Lenyia dies in our own backyard.
Further away, 21 people died in a senseless act of violence in Uvalde, Texas.
Even more removed (and yet feeling so close), the conflict in Ukraine continues.
In our own families and homes - tragedy is all around us.
How do you make sense of so many horrific, unthinkable, and evil things that are beyond your control?
We have three options:
Let’s be honest, denial doesn’t work. As painful as it is to acknowledge reality, we cannot wish it away. Reality is always waiting to greet us.
Playing the blame game feels good at the moment. Too often, tragedy is complex and abstract. In the short term, directing blame toward someone or something directs our thoughts and feelings toward something concrete. However, like denial, assigning blame doesn’t change reality. In fact, in the long run, blame often makes matters worse.
In the end, by denying reality or playing the blame game, we become our own gods - ultimate arbitrators of what happened, why it happened, and what should happen next.
For me, a pastor, leader, and shepherd, trauma and tragedy have become common experiences. Most of the time we assume that God is absent in these moments. However, I have learned that it’s in these sacred and difficult spaces, God is most present.
As a result, I have learned to keep three words in mind when tragedy strikes: Let’s grieve well. And here’s why…
We are human - made in God’s image, with all of our emotions, intellect, and person-hood. That’s how God made us. We hurt because God hurts. Our hearts break because God’s heart breaks.
Let’s not forget that Jesus is human, too. He hurts. His heart breaks.
Jesus shows us how to grieve well. With his heart in pieces, He doesn’t choose to deny reality. He doesn’t choose to shift blame. Jesus cries at death. He mourns the loss of friends. He laments how the world seems unfair (because it is). He accepts the reality of a crass, cold, and chaotic world that is spinning deeper into darkness. And then, Jesus owns his grieving as he hangs onto every one of God’s promises through temptations, uncertainty, and even death itself.
So friends - as we continue to pray for Lenyia’s family and friends… as we move from shock to sadness over the Uvalde tragedy… as we continue to see events in Central Europe unfold… and so much more in our own lives… remember these three words: let’s grieve well.
After all, we do believe in resurrection which follows tragedy. And resurrection always leads us back to Jesus.
Honor raises people up. Dishonor slashes, slanders, and strikes people down.
You can read Romans 12:9-13 to learn more about what I mean.
This Sunday, we have the opportunity to honor Jesus (of course!) and Diane Zimmermann for 40 years of faithfully serving in worship arts.
At our 9:00 and 10:30 services, we will sing, pray, commune, sing, bless, give gifts, sing, clap, laugh, and sing some more.
After each service, in the spirit of our “Telling the Story” message series, you are invited to bring a written short story, card, note, or picture to give to Diane to honor her at a special reception for everybody.
Let's honor Diane and have some fun! See you there!
Maybe you hear that and think that church meetings are boring, potentially contentious, an antiquated way of doing things, and that the people who “really care” about that kind of stuff can get involved in “that kind of stuff”.
I get it. I’ve been there, too.
Growing up as a PK (Pastor’s Kid), I attended my fair share of church meetings. Most were boring. Several got off track. A few were quite tense. At least one was a major dumpster fire that I think might still be burning today. And even though none of these experiences directly involved me, they did involve people I loved - my family and friends.
Needless to say that church meetings did not inspire me to follow Jesus and certainly was not the reason I chose to say, “yes” to God’s call into pastoral leadership and ministry.
But then, a series of conversations changed my mind. Now, today, it’s one of the most anticipated meetings that I prepare for and look forward to all year long.
I went to counseling.
At the time, I was seriously considering changing careers from pastoral leadership to organizational consulting. It was so serious that I had the open invitation to join an extremely reputable firm and become the lead person working with large and complex religious nonprofits and schools in the area of vision, mission, and strategic change management.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy pastoring. I wasn’t burned out. Besides not working every weekend, double the salary, and traveling (a lot) along with the perks were very appealing to me.
After two weeks of counseling, it became evident that the potential career change was not really the issue. I was fearing the upcoming Annual Voters’ Meeting. And the opportunity to avoid it was there, ready, and available.
My counselor helped me reframe my past experiences of the boring formalities of Robert’s Rules of Order, the people who would have challenged the filibuster record, the tense discussions (usually filled with unhelpful and un-Jesus like behavior), and the unresolved dumpster fire that was still smoldering in my heart.
She asked me, “what would your ideal annual meeting look like and how can you be part of the solution”?
It was that conversation that changed my mindset from a “victim” to a “victor”. I carried influence. I had freedom. I was not a victim of my past experiences, but a leader to create a different, healthier, and more effective one.
