All posts by The Rev. Don Seekins

Fr. Don has served as a professional chaplain at Mountain States Health Center Trauma I hospital, Smyth County Community Hospital and Niagara County Hospice over the last five years. Prior to being ordained as a Deacon and Priest in 2009 Fr. Seekins served as a pastoral assistant for many years.

5th Sunday of Easter

Water

Let us pray; Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ we come before you in this place of worship to obtain your life giving water. Please refresh our spirit with your forgiveness and constant love. Help us to receive your word that it may direct our thoughts and actions. In your name we pray. Amen.
I’m sure each of you has seen the tragic events of the last few weeks unfold in great detail on your television screens, over the internet, in newspapers, through tweets on your phones or through Facebook. The tragedies in Boston, Texas and other locations remind us of the fragility of our lives and how quickly they can be forever changed.
On a mildly foggy Sunday morning in late April a mother, father and their son were driving their family van down a country road to attend their regular church services. Coming from the other direction a Ford 150 pickup truck started to cross the double yellow line. The family van veered toward the shoulder of the road in an attempt to avoid a head on collision but the pickup continued across the yellow line and struck the family van head on, striking the driver side door post. As a result of the collision the front axle of the pickup was dislodged and ripped free of the truck, the van’s front wheel drive engine and axle were torn from their position and the driver’s side of the van was caved in. The mother and son sustained some cuts and bruising that were treated to heal in a few days; the father, who was the driver of the van, had a collapsed lung, shattered ribs (nearly puncturing his heart), compound fracture to his leg, puncture wound breaking the lower leg, fractured elbow, fractured wrist, hyper extended shoulder, glass embedded in various places on his body and various cuts and abrasions. The father was to spend 8 weeks in the hospital and another year in recovery. Later it was learned the driver of the pickup truck had spent the night before the accident at his to be brother in laws bachelor party drinking the night away and driving home on that fateful Sunday morning.
All of these events can crush lives, causing such grief and turmoil that they never recover. But these events can also become the vehicles that allow God to enter in and change lives forever. How can we assure ourselves that we can withstand great difficulty in life? Is it even possible? I say we need to fill our spiritual canteens with the life giving water. When we enter into deserts of destruction and upheaval we can be more prepared to survive. The deserts to be survived might not be our own but that of a close friend or family member.
In John 7:37 Jesus said; “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
We as mere mortals are not able to know the mind of God except through the teaching we have been given through scripture. Scripture opens our minds to the mind of God and says that during times of great distress we will not be alone; our hearts will be filled with rivers of living waters; filled with God’s love and spirit that reassures us of a greater good as the purpose for our lives.
Psalm 16: verse 8 we read
8 I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Matthew 28
20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Psalm 23: 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

2 Corinthians 4: 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4: 16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

These verses give us great strength, lifting our spirits during the darkest of times. Over and over again we hear stories of great pain that turns into God’s spirit of great joy being brought to others.
This week we heard about the man with a boat in his back yard. One of the Marathon bombers was found hiding in his boat, the man called police and gun fire ensued and his boat was shot full of holes. People felt sorry for the man and raised funds to buy him a new boat. The man has turned the funds over to help the victims of the bombing. He could have enjoyed a new bigger boat, because he had really loved his boat, but God led him to love his neighbors; those in greater need.
In our lives we are faced with many difficult situations; family relationships that fall apart, jobs that have been lost, personal health that fails. How do we continue on through these difficulties?
Scripture helps us giving us direction and reassurance as in
Our Epistle lesson from Revelation 21:1-6 which reads;
I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
We have only a few choices when difficulties or calamities strike us; we can give up and sit on the side of the road and let life go by, we can become cynical and pull those around us into the deserts we are contending with or we can trust in God to be with us to provide the spring of the water of life that will assure us we are not alone.
How do we reach out to God during the difficult times; we are given His word. Through His word we are reassured of His love for us. That He is always present with us. The man that laid in ICU for a week and then spent another seven weeks in the hospital and the next year in recovery experienced God’s presence in the hospital room while praying and reading daily scripture. God gave healing to the man and changed his life forever. The man went on to go to seminary and serve in missions, hospitals and hospices bringing the life giving water to thirsty people. God has received such glory through the life giving water that fills many people’s lives and is shared during times of difficulty.
God calls each of us today to drink from scripture, to leave the deserts of our lives and experience the great joy of lives that love each other. We are afforded such lives as a result of the sacrifice our savior Jesus made on the cross; dying for our sins, rising from the dead conquering death and sin and ascending into heaven where He makes a place for us where no one will be thirsty and no one will ever experience the deserts found in our earthly lives. God bless each of you today and always.

