April 6, 2020
Dear Church Family,
Tom Dempsey is probably a name you don’t know. You probably could care less about him after watching this video. But let me tell you my history with him. My dad died on October 6, 1970. The video is from November 8, 1970. I watched it at Rich Brown’s house, my youth pastor. It was also another GO FIGURE of my childhood. Dad was dead. And the LIONS still sucked. They had demons attached to them—and still do. Tom Dempsey, an overweight field goal kicker with half a foot beat the LIONS.
It was a 63-yard field goal. I even shook my head in disgust at the LIONS at the age of 8. Watch—my LIONS never cause me anything but suffering.
Tom Dempsey died this week from COVID-19. That made me sad. He was 73. He beat my LIONS and did it with half a foot. He wasn’t a man that allowed his limitations to dictate how far he would go in life . . . or how far he would kick a football!!!
And you may think, “But that game was 50 years ago.” But no, it still continues. We sat in the love seat from which I write this letter on December 3, 2015. Carrie said, “Why are you still watching the LIONS on your computer. They are killing the Packers. You are wasting your time.” I said, “They are going to lose. With the LIONS the game is not over until the last whistle and it never goes their way.” She rolled her eyes. I kept watching. And so did she as the game approached the final seconds. Here it is . . .
I snapped my computer shut and said, “I told you so.” Carrie was speechless.
I have to pay attention to the LIONS each week even though I know the outcome. It will not be positive. And the video proves it and so did their record last year, 3-12-1. Only the Bengals were worse, 2-14.
We approach HOLY WEEK every year knowing the outcome just like me watching the LIONS. Yet what happened 2000 years ago was the turning point of history. Palm Sunday. Thursday foot washing. Good Friday death. Silent Saturday. EASTER RESURRECTION SUNDAY. This week is THE FAITH magnified. It is what we believe and confess on steroids. This is the main event. We repeat it every year.
And we are repeating it this year on line. The COVID-19 will NOT STOP us from centering on the greatest event in the history of the world. The only way to NOT think Holy Week is not the greatest event in the history of the world is to reduce CHRIST to just a good moral teacher that happened to be Jewish. I will not be giving a Wednesday homily. I will give a message on MAUNDY THURSDAY. I will lead us in Communion. Have the bread and wine/juice ready for the Eucharist. Larry also will help lead us through the service.
On GOOD FRIDAY we will walk through the SEVEN LAST STATEMENTS of JESUS from the CROSS. There will be scripture, song and brief meditations. How can you actively participate in this event? First let me tell you a story.
Katie Johnson shared with me Mitch’s, Brian & Katie’s son, reaction to the slamming of the Bible at the end of the Good Friday Service. Mitch is a reader. He would finish a book and slam it shut while shouting, IT IS FINISHED! That made my heart sing.
Have seven candles lit. One candle for each of the last 7-last-sayings of Jesus from the cross. Also have a different candle lit. A fatter one or one that is visibly different from the other 7, a different color. It is the candle of HOPE—The Hope Of The Resurrection. It will not be blown out. I will be left glowing after the service is over. Also have a large book, it does not have to be a Bible. Make it a chemistry book. It should be open on the table by the candles.
After each last saying of Jesus from the cross, I will instruct us to blow out one candle (never the candle of the Hope in the Resurrection). This means Jesus is one step closer to fulfilling the reason for his coming—death. When the last of the 7 last sayings of Christ (IT IS FINISHED) is reflected upon, the service will be over. The open book needs to be slammed shut, and in your home, the person who does this is to YELL—IT IS FINISHED. Like Mitch. I will not say another word. The service is over. I suggest nothing is said for the next FIVE minutes in the home. Let the silence penetrate your heart.
I encourage you to start this service at sunset. Listen and participate in darkness. The only lights in the home should be the candles. When the service is over, the only light will be the THE CANDLE OF HOPE. Sit in silence in the dark for a few minutes.
In the darkness of Jesus’ death, or the death of our loved ones, like the death of Larry Verhage my good, friend (Larry loved this service), we focus on our hope that resurrection is coming, the only light in the dark. Resurrection came in Jesus and it will come at the end of time.
COVID-19 will not stop the CHURCH—US—from reentering the history of our most fundamental belief. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. May this central truth be for us our ultimate hope and vision.
Carrie and I miss you all.
Peace of CHRIST,