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January 22, 2015

Six Months are Not Enough!

Last Thursday Pastor Snyder kindly filled when our babysitter had to excuse herself (due to sick children at home and not wanting to spread the illnesses to Levi, which we HIGHLY appreciate!) so that Marie and I could go celebrate our anniversary.  We had a great time!  We went to a new-to-us restaurant in town, called Pelican's, and then went on to see 'Into the Woods' at the movies.  When we got home, Pastor had successfully put Levi to sleep and so we sat around talking for a little bit.  Finally, it was time for Pastor to head home, and as he closed the door behind him he said, "Happy Six Month-iversary!"

With those words my heart was struck.  It was indeed, exactly six months into my vicarage.  That meant that I had only six months left.  This thought has slowly crept into not only mine and pastors thoughts, but into the minds of others as well.  As we got to know each other the thought never entered our minds that this would come to and end.  It seemed that vicarage would go on forever.  It seemed that Wichita Falls was now my permanent place of residence.  In many, many ways Wichita Falls and Our Redeemer has become our home and the realization that it's already more than half over strikes hard.

Jokes have been made about vicar just not going back to school and staying.  After all, they are looking for someone to fill their youth director position.  The confirmation kids keep asking for reassurance that I will be here to see them confirmed.  A conversation the other day had to be halted between me and out Director of Christian Growth and Music because the reality was striking hard.  There will be a lot of tears shed on that day, when Marie and I finally have to pick up our bags and move on.  We only have six months left, and six months are not enough.

Heavenly Father, please bless my remaining time here at Our Redeemer.  Let me continue to form and deepen relationships with Pastor Snyder, the staff, and the members and live as though my departure will never come.  When that time comes, however, comfort us in the peace knowing that friends in Christ are friends forever, and if we do not see one another here in time, we will all see each other there in eternity.  Thank you for this amazing opportunity to learn and grow and experience being a servant of your Word and Church.  All this I pray in the name of the One who has reconciled us to Yourself, Jesus Christ, Your only Son, Our Lord.  Amen.

January 21, 2015

What I learned at BSF this week

Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) looked at the Day of Atonement this week. We spent quite a bit of our lesson drawing parallels between the sacrifices required to atone for the Israelites sins and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The sacrifice that took away the nation's sin (not the one required from Aaron the priest for his own sin) required two goats. Lots were cast to determine which goat was offered as a sin offering and which goat became the scapegoat. The goat for the sin offering was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the nation. After the priest laid his hands on the scapegoat's head and confessed the sin of the nation, the scapegoat carried the sins of the nation out into the desert as a symbol of the sin being completely removed from the people and forgiven by the Lord. We often think of Christ as the sacrificial Lamb, the sin offering for the world. But Christ is also the scapegoat. All our sins were placed on his shoulders. He was sent away from the Lord (instead of welcomed into the Father's presence as a perfect sacrifice) and descended into hell. Our sins that were laid on Christ were taken away from us and removed from the Lord's sight. They are now forgiven and forgotten. Thankfully, as the perfect unblemished sacrifice, Christ did not stay confined in hell. He rose again, doing what the Old Testament sacrifice couldn't: atoning once for all sins.

I also want to share a portion of the notes BSF have to me on Leviticus 9, the beginning of the priesthood. Leviticus 9 describes the sacrifices required to ordain the priests. "These sacrifices are a picture of what God requires of anyone who wishes to enter into a right relationship, worship and enjoy fellowship with Him. Christians can learn some important principles of true worship when we consider the order of the sacrifices.  The first priority in worship is cleansing from sin. This is what the sin offering shows. The burnt offering and grain offering point to the fact that we then must surrender our lives and our work to God. Finally, the peak of worship is intimate fellowship with God. The meal that was part of the fellowship offering is a picture of that intimacy."

I'm struck by this as the now familiar order of a worship service for LCMS Lutherans. We first confess our sins and receive forgiveness for them. Then we offer of ourselves to the Lord through praise, through offerings, through faith given to us by God. Finally, we celebrate true fellowship with the Lord during communion. This service feeds my soul and truly renews my fellowship with God because I have confessed my sins and Jesus' sacrifice allows them to be forgiven. I have attended many services that start with the assumption of fellowship with God and approach Him as such. There is no aspect of confession, no portion that recognizes that we are sinful humans and unworthy of approaching God with such freedom and fellowship until our sins are atoned for. These kinds of services are not spiritually edifying for me. They do not acknowledge the great divide that exists between sinful humanity and the perfect Lord.

