In this post:

Bulletins for Sunday
Taking Faith Home Handouts
COVID status of the church
Immerse
Racism and the Backfire Effect

 

The Bulletin for 

  • Sunday, August 30th, can be found HERE
The ‘Taking Faith Home’ Handout for 

  • Sunday, August 30th, can be found HERE

 

COVID in Wharton County
 

Praise God with me! 

Praise God and look at this, please.

 

This is a clip showing the percentage of positive COVID tests for the last two weeks in Wharton County. The dotted line is a trendline, that shows the average direction of all the data in the graph. For the first time since June, that trendline is not rising.  Even in June, that only lasted less than a week.  Ideally, the average should be below 5% – but this is still finally moving in the right direction.

 

I also rejoice that the group of hospitals that I references last week now report that their ICUs are (collectively) at 93% capacity, with only 23% occupied with COVID-19 patients!

 

Last week, I wrote an incredibly painful notice that the elders and I met and decided to continue to not meet in person for worship.  Writing that brought no joy. Today I write that there is a very real possibility that we can meet and worship together in person the first Sunday of September.

 

We will still have health protocols to follow – being careful to wash our hands, maintain physical distance, and wearing a face covering.  These last few weeks I’ve met several times with Congregational President Philip Wuthrich. We will meet again and coordinate information and updates in next week’s email.

 

You are my church family. I humbly ask for your prayers, your patience, and your understanding as we work towards the day when we meet in person again.

 

Rev. Lutjens

 

IMMERSE

 
As part of our own exposure to God’s Word, a group has started to read Immerse: Messiah again. This will allow us to read through the entire New Testament in 16 weeks, with an average of 30 pages a week.

 

This week we are reading pages 190-220 our books. This will cover Romans, Philemon, Colossians, and part of Ephesians.  We will then meet on Monday evenings at 7:00pm via video chat and phone for our discussions of the readings.

 

Anyone is still invited to participate with us. If you need a new copy of the book, please reach out to me, as I have several extra copies in my office.

 

For those participating, there are lots of resources available here: https://www.tyndale.com/sites/immersebible/messiah-resources/ , including an audio recording of the readings, if you prefer to listen.

 

There’s also an introductory video for this week’s readings, which can be found on the page above, or right here: https://youtu.be/OOEefWXT6bQ

 

Everyone is welcome to send an email to me at any time during the week with any questions, concerns, or insights you find. I can either answer them or bring them up during a weekly meeting.

 

For our video chat, here’s the information from the software we’re using for this:
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://www.gotomeet.me/StJohns-Wharton

 

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3112

 

Access Code: 841-954-213

 

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:

https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/841954213

If you use the computer, tablet, smartphone, you’ll be able to see me and anyone else using a webcam. You *don’t* have to use a webcam if you don’t want to.  If you prefer to just call in, use the phone number and access code.

 

 

Racism and the Backfire Effect

 

Over the past several weeks I’ve written a few articles dealing with what is called ‘systemic racism’ or ‘institutional racism.’   I’ve shared the broad outlines of the Biblical teachings that racism is in fact sinful and against God’s design for the world. That point has been generally met with ‘Well, yeah, of course!’

 

I’ve highlighted the stories of two people of color, Lori Lakin, and Amber Ruffin, where they share their experiences of being treated differently in a myriad of different situations based on their skin color.   Some who have read this have let me know that it was new information for them, and they appreciated the perspective. Others have let me know that they think I am bringing up politics, and find what I am writing to be inappropriate for my position as pastor.  Let me say this very plainly: In no part of this am I accusing individual members of the congregation of racism towards individuals. Such individual racism is often obvious because it is so overt.  I am saying that there are forms of racism that are less obvious, and far more subtle, where racism gets embedded as normal practice within society or an organization.

 

Why bring this up? Two reasons. (Well, there are many reasons, but I’ll list two here.)  The first is that the LCMS in convention last summer endorsed some remarkable marching orders for our church. This is 2019 Resolution 11-04a, “To Affirm the Common Humanity of All People and Ethnicities.” The first ‘resolved’ opens with the mandate: “That Synod in convention publicly condemn the sin of racism in all its manifestations.”  You can view the full text in both English and Spanish.  This resolution is the will of our collective church.

 

The second reason is something that I have written before. We cannot refuse to confront a problem by denying that it exists.  Denial involves a refusal to recognize, confess, and repent of sin. When we deny sin, God cannot enter with his forgiveness and healing power. We then become victims of our own self-deception.  This is therefore a matter of grave spiritual consequences. Thank God that he is merciful and just, and promises that he “will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

 

This series started as a response to the death of George Floyd in May, and the subsequent protests that have happened in every state in the USA and in many countries around the world.  The goal of this series is not to echo the 24 hour news cycle, but to give perspective on WHY this upheaval is happening and give us the tools to respond as Christians with wisdom and nuance.

 

Doing so can be a painful process. Indeed, simply hearing about new information can cause us to react with anger.   This is due in part to something called ‘The Backfire Effect’ which tends to make us reject or distort new and uncomfortable information.

 

Today I would like to share with you a comic on the ‘Backfire Effect’.

 

This comic is a copy of one that used to hang in my classroom for my students to read. It is written and drawn by Matthew Inman, who writes incredibly silly online comics under the title ‘The Oatmeal’.   While I’d prefer to include all the images of the comic in this posting, I found that not all email or browser programs displayed everything properly.  I invite you to read this comic directly from the official website  The Backfire Effect by The Oatmeal

 

If you need prayer, comfort, or simply want to talk, please do not hesitate to give me a call or email. My cell phone is 979-488-4560 and you can call or text.

I remain your servant in Christ.

Rev. R.W. Lutjens