FISHING FOR PEOPLE

Mark 1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

– In these words, Jesus teaches us that our life as his disciples is about the “other person” more than about ourselves. In following Christ, our life’s work becomes the well-being of all humanity, not our own personal salvation. The vision of the Gospel is perpetually an outward vision.
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

GOD HAS A DREAM TONIGHT

A light snow falls on a cold winter’s night, and I find myself staring out a window deep in thought. My heart is again filled with wonder at the beauty of God’s handiwork, even as it is also heavy with concern for those whom I know need prayers, and for a world so far removed from God’s hopes. I so often pray for what it is that I want, and so seldom try to see what God wants. Yet, I know that somehow, in a way I cannot understand, God also has dreams on this night.

God has a dream tonight – that someday the lion and lamb can lie down together, that swords will be turned to ploughshares, and that peace will reign in power. God has a dream tonight – that someday we will all place love (of God and one another) as our greatest priority in all of life. God has a dream tonight – that someday we will all be united as one even as God and Christ are one in an indescribable union. God has a dream tonight – that someday we may cherish this remarkable creation as God does. God has a dream tonight – that someday all walls will be torn down and the meek and the strong shall be the same. God has a dream tonight – that someday we will actually live out the message of the Good Samaritan as a lifestyle. God has a dream tonight – that someday we will care enough to make God’s dreams into our dreams.

But on this very night we still live in a world where judgement, regardless of its ignorance, is lauded as a sign of strength, and difference is something to be feared. We still live in a world where the poor amongst us are mocked. We still live in a world where the powerful laugh in the face of the weak…and in the face of the God who promises one day the weak shall inherit the earth. Tears begin to well in my eyes at these thoughts. Just then I look outside again, to see the snow still falling. It is now reflecting enough to pour some measure of light into the otherwise darkness of night. I suspect the darkness cannot understand such a light. Instead this darkness only knows that when the light comes, it always finds itself truly powerless to stop such beautiful brightness. With this in mind, I simply proclaim “AMEN!”

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

GOD THE MASTER ARTIST

On a bright moon-filled night, drawn upon a blank canvass of newly-fallen snow, shadows provide a serene picture for my weary eyes. The design laid out before me provides a mirror image of the beautiful old tree standing quietly in deep slumber above. As the bare limbs wave gently in the wind, the portrait on the snow moves accordingly. I am tired, but far too fascinated at the display to simply walk away.

Morning brings with it another magical encounter with God’s creation. The cold is biting and fierce to me, but it playfully interacts with the rushing waters of the nearby river. Steam rises, floating effortlessly across the landscape as I watch from a distance. Oaks and Willows on the shoreline disappear and reemerge, again and again, as if they are children joyfully dancing amidst a thick and intriguing fog. The sight is as breathtaking as the cold air producing it.

Now, after two such experiences with God’s creation, I find a sense of wonder building within my heart, as I once again realize that there is a remarkable glory swirling around me daily if I would just stop to look. This is God’s artistry and creativity at work. These momentary glimpses remind me that God’s fingerprints are visible on every single object my senses explore. I am reminded that I do not live isolated from the simple movements of the Lord, for God is ever molding and crafting every little corner of creation, as a master artist does with the greatest work of their life. It really doesn’t matter who sees the intricacies, as long as the artist can stand back and admire the work of their own hands. This universe is God’s canvass, and I have been blessed to exist within this small piece of God’s creative genius. It is with this thought in mind that my weary eyes begin to shift into a wondrous smile. Thank you, my Lord, for once again showing me your brilliance. Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

 

WHAT CHILD IS THIS

“So the Christmas message for all people runs: You are accepted, God has not despised you, but He bears in His body all your flesh and blood. In the body of the little child, all your distress, anxiety, temptation, indeed all your sin, is borne, forgiven, and healed.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This quote, from one of my favorite theologians, sums up the meaning of the manger perfectly for us. On that night, as Mary gave birth to our savior, it was not simply purity and holiness that was born into Jesus. The Christ-child also carried with him into birth and infancy our every struggle, weakness, failure and sin. This does not diminish the miracle, but indeed adds to it. For Jesus did not simply adopt our sin on that fateful day at Golgotha, but rather knew it all along. And while that thought may cause great pain or consternation to us, it nonetheless had to be this way for him to truly overcome human failure and frailty.

As a result of this miraculous birth, God now knows us in the most intimate of ways. God knows our hearts, with all their fears and hatred. God knows our souls, with all their doubts and temptations. God knows our minds, with all their logic and rationality. God knows our spirit, even as it is broken. Yet, God still accepts and loves us all the same! Jesus carries all this and still shines the Light of Holiness through it. This is the true beauty of Christmas!

