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Not Always Like "This" - By Pastor Thomas Engel


Driving down Lake Shore Drive gives the opportunity to take in some very scenic views. On one side of the drive is the city with its magnificent buildings, and on the other side is beautiful Lake Michigan.

When I am driving down Lake Shore Drive on a windy day, I like to watch the waves crash over the concrete barriers.

Not to rush talking about Christmas, but I’m looking forward to all the lights on the trees that line Lake Shore Drive.

If you are driving down Lake Shore Drive and admiring the scenes on the sides of you, you are only seeing them by using your peripheral vision.

Taking a drive down Lake Shore Drive is like driving a qualifying run at the Indy 500. With cars speeding by that are racing to somewhere, you know that you need to keep your eyes on the road.

I’m tempted to stomp my foot down on the gas pedal and join in on the race, but I’m going to take my time. With the leaves changing, I’m thinking that it’s such an awesome Autumn day to be driving down Lake Shore Drive.

Let others race to wherever they are going in such a rush. We can add to the number of things that we do in a day, but we can’t add any minutes to a day.

In our rushing, as we are trying to get a mountain of things done in our day, we might be missing some meaningful things that are right there in front of our noses.

Looking at a day, we need to slow down and even stop what we are doing-a stop and smell the roses kind of thing.

I have a question about life in general...Is it possible that our eyes are so intent on the road ahead of us, our hands are so tight on the wheel, and our foot is so heavy on the gas pedal that we can lose sight, even glimpses, of the beauty around us?

Every Sunday when we come to worship, it’s a stop and smell the roses kind of thing, but we go much deeper than just trying to see the good things in life.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m all for counting the blessings that we have in life. But, looking at what we have in life can be a little tricky.

To take a deep look at the world and our lives, let’s take a title of one of my favorite movies, the Classic Western Saga, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, starring a favorite actor, Clint Eastwood,

If we are looking at the “good” in life, we might say, “Wow! look at what I’ve done.” We give ourselves a pat on the back, and we are happy.

The tricky part is that “pat” on the back that we give ourselves can boost our egos so much that we might start thinking that we are number one in the crowd.

And we might get to the point that we get to thinking and asking, “If this much makes me happy, how much more can I get to make me even happier?”

When it comes to happiness, I’m always reminding myself what the long version of the Serenity Prayer says, “So that I may be reasonably happy in this life.”

It would seem that we should be going for all that we can do to be happy, but we have to go to the next part of the title of the movie-the “bad.”

Bad things just happen. As long as we are living on this earth, we have to live with the truth that bad things will happen.

Now, we can add the third word of the title-this truth is “ugly.” We live with the undesirable truth that because of the sins of every human being, bad things are the result.

Here is another tricky part of figuring out what life is about. When it comes to the ugly truth of bad, there are several things that don’t help the situations at all.

At first, in a bad time, we might put all the blame on ourselves, and we just might be the ones to blame. But, if we keep feeling the blame, we will be keeping ourselves down. And to be down in the dumps all the time is not good for anyone, especially ourselves.

Or we might do just the opposite, we put the blame on everyone else. Then, we get demanding, and when we don’t get our demands, resentment, bitterness, and anger fill the gap.

And one more thing, when we are facing the ugly truth of bad happening in our lives, we see them just as something to get through, instead of seeing them as a possibility for an opportunity for growth.

With no doubt, living with the certainty that bad things will happen to us is undesirable, but for bad things to happen is inevitable.

If we are looking at the world right now that is dealing with a pandemic, economic troubles, and social unrest, we could say it is a good time to fix our eyes on the here and now.

For if we don’t pay close attention to the matters at hand, these concerns could become even bigger problems that will overwhelm us.

The world and our lives can be one trouble after another. And it seems like a good argument to make that we need to keep our eyes on the road, hold on tight, and keep going faster, for if we slow down, all hell will break loose.

For all hell to literally break loose is exactly what Satan wants to happen. He wants chaos and everything to be in a number of messes. Satan wants evil to dominate the world and every person.

Looking out at the world, it seems that Satan is getting his way.

At times, it may look that nothing good is happening in our lives. Although the ugly truth is that bad things do happen, it does not mean that bad is dominating and taking over our lives.

The reality is that it will not always be like this. The world and our lives are moving. And at times, it seems that we are stagnating in so much trouble, or we are moving so quickly out of control.

But, we are moving towards a goal that is certain for us. When each of us will get there, we don’t know, but we will reach the goal of our faiths-an eternal life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today, as we remember our loved ones who have died in the faith and who are now seeing Jesus face to face, we also imagine ourselves one day in heaven as they are now.

All Saints’ Day is a stop and smell the roses kind of day. But, we go deeper than smelling roses.

Today, we stop and see our loved ones and see them, as much as we can, having complete joy and peace as they are with Jesus and are reunited with all their loved ones who have gone before them in the faith.

At a funeral, I always feel awkward as I am seeing people with tears in their eyes, and I know that they are missing their loved one, but I have to say we can have joy that our loved one has reached their goal that he or she has had since their baptism.

At our baptism, we became children of God and are to live lives as God’s children, but it’s really all about going to heaven one day.

What seems so awkward at a funeral and here today is talking about how that we, too, will be having a funeral someday.

I’m feeling like I’m such a bearer of bad news. The ugly truth is that we are going towards our graves. And this truth is bad because death is caused by our sin.

If we keep looking at only the world and our lives, we will only see all that is wasting away.

We want more than what we are seeing in the world and our lives. On All Saints’ Day, we make a stop and see Jesus as the Christ who has come to take our sins away by his death and resurrection.

Like our loved ones who believed in this good news, we will see heaven, Jesus, and our loved ones again.

It’s true the earth is groaning and we are getting old and are worn and tired, but in us, we have new work of faith that is renewed every day and is getting stronger.

God comes to us with His Words and Sacraments to assure of us the forgiveness of every sin, a renewed life, and the sure hope of eternal life.

My religion students at the school should know why Martin Luther nailed his theses on the church door on October 31st. The students should be able to tell you that Martin Luther thought that a lot of people would be in church on November 1st for All Saints’ Day.

It would be difficult to say what church holiday is most important-Christmas? Good Friday? Easter? Ascension Day?

All the days of Jesus’ life that we celebrate are important for they all are connected and tell a complete story of salvation.

It’s today on All Saints’ Day that we see everything come together, for we see how God’s children reach the goal of their faiths that Christ has won for them.

As it was with our loved ones, their lives didn’t stay the same. Our lives will not always be like this, but we will change as our loved ones who have died in the faith.

For all of our talk about heaven, we really don’t know so much about how we will enter it one day. Is there a gate and is St Peter the first one whom we see?

A popular Christian song asks, “Will we fall flat on the ground when we see Jesus, or will we dance? I don’t know. but I like to think about it from time to time.

When things are getting hard in this life, we can know that it won’t always be like this. We have a sure and certain hope. A day is coming when we will see our Lord face to face in heaven as our loved ones who have died in the faith are doing now.


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