A Pastoral Epistle
Beloved in Christ,
As summer ends, school begins, and our travels conclude I am looking forward to seeing you all in the Lord’s house together once more! As we get into our routines once more and look toward to the fall, we will be entering into the excitement of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.
To keep us from becoming distracted by the temptations of the world St. Peter reminds us: “…you were redeemed from the empty way of life…” (1 Peter 1:18)
To live in certain parts of Siberia means to live in some extreme conditions. Over the years, observers of people who live in those extreme conditions of Siberia have described an unsettling phenomenon. The phenomenon has come to be known as “Siberian Hysteria.”
A Japanese author has described Siberian Hysteria in this way. He says, “Try to imagine this: You’re a farmer, living all alone on the Siberian tundra. Day after day you plow your field. Day after day as far as the eye can see nothing; to the north the horizon, to the east the horizon, to the south, to the west, you see more of the same. Every morning, when the sun rises in the east, you go out to work in your fields. When it’s directly overhead, you take a break for lunch. When it sinks in the west, you go home to sleep. And then one day, something inside you breaks. Day after day you watch the sun rise in the east, pass across the sky, then sink in the west, and something inside you dies. You toss your plow aside, your head is completely empty of thought, and you begin walking toward the west. You begin to look for a land that lies west of the sun. Like someone, possessed, you walk on, day after day, not eating or drinking, until you collapse on the ground and die.” That is a description of Siberian Hysteria.
It is also an apt description of my life without Jesus. Think about that for a moment. Isn’t it true that the worst part of living as a lost soul in a broken world is just the sheer emptiness of it all? I can do things to occupy my time. I can find enough to eat. I can find a place to sleep. But if I am doing all this in a vacuum, if I am doing all this surrounded by emptiness–emptiness of meaning, emptiness of hope, emptiness of anything that matters–isn’t it true that I am just a case of Siberian Hysteria waiting to happen?
That’s why God chose to invade my emptiness. He invaded my emptiness in the Person of Jesus. Where once was the awful nothingness created by my own sin, there now is my Savior. His perfect life and death on my behalf destroyed the chasm that had surrounded me, isolated me, and made me so alone. Then he rose from death, just to assure me that my days of emptiness were over; to assure me that I would never be alone again – ever.
And he has done the same for you! Jesus changes everything! Jesus promises that there is a life after this one, an eternal life in heaven. He guarantees we can have this life through faith in him because he paid for our sins on the cross and because he himself came back to life on Easter morning! This means that this world is NOT all there is. We are only going to live in this world for a few years compared to the eternity we are going to spend in the world to come.
So, we don’t need to get so uptight about how much money we don’t make. We don’t have to be constantly stressed over every little thing that doesn’t go our way. We don’t have to chase after every trend that comes down the media highway into our homes. Live your life in the Lord Jesus and you will learn how meaningful your life is both in the here and now as well as in the heaven to come.
But what if I am a Christian and I have strayed or lost my way? I have separated myself from the Word, from worship, from other Christians, and the sacrament. What if the emptiness presses in on me once more? Does Jesus still love me?
When we lose something that we hold to be valuable, we search for it frantically like the woman in Jesus’ story searching for a coin that she lost (Lk. 15:8, 9). Without Jesus you and I are like that lost coin. Our lustful thoughts, hurting words, and loveless deeds–everything we think, say, or do that fails to be perfect–are sins that separate us from God. How frightening to be lost in sin!
Thankfully, though, there is good news! Jesus came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). God sent Jesus to find us and reconnect us to God. Jesus did that by loving us so much that he paid for all our sins by his death on the cross. That’s how much Jesus loves us! Through Jesus, heaven is our inheritance. Jesus sends us his Spirit to draw us to the cross.
God loves us so much that he stopped at nothing to find us and save us from eternal separation from him in hell. Through Jesus, we have the gift of eternal life, which is a whole lot more valuable than winning the lottery. How fortunate we are! We will never be lost again when we cling in faith to Jesus, our Savior.
No wonder the Spirit urges us to hear his Word preached and to gladly hear and learn it! In the Word is the life of faith Jesus offers. What a marvelous treasure we have received! Like heaven’s angels, we can rejoice over all that Jesus did to find us and give us life with God!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt. 11:28)