Second Sunday of Easter

Risen Christ

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! This Lord’s day, wherever you are, no matter what may be your worry or fear, a risen Savior, a conquering Christ, comes to you and says, “Peace be with you.” In faith, that peace–Christ’s peace–can be yours.

Not so long ago I read about a woman who had driven about 50 miles to visit an old friend. They had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, when it was time to go home, she found out that her keys were locked in the car. Normally, in her town that would be no problem. But where she was, there was no auto dealership that might have a master key for her vehicle. The local locksmiths, after some conversation, said they couldn’t help her. Finally, as her worries increased, and having rejected the idea of trying to break a window, the lady resorted to her last resort. She called her husband.

As she stood by the side of her locked car, she continued to talk with her sympathetic friend. They discussed how her hubby would never, ever, let her forget this little incident. It was during the course of their sensitive sharing that her friend tried one of the back doors and found it to be open. Quickly, the lady got on her cell phone to call her husband, but he was already on his way to rescue her. Worried, the friend commented. “If your husband was going to be upset with you for having to make the drive out here because you locked your keys in your car, just how angry is he going to be when he finds he made the trip for no reason at all?” To which the lady replied, “I don’t think he’ll be upset at all. That’s one worry I can take care of.” And with that, she stepped over to the car, locked the back door, and slammed it shut.

It probably would be a wonderful thing if we could all take care of all our worries by pushing a button and slamming a door. Unfortunately, most of our worries don’t seem to be so easily solved. Think about it. When you share your worries with a friend, they usually say something sympathetic like, “Hey, hang in there, this is going to be all right. Things will work out just fine. You’ll see. You’re worrying about nothing.” Occasionally they will say, “Hey, things could be worse, you know,” and then they tell the story of somebody who had things so bad that, in comparison, the Old Testament sufferer Job, would have felt pretty good about his situation. I’ve seen people, people on their deathbeds, who wanted to talk about their leaving this world, and the family stopped all conversation by saying, “Don’t talk that way. You’re going to beat this thing and get better. You’re just having a temporary setback.”

Now, I know and you know that all of those speakings and sayings are offered with the best of intentions. But those sayings, no matter how sincerely they are given, are in the final analysis, and when all is said and done, pretty empty and meaningless. There is nothing behind those words other than hope and a belief that sometimes things simply just can’t get any worse. We don’t know that things will get better. We don’t know that these worries will dissolve. We don’t know that these concerns will dissipate. We have to confess that when we say, “Things are going to be fine,” we have no way of making that happen, and we don’t have the ability to make our worries go away.

Worry. A number of years ago (August 22-24,1997), the Sunday supplement magazine, USA Weekend, ran a cover story titled: “Fear: What Americans are Afraid of Today.” After interviewing what was said to be a scientific cross-section of the country, the magazine listed the things that Americans feared the most. Fifty-four percent said they were afraid or very afraid of being in a car crash. Fifty-three percent were afraid or very afraid of having cancer. Fifty percent were afraid Social Security would fail. Forty-nine percent were afraid of not having enough set aside for retirement. Thirty-six percent were afraid of getting food poisoning from meat. Thirty-five percent were afraid of coming down with Alzheimer’s. Thirty-four percent were afraid of pesticides and their food, and 33% afraid of becoming a victim of personal violence. Thirty-two percent were afraid of being unable to pay their debts, and 25% were afraid of natural disasters. When people were asked about the cause of their worries, nine out of ten confessed they thought the world is less safe today than it was when they grew up. Almost half felt they were unsafe taking a nightly stroll within a half-mile of their home. Twenty percent of all the people said they were afraid of being struck down by a terrorist bombing while they were in a public place. Now understand, that poll was made before the tragedy at Columbine High School; it was made before the terrorist tragedy of 9-11; it was made before the tsunamis that rocked the world. The world has changed since that poll was made. People’s fears have changed since 1997. One thing hasn’t changed. People are still afraid. People still worry.

