Day 39 (guest blogger)

faith and hopeThe author of Hebrews wrote these words before entering into a section about those who died in faith that God would hold to His promises. Beginning with creation and ending with the Exodus, the author uses the Old Testament to illustrate how we are to hold in faith to the sure promises that we have received from God. In spite of suffering, loss, and the promises seeming impossible, the Lord’s people have always held in faith that the Lord will do what he has promised in His word. 

   

There is perhaps no greater example of this than Abraham. Abraham received great promises, but these were not promises that could be seen. He was renamed as the father of many nations when he was childless. He was told that this promise would come through his son Isaac, but then he was told to sacrifice this same son. He was called righteous, not because he lived a righteous life (he certainly didn’t!), but because he held to these promises that he had received from the righteous God. Abraham believed that the Lord would keep his promises. Though he did not live to see them fulfilled and all things in his life appeared otherwise, Abraham believed that the Lord would keep His word. 

 

We have also received great promises:

 

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4) -Our sins have been drowned in the waters of baptism. They are sealed in His grave and we are raised up with Him as new creations. 

 

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17) 

-Christ has united the whole church as one body through the gift of His very own body and blood. 

 

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)

 

Christ has given us His promises. His words remain true, now and always. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, the kingdom of God has reigned on earth since the day that Christ first announced it. We hold in faith to sure promises that we are unable to see. We eagerly await the day when our faith is made sight, but until that day I leave you with words from 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”

-Kyle Bliss

 

Day 38

Thomas

I thought of this small piece of text because today is sometimes called “Thomas Sunday.” It is the second Sunday of Easter on which many churches read the story of “Doubting” Thomas. He was someone who wanted to see for himself.

We can all relate to Thomas, after all “seeing is believing.” But sometimes you cannot see how things will turn out. No matter how many times God showed Abram the land, Abram still questioned the promise (see Gen 15:3). And no matter how much we “look” for the end to our current chaos, most experts (and honest politicians) have no idea how this pandemic will end. Today the New York times consulted some twenty experts about what the next year or two will be like and the result was quite “fuzzy.” We just cannot see clearly.
And that is where the story of Thomas becomes important, for Jesus gently taught Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” That is how God invites us to live, even now — trusting him and not relying on our own vision or that of others.
So, as we look about this land today, believing is what makes true seeing possible.
Peace be with you,
Dr. Schuler

Day 35

When coming into the land, Lot and Abram went separate ways because they and their households could not live together. The land simply could not support them in close quarters. We have gone our separate ways, but for a different reason. The contagion makes us a danger to each other if we are too close. And how that has changed our lives.
I felt it during Holy Week. We worked so hard to create a sense of joy at the resurrection. But we were all in our own separate places. It takes a degree of creativity to find joy in this abnormal time.

Today, an example of that came my way via the other Dr.Schuler’s involvement in Jubilate, The director, Prof. Speer, shared a video for our time using the music of the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Friedrich Handel. Those of you in Jubilate have probably seen it. But I commend it to all of you.

We may be separate in our homes, but the Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth! Here is joy, even in separation.
The peace of the risen Christ be with you,
Dr. Schuler 

Day 32 (guest blogger)

starsAs I’m writing this, it’s about 2:30 in the morning. The sky out my bedroom window is dark. Looking out, it’s an empty, dark expanse.

Maybe reflecting what many of us are feeling.

Lonely, unable to see those we care for. Uncertain, not knowing how long this is going to last. Helpless, unable to do anything as we hear of others hurting. Maybe even hopeless, overwhelmed. The list goes on.

The world feels quite dark right now, leading to a sense of emptiness in ourselves.

And yet I remember growing up in rural Iowa. Away from street lamps and city lights. Coming home from evening events or long car rides from visiting family. And looking up to see the stars. I don’t think seeing them ever got old- the beauty of these lights filling the night sky.

In the dark, empty expanse of space, God placed innumerable stars to bring light and warmth. How much more, then, can He place light, warmth, and beauty in our lives?

There is so much joy in store for us. Even in the little things.

For example, as I was struggling to stay awake during a lecture this morning, hearing my younger sister’s laughter from upstairs brought a smile to my face.

Yet is it wrong to not be happy? Is God with us only in the moments of joy?

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” ~Genesis 1:2

The darkest and emptiest the Earth has ever been. God was there. Not just in power, and certainly not in apathy, but in love. The Spirit stayed close to the Earth. Perhaps similar to a parent hovering over a sleeping infant.

At our darkest, at our emptiest, God is with us. He is not “out there” merely hearing the prayers we may or may not be able to bring ourselves to speak, but listening to our cries and distress. Just as God was close to the Earth at the beginning of Creation, so He is with us now, caring and comforting.

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:3

Glorious day, breaking out through the darkness. At a word, the light poured through, and a beautiful day began. Imagine what that first sunrise may have looked like.

So God has the power to pour beauty and hope and joy into our lives, no matter how dark or empty or hopeless they may seem.

