Bloggers Unite against hunger and poverty

Right now, more than 500 million people are living in “absolute poverty” and more than 15 million children die of hunger every year.

• World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the population is underfed and another third is starving.

• Even in the United States, 46 percent of African-American children and 49 percent of Latino children are considered chronically hungry.

You can make a difference by supporting a benevolent organization of your choice that works with the poor and contacting your elected government representatives to share your concerns and suggest changes in policy beneficial to the last, lost, and least among us.

Thank you and God’s blessings.

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Funeral Sermon Helen Rutschke

Funeral Sermon for Helen Rutschke, based on Ps 23; Gal 6:1-10 John 14:1-3. By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, at Prairie View Cemetery, Medicine Hat, AB, 11:00 A.M., April 28, 2009. 

There are many different kinds of death and a variety of circumstances that surround death. In some cases, death is indeed viewed in a very negative, tragic way, and it is seen as “the enemy.” In other cases, death is viewed in a positive, hopeful way, and considered a blessing. I believe that in Helen’s case that death was a blessing, as her life’s journey here on earth peacefully ended last week after a long and fulfilling life of 95 years.

   Those of you who knew and loved Helen will indeed miss her. Over the years, without doubt Helen touched your lives in many ways. Each of you here today will have your special stories and memories of Helen. You who are family members certainly shall remember Helen for her caring, generous, kind spirit. She loved her family; she also loved visiting with her friends. She could be described as “a people person.” In addition to that, Helen enjoyed knitting and crocheting, gardening, and, of course, her pets. She also supported the SPCA. 

   I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing Helen the last 7 years of her 95 years, as her pastor. During those years, Helen and I enjoyed many visits together in her home, and later at Riverview Care Centre. While she was still in her own home, she would always offer me her warm hospitality, insisting that I could not leave without having a cup of tea or coffee and something to eat with her. When I left she would shake my hand and hold onto it for some time, reluctant to have me leave.

   Speaking of hands, we trust that Helen was and is now in the hands of Jesus the Good Shepherd, whom Psalm 23 speaks of so confidently. Psalm 23 was Helen’s favourite Bible passage. The LORD, the loving, caring Shepherd of us all: it is he that journeys with us throughout our life on earth. It is he who promises to be with us in life, in death, and beyond.

   The 23rd Psalm follows a special line of thought, and when we concentrate on the words with heart, soul and mind, a new way of thinking and living are born. In only 112 words, we discover the power and inspiration, the comfort, guidance and strength we need to see us through life and death. Whenever you are sad, discouraged, feeling lost and alone, or sick, when life isn’t what it should be, here’s an exercise for you. Read out loud or recite from memory the 23rd Psalm several times. Slowly read every word. Let it sink into your heart and mind and soul. You will be astounded with the blessings you shall receive.

   In Psalm 23, we are given a beautiful picture of a God who is like a loving, caring shepherd. A God who is always with us, providing for our needs, and protecting us from danger and harm. A God who walks with us even to the end, to lead us through the door of death, into life everlasting. And so, we can give our thanks to God our Good Shepherd, God our loving Father, and Jesus his Son, who provides us with all that we need in this life and the next. We can give thanks to God for the life, memories and love of Helen. God who offers you here today his comfort and love, and provides for all of your needs now and in the future. God who, one day, shall call us all to that better place, to dwell with him and our loved ones forever.

   In our passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we learn too of our need to be connected with each other; to share each others’ burdens and joys; to, as Jesus taught us, do to others what we would have them do to us—which was certainly integral to who Helen was and how she lived her life. Paul, in this passage also exhorts us to “work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Helen obviously had a strong work ethic, as she worked into her 70s at Woolworth’s, Eaton’s and K-Mart. As a people person, she was able to serve the needs of others through her work and receive great satisfaction from her contacts with people by serving them. What a blessing that is, because 99% of any work involves loving what you do.  