We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Worry has been part of our psyche since sin entered the world. After Adam and Eve chomped down on the forbidden fruit, they were afraid to meet with their Maker. Their son Cain was afraid that people might murder him. Jacob was afraid his brother might kill him; Moses was afraid God’s people might not listen to him; King David was afraid his son might overthrow him; Elijah was afraid that he was the only believer left; Christ’s disciples were afraid that the same Jewish leaders that had worked so successfully, so efficiently in bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus, might now be looking for them. Was their fear legitimate? There is nothing in Scripture which indicates that they were marked men; nothing which shows they needed to hide behind locked doors. Of course, fear does not have to be based on fact, to make a person tremble. People who are afraid of flying may know, statistically they are safer in the air than they are in their own automobile, but that knowledge doesn’t take away their fear. The average person may know that the audience to which he is speaking will not really start shouting nasty comments, or rush the stage with intent to do him bodily injury. Still, most people are afraid to speak in public. Most children know that a bad report card will not cause mother and father to take their names out of the will and send them off to an orphanage. Still, that doesn’t stop them from fearing the day the postman delivers that bad progress report to the family’s mailbox.

No, fear doesn’t have to be based on fact to be real. Fear is fear and worry is worry. They come. They are there. And that is the way it was for the disciples who, after Jesus’ crucifixion, locked themselves away. Their fear told them, “Keep a low profile; keep your head down; try to blend into the woodwork and wait for this whole Jesus thing to blow over.” Considering their situation and their worries, it was probably a good plan. It might have been a most effective plan, except for one totally unanticipated, relatively major glitch in their plan: Jesus showed up. Now they shouldn’t have been surprised. Jesus had said that He would rise on the third day, but when He said those words, His disciples didn’t understand. That’s why, when beaten Jesus, whipped Jesus, spit-upon Jesus, nail-pierced and crucified Jesus, a-spear-through-His-side Jesus showed up, they thought they were seeing a ghost. Was it wishful thinking or mass hysteria? No, it was neither of those things. This was a living Jesus who miraculously brushed past locked doors and stood among them. This was a resurrected Jesus who was able to talk to them; who ate with them; who held out His nail-pierced hands to them; who showed them the heart wound between His ribs. That Jesus showed up and said, “Peace be with you.”

When Jesus said, “peace,” He was saying to those who heard Him: “be well”; “be whole”; “be at rest.” Now coming from anybody else other than the Son of God, the world’s Redeemer, those words would be no more than wishful thinking and upbeat optimism. Coming from Jesus, they are everything. Hundreds of years before He was born, the prophet Isaiah (9:6) promised the Messiah would come, and He would be “the Prince of peace.” When the angels announced His birth to the shepherds who were watching their flocks in the fields of Bethlehem, they said that He would be “good news of great joy” for the entire world. They promised that He would bring “God’s peace to men on whom the Lord’s favor would rest.”

Time and again, when He had been doing ministry, Jesus had shown His Divine ability to bring peace in the most unlikely situations. When the disciples were caught in a ship-sinking storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus spoke to wind and wave commanding, “Peace, be still”; and the storm was silenced. When a woman who had had an unclean issue of blood for 12 years was healed by touching His robe, Jesus said, “go in peace, your suffering is at an end.” When a woman who had led a questionable life worshipped Him, He silenced her detractors, forgave her sins, and sent her out to lead a new life, a forgiven life of peace (Luke 7).

And now, three days after His Body had been bruised and battered; three days after He had declared His work of redemption finished; three days after He had died, He stood once more before His disciples and said, “Peace.” At that moment the world of the disciples changed. They had visible, tangible proof of God’s power. No longer would death be the ultimate cause of fear. No longer would the devil have the last word. No longer would they be alone. No longer did they have to be afraid. The Christ who had conquered the grave, even as He had with His perfect life and Godly power, conquered suffering and sin, would defeat their dreads as well. That day, they knew Jesus’ commendation of peace was not just a wishful word, it was backed by living, resurrected proof.

It was with that proof the disciples were transformed. One day they were hiding in fear of their lives, a short time later, after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, they became lions for the Lord. Confronting councils and kings, they shared the story of the Savior’s salvation. They told all who would listen, and many who would not, that recovery and redemption is guaranteed to all who, by the Spirit’s power, have faith in the atoning Lord. When they were told to keep silent, they replied, “We must obey God, rather than men.” When their lives were threatened, they, and those who came after them, fearlessly replied, “Do your worst; my Lord has already done His best.” They were unafraid, un-intimidated; they were unstoppable. Which is why, as a distant inheritor of the message of peace, the disciples pronounced with such boldness, I want you to know, that the peace which Jesus brought to that locked room of disciples is still there. Jesus still comes and says, “Peace be with you.”