There is light. The sun will rise, and in the meantime we have the stars God places into the dark and empty. Know that no matter what, you are loved. You are not alone, and you never will be.

~Isaac

Day 31

Hebrews 11:8-16–

Abram

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” 

13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Blessed Easter Sunday,
Dr. Schuler

Abram

Abram

Day 29

[Personal lesson: trying to do too much means not everything gets done.]

right turn

The middle of Holy Week is relatively quiet. But on the night of the Passover meal — the purpose of the journey to Jerusalem — matters spiraled quickly … betrayal ,.. religious trial … political trial … crucifixion. Suddenly, on a Friday, the journey ends at a tomb hastily provided before sundown. 

Journeys, even side trips, are like that with sudden changes and unexpected endings. The end for Jesus was frightening and brutal and over so quickly. At least his mother and a couple of his friends were present (those dying right now from Covid-19 most often die alone).
We know as much about how our journey will end as did the disciples that Friday evening. They were in for quite a surprise just three days later. If God can do that, I have a feeling God has something joyous in store for you as well. Just hold back the “halleluia” a couple more days.
Peace be with you.
Dr. Schuler
[If you want to see what I have been up to the last several days, take a look at 

https://jehovahlutheran.online

. It is such a pleasure to work with and serve these marvelous people.]

Day 25 (side trip)

JerusalemOur side trip during Holy Week follows in the footsteps of Jesus. The most famous part of his trip was yesterday . . the entry into Jerusalem (no social distancing then, or at any time during the Passover, as Jerusalem swelled from 40,000 to about 250,000). Do we even remember what being in a crowd is like?

Monday began a series of exchanges with religious leaders in the temple (see Matthew’s gospel for the details). They tried to trap Jesus; Jesus silenced them with Scripture and parables. As the conflict spiraled, it is not hard to see that a confrontation was brewing.
How different for us . . . no crowds . . . no speeches . .  only dueling trolls on the internet and who knows how many foreign groups are trying to muddy the waters. Very depressing . . . as I am sure it seemed for the followers of Jesus after the rush of Palm Sunday.
Still Jesus was about His Father’s business. God’s will was being enacted. And it would end in a way that no one would expect, early on Sunday.
That is the key for our journey, too. It is a dark week and will likely get darker. Death will seem to get the upper hand. But Sunday is coming . .. Easter Sunday!
Peace be with you,
Dr. Schuler

Days 22-24

To Egypt

Yes, he took a side trip! After the long journey from Haran to Canaan, due to a natural calamity (a famine not a pandemic), Abram went to Egypt. Side trips from a journey often happen, sometimes from curiosity and sometimes from necessity.

Our journey takes a side trip this next week as we follow Jesus literally to the cross and to the tomb.  It is the Great Week, Holy Week, a week that heals our wounded soul.
This year’s journey to the cross will mean more than some I think, because the Christian affirmation that the power of death is overcome by Jesus is even more critical as hundreds and thousands die in our country and around the world from this pandemic.
Three week ago you were sent on a journey to a place you do not know. You had no choice in the matter. But this week you can chose a side trip, a spiritual journey in the footsteps of Jesus.  Walk with him this week, because he always walks with you.
Peace be with you,
Dr. Schuler

Day 21

Moses

When we read of a divine appearance (fancy word: epiphany), we often think of something dramatic — trumpets, smoke, fire, angels — all the Cecil B. DeMille stuff. But Gen 12 mentions none of that.

So how did Abram recognize God while Abram was on his journey to who-knows-where? He recognized God enough to hear the promise and to build an altar. But, how did he know it was God?
We don’t know. But I suspect the appearance was subtle — someone was there around the bend in the road. . . someone joined the caravan . . . someone needed help by the side of the road . . .
Jesus gives us a hint, Asked, “When did we see you . . .?” Jesus responded, “As often as you did it for one of the least of these, you did it for me” (Matt 25:40).
If you wonder when you might see God in all the challenges we are facing on this journey, look around for someone who needs your help. You might catch a glimpse of God in the person you are helping, and that person might catch a glimpse of God in you.
Peace be to you,
Dr. Schuler

Day 20

How many more miles?

Ok, there is no book of Hezekiah in the Bible. There is a king by that name, but he never said anything about Abram. Still, as we approach the end of the third week of this journey we have growing sympathy for the child in the back seat of the car whining to its parents, “How many more miles?” There is no agreement among experts other than that the pandemic will be bad, take a long time, and we have no idea about the route back. This trip is no vacation!

But travel we must, even as did Abram; and trust we must, even as did Abram; and whine we will, even as did Abram (see Gen 15:2!).
But God stuck with Abram. And God kept promising, “Don’t be afraid, Abram, I am your shield” (Gen 15:1). After all, God had made a covenant with Abram (Gen 15:18).
But we have something better, a new covenant “in my blood,” said Jesus. It is a covenant unlike that with ancestors like Abram. For God writes it on our hearts (Jer 31:33).
So, “let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1) and maybe restrain the whining a bit.
Peace be with you,
Dr. Schuler