   The gospel passage from John 14:1-3, in the language of love and deep intimacy, describes further this comforting reality of death and the hereafter in terms of utter trust and hope. Jesus, speaking with his disciples reassures them, first of all with these comforting words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” In others words, he invites the disciples and us to trust in him as well as his message. “In my father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Here we have a wonderful example of relational language. Language spoken in the context of family life. Just as Helen no doubt showed her love to you by valuing family-life and being loyal to each of you as family members and providing for your needs—so too Jesus teaches his disciples and us that as members of God’s family, we are assured of an eternal dwelling place, a home. It’s a place where we can feel safe and secure, understood and respected, valued and loved. It is our LORD’s deepest desire that all of us, each and every one of us, be in loving relationships with him and other members of his family that we may all one day dwell in the Father’s house.

   So, family and friends, let us give thanks to our Triune God for the long and fulfilling life of Helen; for all of the memories that you will cherish of her; we also give thanks that her suffering is now over; she is at peace and will dwell in the presence of our loving God and Saviour forever. Amen.

Movie The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I recently watched, with my wife and daughter, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.” I realise that some Holocaust experts are critical of the movie–primarily for the reason that children, in most cases, were not allowed to survive in the concentration camps. The issue of a lack of security around the fence of the camp may also be anachronistic. That said, I still believe that it is an encouraging movie, which has the potential to build friendships and deeper understanding between Jews and Christians.

The two 8-year-old boys, one Jewish, in the camp, and one German, out of the camp, and son of the camp’s commandant, become friends. Bruno doubts the Nazi propaganda he is unwillingly subjected to, and continues to secretly visit his friend Smuel at the camp. The movie reminds me of Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Fourth Gospel, speaking of the highest order of friendship: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13)

Funeral Sermon Judy Hall

Funeral Sermon for Evelyn June “Judy” Hall, April 24, 2009, at Pattison Chapel, Medicine Hat. Text: Jn 20:11-18 Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

“Singing Our Goodbyes”

A mother, grandmother, friend, companion, a woman of faith in the Lord, Evelyn June “Judy” Hall, has departed from this life. You who knew and loved her best shall surely miss Judy. Death can be a sad reality for you. However, to grieve is not a sign of faithlessness. Rather, our grief and mourning are natural expressions of the loving care we have for each other, and the genuine sorrow felt when a loved one dies.

Yet, as Christians we are an Easter people, and this is still the Easter season. So, for those of us who believe in the risen Christ, sorrow is trumped by joy; death is trumped by life; grief is trumped by hope. And so we can joyfully sing our goodbyes to our loved one—trusting that they shall share in new, resurrection life with Jesus Christ the risen Lord and Saviour.

The old adage is true: God works in mysterious ways! His wonders to behold. As chaplain of The GSS facility, South Ridge Village, I had the privilege of meeting and knowing Judy for these last few years of her life. Over the years, Judy would enjoy her outings with her friend Henry, and they would sometimes go for drives and, on some Sundays, they would come to the afternoon church services at SRV. Judy was a woman of faith and she loved coming to church—this may well have been one of the legacies she inherited from her grandfather, the Reverend Woods.

Over the years though, I came to realise that Judy especially loved music—both singing and dancing. Whenever musicians came to SRV, Judy would like to attend and participate with great enthusiasm. Attending the weekly Hymn Sings was no exception. Judy seemed to light up with great joy when she could sing her best loved hymns. I would always know that Judy was in attendance at the Hymn Sing, because I knew she had to request her favourite hymn. You see, Judy loved to sing “In the Garden,” which Wally sang earlier. In the garden was definitely Judy’s all-time favourite hymn. And today we included it along with the others to help us sing our goodbyes to Judy.

I find it fascinating and providential that this was Judy’s favourite hymn. Let me explain. In the garden was written by the hymn-writer C. Austin Miles, back in 1912. At heart, it is an Easter hymn, because the garden here actually is based on and refers to the Gospel passage I read, John 20. In the garden, beside Jesus’ empty tomb, on that very first Easter morning is where Mary meets the risen Christ, who calls her by name, and then her grief turns into joy as she recognizes her living Lord and Saviour.