On that star-filled night, in a stable amidst all God’s wild creatures – broken humanity and holy righteousness were born into one child! And finally, the angels could truly sing to the world, “Peace on Earth and Good Will to all God’s Children!” Amen.
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska

Let Us Adore Him

A child lays on a carpeted floor under an artificial Christmas tree, staring up through soft lights at the glow of red, yellow, and green on the ceiling. Next to him is an old Nativity Scene, which once belonged to his grandparents. He spends hours listening to a Christmas album from the 1960’s, while studying the characters in the manger and admiring each ornament dangling just above his head. A sense of warmth, anticipation, and joy wells up deep within his soul.

Tonight, this same boy, now 45 years older, lays under literally the same old tree and looks into that same old Nativity Scene. Decades have passed, and these items now carry memories of my parents and grandparents who have long since made their heavenly journey home. On this night I see light shining across darkness and branches that somehow still hold ornaments, a symbol of everlasting life perhaps. I lay there, so much older and yet still a child at heart, as I once again admire the shades of color softly reflected on the ceiling. I desperately pray this momentary feeling might never end, even as I feel the muscles in my back tightening. Maturity has long since taught me that I am a part of that old Nativity Scene just as the figures I so carefully study are, and this brings a remarkable sense of wonder to my heart. On this night, I am a shepherd who has come to adore the Lord. On this night, I am a King who has come bearing gifts for those who are vulnerable. On this night, I am Joseph or Mary, watching with a joyful and even overwhelmed soul. On this night, I am a voice crying out into the wilderness of this broken world.

I understand so much deeper, and yet cannot comprehend the gift at all. And in one last moment, I glance above to an angel, shining brightly atop the old tree. It is as if she calls out my name, beckoning me to share this moment of Grace and Hope with everyone I know. Then my phone interrupts the magic, to inform me a parishioner is ill this night. With a sigh, I arise, but with full knowledge I shall return again, as I have so many thousands of times before. For the manger calls out to each of us, and there simply is no resistance to the miracle of its Peace. Tonight, a child lays under a Christmas tree…Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

An Angel’s Perspective

An angel gazed into our world, and stared into chaos. Fires burned out of control. Storms fiercely pounded islands and cities. Brothers and sisters refused to speak for their disagreements. Prejudice ran rampant. Violence became the norm. Wars were waged by tyrants hungry to prove their power. Hatred was celebrated as “the good old days.” The angel watched in disbelief, tears of sorrow forming within her eyes.

An angel gazed into our world, and spotted peace. People of different religions sat at a table together breaking bread. Children planted trees in a forest. Small groups were formed so that brothers and sisters could support one another in their struggles. People flocked to disaster sites to assist the neighbor they have never known. Love became the rally cry of communities everywhere. The angel watched with pride, tears of joy forming within her eyes.

An angel cried out along the countryside for all to hear, “Peace on Earth, and Good Will to All of God’s Creation!” Shepherds heard the cry and shared it with others. History recorded the cry for generations to come. It is a voice that reverberates through all time and space. It is a voice that heralds the advent of God’s Love into our broken and beautiful world. The angel cried out, in hopes they we will hear…

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

Glowing Light and Love

I find myself drawn to the warm glow of the Christmas lights on my tree. Their colors serve as a backdrop to many ornaments which each carry a story. One such ornament was given to me when I was in the 5th grade by my parents, both of whom will once again celebrate this Christmas around God’s throne. Another ornament carries a picture of my cousins and I as toddlers! Still another was given to my parents years ago by dear friends. We even have ornaments displayed that were hand-tatted by my wife’s grandmother. There is so much history and love in these ornaments, and such a beautiful warm glow of light surrounding them. In so many ways, they serve as a reminder of the beautiful warm glow that surrounds us daily as we walk in the Love of God.

This glowing Love that surrounds me highlights my story just as the lights do for the ornaments on my tree. I, too, have been worn and damaged by time to some extent. If one look closely, the dents and fragility of our lives is always on full display. We cannot look as fully pristine as we once did. We cannot be as innocent as we once were. I find myself often teetering between emotional exhaustion and spiritual joy from day to day. I have known in this life what it is to be hated and what it is to be loved. The love fills my heart, and the hate unsuccessfully attempts to poke at my soul. But regardless of what deep darkness or shining joy my spirit dwells within on any given day, one thing is true in every moment: The warm glow of the Love of God shines around me as a backdrop, ever allowing some semblance of glory to be seen through this Child of God. There is not one of us walking this earth that has not had such Light as this shine around us. For God looks upon us with the same deep wonder and warm reverence as I experience while gazing into a tree filled with a lifetime of stories about those I love so dearly. Indeed, God’s reverence of us is so much farther beyond anything we can comprehend!