It was a number of years ago I heard about a woman who was washing dinner dishes. She got toward the end of the pile and stopped. She stopped with a coffee cup in her hand, and asked herself, “How many times have I washed this cup?” Then she became afraid. She asked herself, “Is this all there is to life? Is this all I’m supposed to be?” The lady set down the cup, went to her bedroom, packed a small suitcase with a few of her belongings, and quietly walked out the front door.

That evening, from an undisclosed location, she called her husband and told him that she was physically all right, but she just couldn’t face her life and she wasn’t coming home. Worry and fear had a stranglehold on her. Eventually the husband hired a private investigator to locate his wife. It was easy enough for him to find her. She was holed up, liked the disciples, behind locked doors. She was in a budget motel in a city about 200 miles away. The husband, with the investigator’s report in hand, dropped off the children at grandma’s and went for a drive. He knocked on the door of his wife’s room, unsure as to how he might be received. He heard the lock turn and the door slowly opened. His wife looked at him in silence, and then fell sobbing into his embrace. She said, “When you called, I heard words. When you showed up, I knew how much you loved me. You had sought me out; you had come for me.”

When Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace”; when He speaks the same to you, you can be sure that He is not just uttering words and wishes. The love of God is more than so much sounding brass. Jesus, in love for us, sought us out by coming down from heaven. He came for us, became one of us, so that we might be forgiven, so that we might be saved. He showed His compassion and concern for us in the life He led; in the death He died; and in the resurrection which offers eternal life and everlasting peace to all who with repentant hearts, are turned to Him as their Redeemer, their Substitute, their Savior and Friend.

This is what I want you to know. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Jesus offers a powerful peace which is for all people. What is your worry? Take a moment. Think about it. Bring it to light. How long has that worry been hounding you? Robbing you of sleep and goading you with guilt? What is your worry that is robbing you of hope, happiness and good humor? What is that worry which is ruining your life? You have tried to push it down, push it away and deal with it. Worry isn’t so easy to get rid of. Still, Jesus comes and promises peace. By the Spirit’s power, believe with all your heart that Jesus, who has the ability to defeat death, who can ignore locked doors, has the power to conquer your worry as well. Believe that the Christ who gave His life for you on a cross 2,000 years ago, loves and wishes to help you.

The apostle Peter said it, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Peter should know. Peter had plenty to be worried about. He tried to talk Jesus out of dying for us; He fell asleep on His Master, when he had been asked to stay awake in prayer; he had, in the courtyard of the high priest, three times denied ever knowing his Lord. That is more than enough to worry about. Still, Jesus took all of Peter’s worrisome shortcomings and failings, forgave them, and empowered Peter to become one of His best and greatest witnesses. That life transforming change can be yours as well. Let the Lord take the worry off your shoulders. Cast your care upon Christ, knowing He cares for you.

The apostle Paul said much the same: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 excerpts). Paul be anxious? Paul should know about anxious. He, who once with a burning vengeance hunted down, arrested, and executed Christ’s followers, was given forgiveness. In Jesus, he found the peace of God which transcends all understanding. He was given God’s peace which dispels anxiety and recreates hearts, minds and lives. He was given Christ Jesus. The same Christ Jesus that should belong to you. The same Christ Jesus that can take care of your worries.

After the tsunami which took place, I read about a Christian lady, a resident of the Philippines, who seemed calm enough, even though all around her were worried. After things had begun to return to normal, some people asked her, “Aren’t you afraid of another earthquake and another tidal wave?” The lady quietly confessed, “No, I’m not. You see, I rejoice to know that I have a God Who is big enough and powerful enough to shake the world. If He’s big enough to do that; He’s big enough to take care of me.”

May the peace of our savior Jesus comfort you and give you the strength to reach out to those around you that are looking to shed the fears of this life. His peace will calm, you and me and all those who call on His name and believe.
Amen.

The Coming of the Son of Man

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Today is the beginning of the Church Calendar called Advent; a word anglicized from the Latin adventus meaning “coming“, is a season   observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

Expectant waiting;  Our gospel reading from Luke relates instruction given by Jesus in the temple to His disciples. Just prior to this reading Jesus has  been in the temple daily preaching to all those present that would listen, including the Sadducees and spies sent from the chief priests and Scribes. Jesus preached the parable of the Wicked Tenants (20: 9-18), Paying Taxes to Caesar (20:19-26), none are given in marriage in heaven (20:27-44), The widows offering (21:1-4).  He preached repentance, watchfulness and return to the worship of God. The messages time and time again spoke of the coming of the Son of Man.

