• Excerpt from April, 2020 "The Mountain Top Messenger" newsletter...

    I pray this newsletter finds you all well. It is indeed an interesting time that we are living in. I don't think anyone would have imagined a month ago that today we would all be living under an order to stay at home and avoid human contact...

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April 2020 "The Mountain Top Messenger" Newsletter
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I pray this newsletter finds you all well. It is indeed an interesting time that we are living in. I don't think anyone would have imagined a month ago that today we would all be living under an order to stay at home and avoid human contact. As well as being challenged in so many aspects of our lives it can also be a bit scary. With all of the doom and gloom information that seems to be streaming out of our televisions and on the internet it is hard to sort fact from fiction, underestimation from over-exaggeration. My personal thought is to err on the side of caution. I pray often that the Lord watches over me and those around me, but I also know that he would expect me to use all of the resources around me to protect myself as well. I truly believe common sense is a gift from God and we really need to use it, particularly at a time like this. As I was writing this, I was looking for something inspiring to share, to help strengthen you and help lead you through this, and was at a bit of a loss. Unfortunately, (well maybe fortunately) this is my first pandemic and pearls of wisdom were simply not flowing. So, my thought was where could I go to find such things. Facebook is full of meme's and other bits of wisdom and wit, but also, you're never quite sure where those come from. I decided to look at older and perhaps more authoritative sources.

peace First, I remembered a book I had received when I started at the seminary, a gift from Lutheran Hour Ministries. The book is called What Luther Says, 1667 pages of wit and wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther. Luther was a survivor of a pandemic, as a matter of fact his daughter died from that plague. As I began to look at Luther's writings I wondered how do I narrow down my search, so I decided to focus on a few words that might express how we are feeling, so I searched on fear, sadness, sickness, trials, and worry. These were a couple of my favorites: Fear; Whatever fear still assails us is either a temptation of Satan or a remnant of the old man, for in Christ there can be nothing but supreme assurance and joy. Sadness; The deeper a person is sunk in sadness and emotional upheavals, the better he serves as an instrument of Satan. For our emotions are instruments through which he gets into us and works in us if we do not watch our step. It is easy to water where it is wet. Where the fence is dilapidated, it is easy to get across. So Satan has easy access where there is sadness. Therefore one must pray and associate with godly people. Trials; This is truly the noblest directive of all in times of tribulation, a teaching of pure gold and the best of advice, which can rescue us from every evil, when in tribulation we can say that God is in the right and can bless and praise Him, as the example of the three men in the fiery furnace shows (Daniel 3). "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day" (Dan. 9:7) It is incredible how efficacious a remedy this praise of God is in times of danger; for as soon as you begin to praise God, the evil lessens, confidence grows, and calling upon God in faith follows. And this one on which I will close is my favorite, Worry; Let him, then, who wants to be a Christian by all means learn to believe and to exercise and demonstrate his faith in his affairs, both physical and spiritual, in what he does and in what he endures, in life and in death. Let him divest himself of care and fearful apprehensions, vigorously and confidently flinging them aside, but not into a corner, as some vainly mean to do; for when cares cling to the heart, they cannot be flung aside in that way. Let the Christian learn to cast both his heart and his cares upon God's back, for God has a strong neck and strong shoulders; He can easily carry the load. Moreover, He has commanded us to commit our cares to Him. Nor can we lay and cast too much upon Him; He only likes it even more. And He also promises that He will carry your cares and concerns for you. This is truly a splendid promise and a beautiful and precious statement — if we only believed it... For what is better and nobler than a calm and peaceful heart? All men strive and labor for that. We, too, have hitherto done so. We have run here and there in search of a peaceful heart, yet we have found it nowhere but in the Word of God. This Word bids us cast our cares and concerns upon God and thus seek peace and rest.

So as I close I thank Dr. Luther for his words, I hope that you find them helpful, and along with those I close with one of my favorite scripture verses which ties in nicely with both the above words and of our trying times. It comes from Matthew chapter 6: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?’ or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

My friends I ask God's blessings upon you. I want to remind you that we will stream the last Lenten midweek service on Wednesday April 1st at 6:30pm, Palm Sunday will be Sunday April 5th at 9:00am, Maundy Thursday will be at 6:30pm on the 9th, Good Friday at 6:30pm on the 10th and Easter morning at 9:00am on April 12th. You can watch these live on Facebook, or they will also be listed on our church website (zionashland.org) the following morning. We also now have a smartphone app for both iPhone and Android, you can get it in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, the name of the app is Zion Lutheran Ashland. Thank you for all your support and prayers during this time of uncertainty, I am keeping all of you in my prayers and ask that you do the same.

My friends; The Lord bless and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.

Pastor Rick