Leviticus warns of the danger of approaching God in worship in a way that he has not ordained. Aaron's two sons died because they offered an unauthorized self. God gave specific, detailed instructions to the priests on how they may approach Him and what was required of them to do to atone for their sins so that they will not be struck down. Yes, Jesus has fulfilled all the atoning sacrifices, but that does not mean that Christians are suddenly holy. We are holy only in the forgiveness that Christ provides. We still sin and need to approach God after being cleansed from that sin. How would worship change of we all entered Gods presence using the Old Testament idea of sacrifice? First cleansing from sin. Then surrendering to Gods work in our lives through faith received in baptism. And finally, enjoying true fellowship with our holy Lord, true intimacy. 

January 14, 2015

Christmas, New Year's and Some New Beginnings

I'm sure your family can relate to the busyness of Christmas. It is no different for our family. In fact, it might be a little more busy since Timothy was preaching for all the mid-week Advent services at church. With his work requiring more attention and Levi becoming more rambunctious, I felt like there was never enough time to rest leading up to Christmas. We also hosted 10 of Timothy's family members the weekend before Christmas. It was lovely to have family in town to celebrate with us.

Christmas Eve was wonderful, even though I didn't get to light my candle (thanks, Levi, for being extra wiggly that night). I played "Greensleeves" with Scott and Linda during the pre-service music. Greensleeves happens to be one of my favorite Christmas tunes. Then I played "O Come, O Come Immanuel" while Timothy read the opening litany and some choir members sang. It was really powerful. I love when music is worked into a service beyond singing hymns. I am looking forward to playing in church more. After the Christmas concert with the Wichita Falls Community Orchestra, I decided to end my involvement with the group. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Nutcracker with them, but the rehearsal schedule was becoming too much for me to keep up with.

Timothy preached again on Christmas Day. It was only the second Christmas Day service that I have attended.... ever. Christmas Day service was not a tradition in my family growing up. I did enjoy celebrating Jesus' arrival with many of our church members that morning.

Boxing Day, a.k.a. the day after Christmas, we drove to Dallas to go to Medieval Times. Medieval Times is a dinner theater. We all enjoyed the show and the meal. Levi was enthralled by the horses and the competition. He also loved the chicken! It was the first time he has eaten a large quantity of meat. Our champion was the Blue Knight of Castle Valiente. Our knight did not win the tournament, but one of his companions did! So it was like winning. Levi has a souvenir sword now and likes to tournament Mommy and Daddy by chasing them around the house. Ever been chased by a squealing toddler with a sword? It's frightening!

New Years came and went without a hitch. We relaxed and went to bed on time. Timothy and I didn't even stay up until midnight. We're enjoying the days when we don't have to chaperone a child who wants to stay up until the new year.

Shortly after New Years, both Levi and I came down with the flu. We lost a week of our lives, no joke. We were both down for the count Sunday-to-Sunday. I'm now contemplating getting the flu shot next year...

This past week two major changes have occurred in the Roth household: I started a business as an Usborne Books and More consultant and Timothy decided to pursue chaplaincy with the Air Force. Both decisions have been coming a long time. My wonderful friend and now team leader had been nudging me to consider joining Usborne for several months. And now I've finally taken the plunge. Usborne Books is an award winning publisher. If you aren't familiar with them, take a look at their website: www.f4798.myubam.com. I'd be happy to chat with you as well.

Timothy had been toying with joining the military since high school, but tabled the thought when we started getting serious. He considered joining the chaplaincy candidate program during his first year at the seminary, but tabled the thought again when he couldn't get a recruiter to talk with him because he was not within the required weight range. On vicarage, we are within 15 minutes of an Air Force base. The second in command of the base just happens to be a member of the congregation. And in December, a new wing chaplain joined the base; he just happens to be an LCMS pastor. Conversations sprung up and Timothy's desire resurfaced. He has now talked to the Air Force recruiter in the area for the chaplaincy candidate program. Since we would be joining the program late in his seminary career, Timothy may need to extend his education by pursuing a STM degree. An STM is a separate master's program to gain a Master's of Sacred Theology. This is a more academic leaning degree than the Master of Divinity (which Timothy will obtain in May 2016). Timothy might also pursue a different counseling degree to delay his ordination in order to be part of the chaplaincy candidate program.

We also have another option. Timothy can graduate as scheduled in May 2016 with the Master of Divinity and join the Air Force reserves as a chaplain while gaining experience in the parish. After two years in the parish, he can choose to be called up to active duty and join the chaplain corps full time then. As our family weighs our options, please keep us in your prayers.