In our Gospel reading we are instructed to be watchful and that many signs will be made visible to us. We are to be on guard; not to be weighed down with over indulgence, drunkenness, and the worries of this life; but to be alert at all times praying that we may have strength to escape all these things that will take place. 

We do not know the time or the hour that the second coming will take place, but we do know we need Him to come to us each day in our devotions, our prayers, our worship and our ministries; all of us who need His saving grace. We are His present day disciples that carry the message of the cross of Calvary, His rising from the dead and ascension to heaven where He waits his return and prepares a place for all those that are counted as his followers. 

Not so long ago, I read an editorial which had been sent into a newspaper. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share that writing with you and see whether you agree with the feeling which it tries to convey. This is what it said: “The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace — and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can’t endure much more!” Do you think that paragraph accurately describes the world or not? I ask because that quote was first published in The Atlantic Journal on June 16, 1833. Amazing! More than 175 years ago people were convinced society’s pressure was too great and the world’s pace was too fast. I guess some things just don’t change.

Some things just don’t change. Many of us would say that phrase with a sigh of disappointment; but I say amen. We can take great joy and solace that Christ‘s message is the same today as it was at his first coming. The Jewish nation was waiting for the coming of the Messiah, as we wait today for the second coming of the Messiah. The message by the prophets of the day was one of repentance and a return to belief and worship of the one true God. The call today for each of us is the same; one of repentance and worship of the one true God; of preparation for His coming.  

As stated in the Atlantic Journal of 1833 people are overcome by the pressures of the day. Those pressures can cause our attention to be directed away from God and His desires for us to serve and for His love to fill our lives and actions.

While I have been somewhat incapacitated I have had time to review some of my small library’s contents. I have become fascinated by the lives of the religious that first inhabited the deserts shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus. The part of their lives that has most fascinated me are the methods used to direct their daily lives to prayer and devotion even while they worked at various tasks.

One of the main methods used to help them concentrate on God and their relationship with Him was through daily devotion to scripture reading and prayer. Not necessarily Bible Study, which is important, but reading and contemplating its meaning in our lives.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the message of scripture. Scripture helps us to prepare ourselves for the second coming of Jesus.  We learn His will for our lives in the words we read and contemplate and pray over.  I encourage each of you to open your Bibles and read of the coming of the Christ Child. Think of the times that this little Babe entered, to be presented to the world in the humblest of situations; lying in a manger. We can experience those moments of peace with thoughts of that little peaceful face looking up from His straw filled bed.

To a dark and death-filled world, we have shared how Jesus’ entire life was dedicated to restoring the broken relationship between the heavenly Father and His sinful children. Jesus took on a thankless job and was committed to completing this monumental undertaking. So many of the joys, the comforts, the conveniences, the pleasures of life that you and I have been given, which we often take for granted, were denied to Him. His best friends misunderstood His mission and the sacrifices He had to make for their salvation. The leaders of His community and church found Him a nuisance, an annoyance, an aggravation who needed to be eliminated. At His trial, the government authority who had been sent to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, in Jesus’ case, chose to do just the opposite. Which is why, on a Friday morning almost 2,000 years ago, the Son of God, the innocent Savior of the world came to be nailed to a Roman cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem. There Jesus paid the price for our sin; there He died the death our disobedience had deserved. There, six hours later, in lonely darkness, Jesus died. But He did not stay dead; no, He didn’t. Three days after He was buried, Jesus came back to life — and a living Lord Jesus keeps coming back.

            Which really is the point of this message: Jesus keeps coming back. It’s not all that important if you know when the end of the whole world is going to happen or when Jesus is going to judge the living and the dead. The truth is, the Bible is clear; you’re never going to know that unknown hour.

St. Paul said, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

My friends, I don’t know when the end is coming for this sinful world. Nor do I know when your own personal end will arrive. I do know if you have faith in Jesus as your Savior, those days, whenever they come, will not be frightening. His victory will be yours and you will experience His presence for all of eternity. Humble yourselves before Him each day in prayer and loving kindness to others.   

May God bless each of you as you reach out to those around you, that during this season we will all prepare and strengthen the presence of Christ within us. Amen