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Chapel Message: Friday, April 3, 2020
Mike Waugh, Principal
 
"Beauty"
This devotion is based on a reading from Psalm 19.
 
My wife and I have a son who is five years of age and has a bedroom window which faces east. Every morning, like clockwork (literally), he is awake and ready to face the day at exactly 6:30 AM. One morning we accidentally left his curtains open and when I came in to see my son I could already see some light peaking through the window. As I looked closer, out the window, I saw a magnificent sunrise complete with rays of light illuminating the clouds. The colors were tremendous ? every shade of orange, blue, pink, and red that you would ever imagine. My son said to me, “Dad, look at that sunrise!” Together, we sat there and looked at it, awestruck, until the sun had fully come into view. It was beautiful.

Because we live in Northeast Ohio, there is not always a beautiful sunrise. I don’t mean that literally, since the sun rises daily, but many mornings are cloudy and you cannot see the sun. You know it’s there in your mind, but your eyes are unable to see it. In fact, since the day my son and I shared that sunrise together we now look out the window each day to see another one, similar in nature. Every day the sun fails to light the morning with blazing colors my son says to me dejectedly, “Oh, no sunrise today Dad.” I can tell he then begins his day with a hint of disappointment.

Living through the COVID-19 crisis feels a lot like waiting to see a beautiful sunrise which increasingly seems will never come. Day after day and night after night, I find myself checking media outlets, looking for data, and analyzing the curve to try and gain some insight into when this all will end. I am constantly living in the future because the present seems to be so discouraging. There are not enough distractions to divert my attention away from the chaos that has descended upon our world. I am searching for a voice to speak life into our current situation.

Who will answer?

David, the writer of Psalm 19, explains it this way:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

The response to the question is that God will answer. The heavens declare God’s glory ? they shout it every day. This declaration is not with any human language, but a language draped in beauty that can only be experienced when we stop and look for the sun to rise. God’s voice goes out into all the earth and that voice is heard in the community.

Beauty manifests itself in our community each day. I see it in parents who make sacrifices for their children. I see in teachers still choosing to teach and students still choosing to learn despite not being in school. I see it in families caring for elderly or aging relatives. I see it in charitable organizations providing aid for those in need despite a lack of resources.  The beauty is not hiding behind the clouds, it is in plain sight if we stop each day to look for it.

As we all struggle daily with our own unique challenges due to the coronavirus, I find that these examples of beauty are a source of inspiration and strength. “The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together (Psalm 19:7, MSG).”  Those are the words of David as he found beauty in God’s creation - a creation that still emanates with beauty even in the most dire circumstances.  As children of God, we are the most important element of this creation, and God’s beauty is displayed in our lives at a time when we need it the most.

Psalm 19 ends with the writer calling God his, “Rock and Redeemer.” After recognizing God’s beauty, our souls can rest in the presence of God. We no longer need to search for distractions because God has given us something much better. Then, we are able to stand upon that rock which redeems and saves us from the many troubles that surround our existence. We need this redemption more than ever, and it will come at the work of God’s hands.

Don’t lose hope. The sunrise is coming.

May God heal our nation and our world, and may God bless our community here at Lutheran West. 
 
 
Chapel Message: Friday, March 27, 2020
Mike Waugh, Principal
 
"Sacrifical Love"
This devotion is based upon a reading from 1 Corinthians 13.
 
Who do you miss? And maybe a secondary question is, what do you miss? As I have spoken (or more specifically, emailed and texted) so many different people over the past few weeks, I continue to feel there is an increased sense of longing for community in our world. Take a minute and make a list, either on paper or in your mind, of all the people or things you miss since our nation has taken shelter from the coronavirus.

Now, what’s on your list? I bet it includes things like family members, friends, going to a restaurant, going to a friend’s house, going to a movie—going anywhere. Whatever you wrote down, it matters. And whoever you miss, they matter even more. All of it was sacrificed, hopefully momentarily, for the community.

Last week I wrote about community and what that might look like after we put the COVID-19 crisis behind us. As I continue to reflect on this idea, it seems that sacrifice is an element of a healthy community.

