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May 2019


Dear Partners in Ministry,


As we bask in the light of the Easter celebration and the reaffirming power of the resurrection story retold, why is it that it might appear to the novice onlooker that Easter has less impact on us than the events of our current American Idol, the effects of the long awaited Mueller report, or the current border security crisis?  Although each of these events may have dramatic consequences on many of our lives, it is not hard to recognize that, for so many, its impact wanes every day.  It is like sand, sifting through an hourglass. It slowly diminishes in significance, until it is merely a historic marker in time - like the deaths of President Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 9/11, the Columbine school shooting 20 years ago; and even close to home just 6 months ago - the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA.  Then the next tragic event takes place and turns the world upside down, such as the devastating bombing in Sri Lanka on Easter morning and the fire at Notre Dame.  We are a culture immersed in the here and now that draws us in on what is pressing for the moment, but what does that say about our long term need for reconciliation, being the sinners that we are, in desperate need of a savior? 


Is it possible that, through the retelling of the story of Godís almighty act of salvation, we have become deadened to its majesty, power, and significance - as with the events of 9/11?  For those of us who profess a faith in the living God, who saves us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, this has a tragic consequence and eternal ramifications.  Often, we have the tendency to become numb to the facts that we hear and see daily, losing sight of its power; and, therefore, are seen impotent in the worldís eyes.  We call ourselves Christians not because of what we were but because of whose we are.  Christ offers us hope in a world that so desperately needs it, both on a personal level and a collective level.  An act of kindness is so much more compelling than a good intention or even a kind word or thought.  We become so neutralized by all the abuses in our world (and to be sure there are many), that we have lost sight of the overwhelming power of grace and forgiveness which can transform us daily.


We believe in a resurrected Lord, who acted on His love for His people.  Even in the face of our rejection, denial, and insults, He stood firm in His love for us.  Now, I know that we are not Christ, but that does not mean that we should not attempt to follow His example.  We have so many opportunities before us every day.  May this Easter not pass as just a marker in time but as a realization of our oneness with Him!  May our resolve - both as individuals and as a congregation - be to truly follow in His footsteps.


Read the following e-mail story for an interesting and challenging perspective.  In Godís eyes, we are worth redeeming.


In Christís Love,


John J. Gropp, Pastor



There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit.


Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak. "I was walking through town yesterday, when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.


I stopped the lad and asked, "What have you got there son?" "Just some old birds," came the reply. "What are you gonna do with them?" I asked. "Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered.  I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight.  I'm gonna have a real good time."


What will you do then?" "Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds.  I'll take 'em to them."


The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"


"Huh??!!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister.  They're just plain old field birds.  They don't sing - they ain't even pretty!"


"How much?" the pastor asked again. The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"  The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill.  He placed it in the boy's hand.  In a flash, the boy was gone.


The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot.  Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.


Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story:

"One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation.  Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.


"Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there.  Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist.  Got 'em all!"


"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.  Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun!  I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse.  I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other.  I'm really gonna have fun!"


"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked.


"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.


"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.


"Oh, you don't want those people.  They ain't no good.  Why will you take them, they'll just hate you.  They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you!!  You don't want those people!!"


"How much?" He asked again.


Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your tears, and all your blood."


Jesus said, "DONE!"  Then He paid the price.


The pastor picked up the cage, he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit."


Some Thoughts:

Isn't it funny, how simple it is for people to trash or ignore the presence of God and then wonder why the world's going to hell?

Isn't it funny, how we believe what the current internet news cycles and newspapers say, but question what the Bible says?

Isn't it funny, how everyone wants to go to heaven, provided they do not have to believe, think, say, or do anything the Bible says?


Isn't it funny, how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing?


Isn't it funny, how the lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene pass freely through cyberspace and, how in public, you can curse using Godís name - but a public discussion, or giving of praise in Jesusí name, is suppressed in our schools, work places and, frequently, where we socialize?




Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773