And so, on this day in Advent, I know that a beauty and glory that is born of Grace alone makes the light of my soul shine just a little into this world. Darkness is broken, and Light perpetually prevails until once more, as I return home this evening, I sit down with my wife and calmly smile while we quietly enjoy the glow of Christmas lights – and God’s Love – gently lighting the room in which we sit. Thanks be to God! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

God’s Angels Abound

(Sandy Simonson is the Parish Admin. at Holy Trinity and is embarking upon a battle with cancer. Today, she shares how God’s Light shines into that which would be darkness.)

Several months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the days that followed I had time to be alone and to think through how I wanted to live through the treatments and to come out of the process stronger and closer to God.
Because I work in a church it was imperative to let the congregation know what was happening to me. So I wrote letter and sent it to the members and friends of my congregation. It was then that I knew God was surrounding me with angels. And these are not only the angels from heaven but the angels that walk this journey with me here on earth. They are my family who has been there for me, helping me, taking care of me, and loving me. They are my church family, who after they got my letter, have volunteered to take on many of my duties here at church to help me. They are in every card I receive. My mailbox has never been so full. Each card is filled with a personal written message, which I will always treasure. They are in the prayers that are sent to God every day on my behalf. They are in the quilt that members of the congregation signed and wrote messages on. They are in the love I feel every day as people ask how I am. They are in the doctors and nurses who do an awesome job.
As I go through chemo and then surgery, I know that I will continue to be surrounded with love, support, prayers, and help from all the angels in my life. I have never felt alone or afraid. I know that I am being watched over. I know that I have peace, love, joy and hope as I thank God for surrounding me with heavenly angels and earthly angels.

-Sandy Simonson (Parish Administrator at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Elgin, IL)

A MOMENT OF THANKSGIVING

The two of us sat in a dark room at the nursing home. I had simply stepped in to check on a complete stranger at the request of a physical therapist. But this would be no ordinary visit, for God often works in mysterious ways.

My new friend was initially a little quiet, attempting to gage just who this person was who had surprised him as he flipped through the mail from home. But his need to share on this day far outweighed his hesitancy. And so I listened as he shared his guilt for having no longer been able to care for his ailing wife, and his disappointment in his perceived physical failure and weakness. They have been married for almost 50 years, and their story was not supposed to take a turn in which they ended up in two different nursing homes for Thanksgiving. I found my own eyes tearing up, even as he stopped to openly cry before me. After speaking for awhile of the remarkable care he had given for so long, and acknowledging that their love still flowed even across illness and distance, I asked him how they met. Tears turned to smiles as he shared with me a beautifully cute story of such a great love’s awkward start. I found myself compelled to tell him that he should write their story on the computer sitting in front of him, and he lit up at the idea. We even looked forward to the day in the next few weeks when he will be released and can go see her. Then we prayed and I prepared to leave.

But now it was his turn to surprise me. As I stood up to excuse myself, he grabbed my hand and said, “I don’t know what it is, but I felt so comfortable talking to you. Young man, don’t ever question your vocation in life.” In that moment, I found myself again welling up with tears, and almost forgot to release our handshake! Apparently, I needed to hear such words as these at a time of year when I always remember and give thanks for those who taught me the meaning of faith and hope, but are no longer here. Somehow this man, struggling with such guilt, ministered to me as much as I hopefully ministered to him, which is always God’s way regardless of our plans. So as I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, I give thanks on this morning for a Calling from God that leads me into deep moments of emotion shared with beloved family, close friends, and even complete strangers. Blessings abound! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

Silent Nights and Days

The sun tries, in vain, to poke through the deep cloud cover. The winds howl, and the trees reluctantly let go of their few remaining leaves. God’s critters are relatively quiet now, and some have made their migration south. The creation prepares for its deep rest.

Someday soon, a blanket of snow will cover the ground and trees, and all will turn to a stark contrast of black and white. The creation will seemingly fall into a gentle slumber, as the warmth of God’s Love glows like a night light providing security in the darkness. A reminder that even in our darkest hours, God is present and Grace flows eternal. Yet, even now, the seeds of new life lie planted deep within, awaiting a day in which the creation will burst into glorious resurrection. This is what makes winter so beautiful. A pure and perfect stillness takes hold of the darkness, and a steady and glorious wind from the heavens embraces, and even cuts through, each of us. Meanwhile, new life and resurrection awaits, not just promised, but indeed guaranteed.

Our place in this cosmic rhythm is to do no more than stand watch. We observe the creation at its simplest form. Tree limbs occasionally creak in the breeze. Stars twinkle at night. Snowflakes gently float by our eyes. Icicles form overhead. The cold sharply bites at all creatures brave enough to take a deep breath of it. The earth sleeps with the calmness of a baby. A deep peace takes over. But just below the surface, hidden out of view, new life stirs, anxious to once again awaken our souls. For this is God’s desire for us, that we may experience Sabbath rest on our way into new life with each dawn. And so once again this day we cry out for all to hear: “Thanks be to the God of blissful rest, and passionate new life. Amen.”

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)