Here is what C. Austin Miles says about the process of writing this hymn: “One day in March, 1912, I was seated in the darkroom where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favourite chapter, John 20…That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power to charm. As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, “Rabboni!”…Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.” Miles goes on to say: “It is as a writer of gospel songs I am proud to be known, for in that way I may be of the most use to my Master, whom I serve willingly although not as efficiently as is my desire.” (From: Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, by George W. Sanville). This hymn, some of you may remember, was sung in the movie “Places in the Heart,” which won two Academy Awards in 1984.

Speaking of heart, Judy shall certainly be remembered by her family, adopted family, and friends as a wonderful, big hearted person. She was kind, welcoming and loving to most everyone. Her life was albeit an imperfect, yet beautiful parable of spreading love around. In a way, Judy’s love and loyalty to her family, was similar to the love and loyalty of Mary Magdalene in our gospel passage. Mary being the first to go to the tomb of Jesus, and Mary’s grief were signs of how much she loved Jesus. Mary’s willingness to listen to Jesus and go and tell the Good News of
Easter joy: “I have seen the Lord” is the ultimate sign of her love for Jesus, being the first ever preacher of Christ’s resurrection. Judy’s loving acts and kind words were signs of her love for others. I felt something of her love too—whenever I shook hands with her after the worship services and hymn sings, Judy would have a friendly smile on her face and then she’d always thank me.

My hope and prayer for each of you here today is that you too believe in the risen Jesus, like Mary of old, and like your loved one Judy. For in him you too shall know a joy and hope, a peace and love that endures through all the troubles of this life.

I do not think that it was by accident that Judy has left this life behind now, during the Easter season. Rather, I believe it was God’s plan to take her home to heaven at this time. For as a person of faith, she shall now be given a new, resurrection body, which shall never grow old, get worn out, or break down. Her dementia is over, and all else that brought pain and suffering is gone. She is at peace with her risen Christ. Easter is the season of joy and hope. Life eternal waits for us if we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour who forgives our sins and promises that we shall be raised from the dead to dwell with him and all the other people of faith who have gone before us.

So we sing our goodbyes to Judy, trusting that, one day we shall see her again. I would not be a bit surprised that she’s now a beautiful singer and dancer along with a multitude of other saints in the heavenly garden. Hallelujah! Amen.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, April 21, 2009, marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Hebrew, Yom HaShoah. We remember the six million Jewish lives that perished during World War II due to the anti-Semitic and anti-Judaic ideology and political policies of the Nazi regime. May the Holy One of heaven and earth preserve and protect the Jewish people from such evil happening to them again. This year the focus is on the children who perished during the Shoah. You can read about it here.  If you live in a community where Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed, please attend the service.

Sermon 2 Easter Yr B

2 Easter Yr B, 19/04/2009

I Jn 1:5-7

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“Walking in the Light”

Light. We cannot live without light. Life is possible because of light. Our world, as we know it, needs light to exist. The same is true for us spiritually. Listen to the words of the writer of our second lesson again: “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” We all need the light. Without light we are lost in darkness.

In her book, The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of how difficult life could be on the frontier especially during the winter. She recalls one winter in particular when it started snowing in October and did not seem to stop until April. The temperature dropped to 40 below. Snow reached the roof tops and the townspeople nearly starved.

Things became so bad that two young men, Cap Garland and Almanzo Wilder set out on a 40-mile round trip to bring back wheat for the village. It was a slow difficult trip, with the 19-and 24-year-old boys enduring frostbite and a wagon that turned over in the drifts. The trip back was long and the boys realized they were down to the last mile but because of the darkness and snow they were not sure that they had not passed by the town.

Almanzo headed for the town, which was somewhere in the thick darkness, as well as he could. Almanzo yelled to Cap, “You see anything?” “Nope. We’re in for it, I guess,” Cap answered. “Town cannot be far ahead,” Almanzo told him.

