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Cross Views

Window People

April 08, 2021
By Paul Emmel
Scale weighing justice and mercy
Above is the new chancel window in the Chapel of St. Timothy & St. Titus, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, to be featured in a subsequent article.

 

"In your light do we see light." Psalm 36:9

 
People are windows.
The light they shine
is not from within
but from above.
 
The clearest window
lets in the most light.
He was from above,
the Source of Light.
 
We look not at a window
but through a window.
There we see the Light
 that lightens our lives.
 
Paul Emmel

The First Week of Easter
2021

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

The Great Balancing Act of Life

March 26, 2021
By Paul Emmel

Scale weighing justice and mercy

 

Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe describes the balance between being compassionate towards people and holding them responsible for their own behavior.  He calls it "The Great Balancing Act of life." In his usual laconic style, Wolpe says that we must strive to be both merciful to others and, at the same time, hold them accountable for their decisions.

Maintaining such a balanced attitude is both difficult and counter-intuitive. It goes directly against human nature which pushes people to label others, prejudge them, and dismiss them as totally wrong or completely right. Moreover, emotions such as frustration, fear, anger, and false thinking such as idealism and tribalism cloud our thinking and knock people off balance.

Just as a teeter-totter does not work with total weight on one end, human relationships do not work when humans overemphasize judgment or mercy. Friendships, marriages, neighborhoods, and governments become dysfunctional when some degree of balance is not maintained.

The rush to generalize must also be resisted. Each person and each situation needs to be considered on its own merits. The aim of justice is to focus on a particular person in a particular circumstance, not to use stereotypes or past behavior as a basis for forming judgments whether legal or personal.

Worse yet, it is a mistake to assume we can fully know the motives of other people. We may judge behavior, but not character. Only God is qualified to judge the person. Withholding judgment seems divine and not human. "To err is human; to forgive is divine." Somehow we must adopt divine thinking.

Both Jewish and Christian theology support a dual view of human behavior. It is based upon the paradoxical character of Jahweh who is both completely just (holy) and completely merciful.  It is so easy to err on one side or the other in weighing the paradox of God's heart. To suppose God thinks like us is a form of idolatry.

Jesus always knew when to be compassionate and when to demand repentance. He was not fooled by smooth words and hypocrisy. He was capable of reading hearts. He knew whom to forgive and whom to hold responsible for their behavior. He was merciful to some and demanding  change of others. He possessed the divine mind.

When we closely follow Jesus, we are more likely to strike the balance between the extremes. When - not if - we err to one side or the other, we confess our imbalance. We may be corrected by the Holy Spirit touching our conscience, by faithful believers who model good balance in their lives and by the dynamic Word of Scripture.

During the great trial in Minneapolis, we have endless opportunities to practice "The Great Balancing Act of Life." We need to be compassionate while holding people accountable for their behavior, regardless if they are on the witness stand or demonstrating in the streets. This will not be easy as there are always voices without and forces within urging us to rush to judgment.

We pray for wisdom to know when and how to be compassionate and when and how to be calling for change and justice. That is our challenge in the coming weeks of the trial and in the days of our entire lives.

Paul Emmel

Minneapolis
March 13, 2021

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

A Prayer When We Are Stressed And Anxious

March 22, 2021
By Paul Emmel

 

Dear God,
I know that You watch over me
and You are there for me,
but I still have fears.
 
The future seems so full of dangers
like crime, riots, pandemic, pollution of air and water.
There are personal fears, too,
like losing a loved one,
being incapacitated, accidents, sickness and death.
Or, I get anxious about how I am doing,
 what people think of me.
Help me to put these fears into Your hands
and leave them there.
 
I thank You that I can face the fear of death
courageously because of Christ's resurrection.
What a marvelous thing it is to know
that Your Son has gone to prepare a place for me
in Your house of many mansions.
 
Father, Your word tells me that love casts out fear.
I am praying for much more love,
more for You and others.
Let my love be patient and kind,
not jealous or boastful.
I pray that I may not be arrogant or rude.
May I not insist on my own way
or become irritable and resentful.
Help me not to take pleasure in the wrong,
but rejoice in the right.
 
I realize that if I love You the most,
I can love others the best.
So I pray for the Holy Spirit
to deepen my love for You.
May the passion of my life be to love You
with all my heart, soul, and mind.
 
Then my fears will decrease
and I can live with less anxiety
and more peace.
In the name of Jesus, I pray,
who is Lord of all.
Amen!
 
Paul Emmel

March 20, 2021
The Fifth Week of Lent

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

Prayer of a Struggling Christian

March 08, 2021
By Paul Emmel

 

Lord, help me to be compassionate
and sensitive towards all whom I meet.
Where there is bitterness,
let me show kindness.
Where there is despair,
let me bring hope.
Where there is doubt,
let me bring faith.
May I always be an instrument of Your peace.
 
But, Lord, You know it isn't only others who have struggles.
I also have struggles, struggles with myself.
Sometimes I have no feelings toward You at all
and could care less about most everything
even myself.
 
It is not easy to remember how much You love me
and how important I am to You.
That is why I thank You so much
for the gifts of the Scriptures,
prayer, the Lord's Supper,
and fellowship with other believers
through which Your Spirit renews
and recharges my faith and love.
 
Give me the ability to fight
the good fight of faith
when I feel swamped by the demands
and busyness of life.
Help me to be free from
the tyranny of the urgent.
May I always live by the Spirit.
 
Through Him who loved me
and gave Himself for me,
even Jesus Christ, Your Son,
I pray, Amen!
Paul Emmel

III Sunday in Lent
March 7, 2021

 

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.  

 

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