She then said something like this: Tim, the church is a family. How can your meeting feel more like family than business?
Shortly after, I made the decision to stick with pastoring. I met with my Board and shared my childhood experiences and together we made our meetings feel more like family than business.
As a Board, we began eating together. Laughing together. Celebrating together. Dreaming together. And all of this helped us make decisions and work better… together.
And that Annual Voters’ Meeting… it was one of the best! We ate together. We celebrated together. We laughed together. We dreamed together. And then we made some very important decisions together. And we left… together.
I still have a degree of anxiety when it comes to church meetings. That’s part of my story that I probably will always need to be attentive of and be working through. Let’s be honest, working through trauma and with ourselves is never done.
Here’s my point… if you’re like me and think that our upcoming Annual Voters’ Meeting on June 12 is going to be boring, potentially contentious, antiquated, or is “for the people who really care about that kind of stuff”… you aren’t alone. I’ve been there, too.
It truly is one of the most anticipated meetings that I prepare for and look forward to all year long. And while I can’t humanly guarantee anything - I can guarantee that we will eat together, laugh together, celebrate together, dream together, and make some decisions together (albeit in a formal way because there are state laws governing some of our organizational processes).
We will be family… together.
My prayer is that if you choose to be a part of it, you will find some new friends, mingle with some old ones, laugh, have fun, celebrate, dream with me about our future together, and then leave more together at the end of the meeting than we were when it began.
Because in the end - we are family.
All photos in this post are from pexels.com.
One of our core values here at Our Savior is to foster a culture of care and belonging. That means that in all we do, we strive for inclusivity. Why? Because Jesus’ love is inclusive. After all, while we were still far off, Jesus who is rich in love and mercy, built the bridge, tore down the wall, and brought us back to Him (Ephesians 2:11ff).
So, it makes sense that when it comes to motherhood, we see and acknowledge that there is a diversity of experiences. From joy and euphoria to trauma and loss. And we know that joy and pain are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is normal for both joy and pain to coexist in the same moment, heart, and experience.
While celebrating mom’s is not wrong, sinful, or bad in any way - we dare not idolize it. Moms and Mother’s Day is a gift - not a god. In fact, saying, “thanks, mom” honors God (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2-3).
At the same time, Jesus’ church has always been and will remain a place and a space for broken and hurting people.
What I’m trying to say is that this Sunday, we will be inclusive and say “thanks, mom” and empathize with the complexity of our human experience.
I believe that knowing what to expect lowers anxiety, honors people, and creates a safe space to experience God’s presence.
Here’s what you can expect this Sunday (Mother’s Day) at Our Savior.
We will see and acknowledge the joy of the day.
Moms, grand-moms, step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, spiritual moms who don’t know they’re moms, moms whose kids don’t think much of them, and those who are a mom at-heart… you are all moms worthy to be celebrated. We see you. And we will love, celebrate, and thank you at the beginning of the service.
We will acknowledge and share the pain of the day.
We will pray for people who have lost their mom and are missing them today. We also hold in our prayers those who have been hurt by relationships with mothers. We are a place where people can experience love, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
We will then turn our focus away from you and onto Jesus by living in the truth that our identity is in Jesus, not anything we do (including being a mom).
We are loved, forgiven, chosen, baptized, valued, equipped, and sent by Jesus - not because of anything we have done, are doing, or will do, but because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. We will rejoice in hearing the words, “you are loved, forgiven, and at peace with God”. We will find joy in celebrating communion with all people. We will confess in the Creed that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. And, we will be blessed to be a blessing to all people - whoever we are. In short, motherhood (or anything else) does not define, identify, or label us - Jesus does. Everything else is just something “we get to do” to love God back, love other people, and live like Jesus with others.
We will focus on Jesus, not ourselves.
Pastor Matt will lead us to sit in God’s Word and focus on how freedom in Jesus is a matter of our interdependence on Him. It will not be about mom’s, motherhood, or even womanhood. As always, Jesus is the hero - not us.
We will walk with you through the hard stuff.
If Mother’s Day is hard for you, we will have people available to pray with you and your family who need healing from miscarriages, struggle with infertility (like Beth and I have), abuse, and broken relationships. Jesus is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
We have a sweet treat for you.
Finally, if you’re a mom, grand-mom, step-mom, foster mom, adopted mom, spiritual mom, or a woman who has or had a mom at one time - find Shelly in the lobby after each service for a sweet chocolate treat.
I know that we all have opinions (some very strong) about Mother’s Day. I’d love to hear yours!
Drop me a note…firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to listen to you.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.