise this past weekend and enjoyed seeing our people get to know each other better, experience some new things, eat some fantastic food and then go our separate ways at the end, till we meet again. Carol and I eventually got home, despite a plane change, and we both agreed once again that our favorite part of any trip is the homecoming.
My Dad’s eternal home going was blessed after so long a life. Our earthly home coming last night was blessed with familiar bed and sounds. When we see our loved ones again, we will enjoy the familiarity of laughter and joy and growing up and growing older.
When we know Jesus is Lord of our life, we can handle the brevity of life because we know in Him it never really ends. It enters a new stage here and there until we live with Him in eternity. But of this we can be sure: Jesus’s Words of comfort, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 113:5)
Home is the best place to be, our home here or our home in heaven.
Rev. Bob Tasler