Think about all of the people in our community who make sacrifices to sustain a healthy community: soldiers who protect our nation, first responders and health care workers who provide safety in the midst of an emergency, grocery store clerks who go to work and provide food despite being on the front lines of a global pandemic—the list goes on and on. You know exactly what I’m talking about because whoever you are and wherever you are reading this devotion, I know you are making a sacrifice too.

Jesus put it this way in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Sacrifice is a virtue, Jesus says, and what makes sacrifice so virtuous is because it is driven by love. Sacrifice is hard, but it’s worth it because we love the people who benefit from our sacrifice.  Parents make endless sacrifices for their children daily, but they aren’t keeping score. They sacrifice over and over again because they love their kids—that’s all they know and that’s all that really matters.

Sacrificial love, in its purest form, might look something like this from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

That’s a difficult definition to work with for love. Love isn’t easily angered? Because I’ve been angry many times in the past few weeks. Love doesn’t envy? Because I just want to be done with this and go back to my old life. And love isn’t self-seeking? Because I really need someone to give me some hope that this is going to get better soon. When I read those verses on love, I feel like I am failing in this department.

Sacrificial love is the answer to my failures. And more importantly, Jesus is the one who has the power to change my heart and allow me to love others in this manner. Sacrificial love enables me to look past myself, and the things I want. It then allows me to genuinely care for another human being in a deeper and more meaningful sense than I ever could on my own.

It means when I look a second time at that list of all the people and things I miss, I now can look at it through the lens of sacrificial love.  That lens is patient, and it is kind.  It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres.

It never fails. Period. And it is a love that is worth the sacrifice.

May God heal our nation and our world, and may God bless our community here at Lutheran West.
 
 
Chapel Message: Friday, March 20, 2020
Mike Waugh, Principal
 
"Community"
This devotion is based upon a reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
 
We need each other. What I’ve learned from the COVID-19 crisis is that those four words are true now more than ever before. We need daily, face-to-face interaction. We need to be able to give each other a high five, a handshake, a fist bump, and a hug. We need to be able to talk to someone in the same room and not just remotely through a screen. We need each other.

When I think about the word “community,” there are a lot of images that come to my mind. An audience gathering to watch a play or listen to a concert. A crowd of people cheering at a sporting event. Friends getting together to eat some food at a restaurant. A group coming together to support someone who is coping with a hardship or tragedy.

Students coming to school...

COVID-19 has taken these things from all of us, for now, and to be honest, that is becoming increasingly more difficult each day. There are a lot of emotions that start to rise to the surface when we really reflect on what is happening to all of us: fear, anxiety, frustration, and anger. All of these emotions are understandable, all are valid, and sometimes all four can take place over the course of just one day. We need hope.

My hope comes from knowing that we will be back together again soon. Soon may be defined by weeks instead of days - and while I struggle to cope with that timeline, I know that when we do get back together, the celebration will be just what each one of us needs. Community will restore everything that was lost.

Even more importantly, my hope comes from God telling us that community is the only answer to our current status. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 reads:

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

The “body” in this passage is synonymous with “community.” There are two key takeaways from the way that God defines community in this passage.

First, we see that community, real community in a perfect sense, means that people genuinely need to get along for community to really work. “There should be no division in the body.”  Well before COVID-19, our world was no stranger to being torn apart by division. These divisions have invaded the very fabric of our society. For some reason, we made it easier for people to disagree with one another rather than agree. Essentially, we created a society with division - the enemy of community.

The answer to healing these divisions comes in the second part of the passage. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” Basically, community takes work - it needs to be built. When people suffer, I have a choice to enter into their emotions and try to understand the true nature of their suffering. Will I help them? Will I ignore them? Do I care enough to engage their situation?

The end result, if I really want to do the hard work of building community on a daily basis, is joy.  “If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Joy is the output in this equation. If I live in a real community, then I have the opportunity to rejoice with my fellow members. We often don’t rejoice with strangers (I certainly never rejoice with Patriots fans when they win the Superbowl every year), but we do rejoice when someone in our community finds success. To get there - to get to the point where we care enough about each individual to suffer and rejoice with them, it takes work to overcome differences and see each other for who we really are. Only then can we have the community we desire.

When we get back together again, I don’t want the increased sense of community to go away.  I don’t want to go back to the way, “things used to be.” I want something better. I don’t want division - I want community. That is something really worth waiting for.

May God heal our nation and our world, and may God bless our community here at Lutheran West.
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