Out of the corner of his eye he caught a gleam of light. He looked toward it and then saw nothing in the storm but dark. Then he saw it again, a glow that shone bright, then abruptly went out. He knew what it was; light shining out from a door that had quickly opened and closed. Near where it had been, he thought he saw the faint glow of a frost-covered window and yelled to Cap, “See that light? Come on!”1

We all need light, without light we are lost in the darkness. We cannot live without light. Light reveals, helps us to see the truth. The risen Jesus appeared to his first disciples, revealing himself as the Light of the world. In the resurrection accounts, Christ’s appearance is described as bright and shining. The writer of our second lesson today also states that “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

Greek philosopher, Plato, once said: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when adults are afraid of the light.” The people who engage in criminal acts and acts of evil often wait for darkness to commit their crimes and evil acts. Overall, the majority of such crimes and evil acts are more likely to happen in the darkness of night. Folks guilty of such crimes and evil acts regard light as their enemy because the reveals what is true. You cannot hide in the light.

The writer of our second lesson says that those who walk in the darkness cannot do what is true, they are living a lie. What the writer means here is that those who love to engage in sinful acts like breaking the ten commandments, for example, and then say that they are doing nothing wrong are liars. Such people denied that they were sinners or guilty of sin, therefore they said they really did not need Jesus to forgive them. For them, the death of Jesus was not necessary and did not cleanse them from sin because they had no sin and were not sinners.

John, on the contrary states that we walk in the light when we believe that we are sinners, have committed sins and need Jesus, the Son of God to forgive us. According to John, the shed blood of Jesus on the cross is life-giving; it has the power to cleanse us from all sin. In believing this, we walk in the light. Why? Because Christ, the risen Light of the world has shined on us; has given us the true revelation about himself. The true revelation is that he died for us on the cross to forgive our sins and he was resurrected on Easter morning, defeating the powers of death and evil and opening up for us the way of eternal life by promising that one day we to shall share in a resurrection like his. This is the message of Christ the Light of the world. The message shines on us so that we can walk in the light. We walk in the light when we rely on Christ to live a life of love—loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving neighbour as ourselves. We have been given this light, therefore we reflect it outwards to others, to the whole world to see. The message of this Easter season is that we are going to let our light shine; we let the Light of Christ shine through us. We are reflectors of his resurrection Light.

The story is told of a church way up in the highest mountains of Switzerland. A beautiful church, built with great care by the villagers who lived nearby. Yet, there was one thing the church did not have. Can you think of what that might have been? If you guessed no lights, you are correct. The villagers could not go into the church and switch on the lights like we do here. Yet every Sunday evening the people living on the mountain-side opposite the tiny church saw something wonderful. The church bell would ring and worshippers would wend their way up the mountainside towards the church. After they entered the church, all of a sudden it would light up brightly. What do you think happened? Yes, you see the people had to bring light with them, so they carried lanterns. Arriving at church, they lit their lanterns, and then hung them around the church on pegs set in the walls, so the light would spread all around. If only a few people came to church the light would be very dim because there were only a few lanterns. However, when lots of people came to church there was plenty of light. After the service the villagers took their lanterns home. While exiting the church, those who watched from a distance saw a stream of light pouring out of the church and over the mountainside. For many it was a sign that all was well. God’s light was with them and in them. The only time the little church lit up was when people were there. That’s when it truly became a church, and the light shone most brightly.2 The villagers were walking in the Light of Christ and others saw it because they reflected it.

So, too, we are walking in the Easter Light of Christ whenever we reflect it to others through words and acts of love, serving God and our neighbours. Amen.

 

1 Emphasis, Vol. 23, No. 6, March-April 1994 (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc.), p. 52.

2 Cited with some modifications from Rev. Richard Fairchild, the 5th Sunday of Year A, 1999, at <www.spirit-net.ca/sermon.html>.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Header

Easter Header

 

Over against all human sceptical reasoning, the Church proclaims: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” This ancient greeting of Christians has provided comfort, hope and courage, as the good news of resurrection joy has been contagiously spread around the world.

 

My favourite story of accentuating the good news of the risen Messiah goes back to communist Russia. On Easter Sunday in 1940 in Odessa, a crowd of some 40,000 Christians gathered to worship the risen Christ, However, communist agitators harassed them by making atheistic propaganda speeches for four hours. Afterwards, a congregant begged to say a few words and was granted permission. He stood up before all of those worshippers and said: “Brothers and sisters, Christ is risen!” Then, from the mouths of 40,000 followers of Jesus the reply roared out, “He is risen indeed!

 

 

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