“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
Well, the year 2020 is finally done. And most of us are saying: good riddance. And it wasn’t just the pandemic, as if that were not enough. 2020 began with fires that raged across Australia, and then in our own West. It was also a record season for hurricanes, even if the damage was minimal. And then mid-summer, police activity that snowballed into riots in our own Twin Cities, and then throughout America. And throughout the year, political leadership, or lack thereof (both state and federal), culminating in one of the most nail bighting elections in decades. And through it all this unseen, un-predictable virus plugging along, silently taking away friends and family. Oddly enough in May, when we thought we had got through the worst, we had no clue then that the worst was yet to come.
Jesus, of course, is the same, yesterday, today and forever. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us. But how we worshipped him in 2020 was one of the many changes we had to get use to. Unfortunately, our stats in our church’s annual report this year won’t really reflect reality. Oh, the financial figures will be solid, as giving remained solid through the entire year. (Thanks!) But what we don’t know and can’t really count is how many people worshipped and remained worshipping through the year. Do the “view counts” on You Tube accurately reflect worship attendance? Did the change to live-streaming our worship services toward the end of 2020 really help? What are the real numbers when so many of us still must stay at home instead of returning home to church?
I try really hard to not let the numbers game keep me awake at night. For as I think I already mentioned, Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Indeed, the church, Christ’s bride on earth, has been through worse, much worse, than the year 2020. Pandemics and plagues, wars and communist take-overs, and of course persecution. No, not so much here in America, but nearly everywhere else the Christian church worships in the world. Indeed, it’s good to remember that there really have been times when “going to church” could result in your arrest and imprisonment, confiscation of your home and land, and your death, in the arena, by wild animals.
Yes 2020 has been stressful, but it was not the worst the church has ever endured. And so often the church went through their own worst when it had much less resources to deal with it. And as we begin a new year, we continue to “live stream” worship. And record it for those who want to watch later. We continue to wear our masks going in and out of the building, social distance and sanitize. We continue to refrain from shaking hands, and passing the plate, and passing the peace. And you know? We are okay. We are okay. No, it’s not good. But we have endured 2020, and we will continue to endure.
And you know why? Because Jesus (did I mention this already?), Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Which means he always was and always will be the same. The same Lord we worshipped together a year ago, and God willing, the same Lord we will be worshipping together very soon. In the meantime, we keep our eyes on him. Jesus that is. And because of that, because our eyes are on something that does not change, we look forward to a New Year. A New Year with Jesus.
In Christ’s Loving Service,
Time to Return to “The Family Altar”
Luther originally wrote the Small Catechism for “the head of the household.” That is, for parents to use at home with their family. Here are a few suggestions for establishing a family devotion time at home.
Lutheran Web Resources
Sponsored by Sola Publishing (Go to the “How To” link first).
Great short videos on the catechism/church life.
Search for “Family Devotions.” Devotional books to purchase.
See below for what we will be providing.
General Christian Web Resources
Search for devotionals.
Short videos to understand how to read the Bible.
One format for the “Family Altar” could be what your church is providing each week. We will be posting the Sunday sermon, along with the Sunday scriptures readings and a short worship format, each Monday by 10:00 a.m. (Hopefully without any technical glitches). While this will be helpful for many of our families, it may not be as helpful for our families with younger children. (There is a huge difference for a child sitting in a sanctuary surrounded by others and sitting at home watching a video). So feel free to adapt what we post on our website for what might work best for your family. Including using Bible story books, the Small Catechism, or some of the video links above in place of the “sermon.”
So how do we get going on this whole “Family Altar” thing? Pick a time and a place for this to become your routine. Sunday mornings at 11:00 would work, but so would Sunday nights or whatever time works best for you and your family. The principle here is to have a plan and stick to it. And a place. You may need a TV with web connection or laptop to utilize some of the links above. But all other distractions should be set aside during “Family Altar” time. Including cell phones, texting, email, all the rest. It’s going to feel a bit odd and uncomfortable at first, but I guarantee it will be worth it. Indeed, after a few sessions your older kids can probably start leading the family altar, with a little guidance. And keep it light and fun. It the devotion ends up going down a rabbit trail of “why does the Bible say this?” then so much the better!
Another option for either “Family Altar” or personal devotions is a simple Bible reading list coupled with a copy of the Small Catechism. Simply read a chapter of the Bible, followed by reading a short section of the catechism (for example, one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer), followed by Luther’s morning or evening prayer (also in the catechism).
If you need a Small Catechism, stop by the church office.