Saturday, August 31, 2013


Smoky Mountain Reflections
September 2013

            "In a Relationship" what does that mean? If you post it on social media it has a myriad of possibilities ranging from mildly attracted to someone to married.  ‘Going steady’ is no longer in vogue. We are surrounded by people who want to "keep their options open", in the words I once heard from a man who was in his 70's.  The word "relationship" gets thrown around in our fast food, disposable culture, not so much in the life long committed biblical model these days but more in the ‘this is how it is for now’  model. That works until you get bored with how things are and move on to something or someone else.  Our society’s concept of "relationship" is far removed from the selfless ‘love thy neighbor model’ that scripture gives us. I am not just talking about marital relationships, but all forms of ’relationship’.      

            The whole second table of the law is about how we are to act in relationships, and the building block for all relationships is the family. This is the anchor, the solid foundation, on which God decided to build the relational structure of His creation. It started when God noted the first "not good" thing in His very good creation. It is not good for man to be alone so God created a second person, out of the first, and created, at the same time, the first relationship.  That relationship contained all the God pleasing elements of selfless giving. The two would give themselves to each other in sacrificial, complementary ways that would also have creative elements, not the least of which was another relationship, that of parent and child. In this small model we can learn and exercise all of the relational skills we need to lead a God pleasing life.

            The lie that our world tells us is that we get to choose our relationships… However, they are a gift from God. Every person you come in contact with is, at some level, in a relationship with you.  We do not get to choose our parents, they are a gift from God and this relationship is designed to be life long in nature, though not always the primary relationship. Even the person we marry, regardless of the cultural method that brings us together, is a gift from God that is designed to be lifelong...”.till death do us part”.

            Another lie our world tells us is when we tire of relationships we can end them.  God has designed our relationships to form a web of love, comfort, support and protection. When we choose to end a marriage the whole web is disrupted. It is not just husband and wife who suffer.... children, siblings, parents, extended family and friends all suffer.  When we start to go ‘gender bending’ it does not just affect the "couple", the whole web of relationships is affected. Though we may agree or disagree with someone's life style, none of these sinful acts; divorce, cohabitation or "friends with benefits" make us any less directed by God to love our neighbor and seek to speak the truth in love.

            So as sin continues to break holes in the web of relationships, there is a web repair service of sorts available to us all. We pray in the Lord ’s Prayer "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". Forgiveness and reconciliation are at the core of what it means to be in a God pleasing relationship. Forgiveness is the glue that fixes and holds together broken relationships. True forgiveness does not ignore sin or its consequences. The source of true forgiveness is love. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love, in fact, acknowledges the pain and suffering caused by a wrong even if we think no one gets hurt because we do not get to say how other people feel.

            Relationships have priorities. Some relationships in our lives are more important than others. When we are children our first relationship is with our parents and this takes priority over all others. If I have to say no to someone because of a conflict of schedule or opinion, my sibling, teacher, friends or employer all take a back seat to my parents. This changes however when we get married and absolutely yes, young adults should not play house, they should get married. The marriage relationship becomes the new primary relationship. Your boss, your friends, your parents, your siblings and your children all take a back seat to your spouse. This is not an opinion up for debate. If we would follow the biblical model for relationships fewer of them would fail. Sin in this category hurts deeply.  There is one more issue of priority you want in your relationships. You want them to be God pleasing and by default pleasing to you and all whom you love and are concerned for. All earthly relationships are #2 relationships in a rightly ordered life. The #1 relationship in our lives must always be our relationship with the Son of God who redeemed us and regularly nurtures us in His Word and Sacraments.
In Christ

Pastor Portier

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2013

Smoky Mountain Reflections
August 2013

            So as the summer winds down and comes to a close and we are getting ready for school to start again I find myself reflecting on ‘vocation’. As many of you know my daughter Elisa, with the help of Scott her husband, added a new definition to my vocation list about six weeks ago. I am now a Grandfather, or as they say in bayou country Paw Paw. Just about the time all the little people in my family grew up, God blessed me with another playmate :-). (Of course Harper has been giving me practice on how to be a good Paw Paw for the past two years now.) Besides the gift of my Grandson, what is this gift of vocation that God gives us?

            The first thing we think of when we hear the word ‘vocation’ is work. What we do to earn a living is certainly part of our vocation but it is one small part of a very big picture. If we step back we see how blessed we are to have our identity wrapped up in every aspect of our vocation. Who we are in our relationships at work, in our family, in our community, in our church, all of these put together are what make us who we are in our relationship with God and our neighbor. Unfortunately we get things out of whack sometimes, messing up our priorities and spending too much time on one part of our vocation while neglecting other parts. We spend too much time at work or at play or with our family and our work or play or family suffer because of the imbalance. Another confusion may be that we take a role for ourselves that does not belong to us, or the reverse, we give our own responsibilities to another. Examples would be, trying to do our bosses’ job or our Pastor’s job or a government official’s job when it is not ours to do. Sometimes we completely abandon our work or our spouse or our community, leaving others to carry our responsibilities as well as their own.

            But God takes our broken sinful priorities and fixes them, washing off our feeble efforts and making them pleasing to God.

            He takes our sinful selfishness and works faith in our hearts helping us to see we are not the god we make ourselves out to be. Our desires are not the most important thing....He is.
            He takes our often poor efforts to represent Him and helps us to see how we can best reflect our love for Him by bearing His name with respect and honor.
            He takes our poor time management and leads us to be still and know that He is God. He does this in our daily lives with prayer, reading and devotions, and in our regular weekly time to receive the gifts he showers on us in word and sacrament, nurturing our souls to live out our vocations in the coming week.
            He takes our rebellion against authority and turns it into honor, obedience, and submission to our parents, leaders, spouses, and employers.
            He takes our murderous attitude which has no regard for all life created in His image and He turns it into the loving activities of family members and caretakers who nurture and serve the week and vulnerable among us.
            He takes our lust and fleshly desires and turns them into selfless giving of ourselves to our spouse. He blesses us with that already great gift, caring for our physical and emotional needs with the occasional arrival of a new family member.
            He takes our greedy desires and turns them into concern for our neighbors’ positions to the point that we would gladly sacrifice something of our own to prevent or restore a loss suffered by our neighbor.
            He takes our dishonest thoughts and deeds and converts them through a contrite heart that seeks truth and justice, encouraging peace and reconciliation, willing to sacrifice our own justice for the benefit of others.
            He takes our covetous hearts and minds and turns them into loving, caring souls that seek, with His help, to nip our sinful activities in the bud.  He deals with them when they are only desires and helps us prevent them from becoming actions.                      

            God takes our sinful thoughts and deeds and puts them into the gift of ‘vocation’ which converts sinful activity to God pleasing activity. Turning selfishness into selflessness, turning disobedience into standing for His truth, turning killing into defending family or nation, turning adultery into loving one’s spouse, turning theft into protecting someone from harming themselves, turning lies into words spoken that benefit others at our own expense. God's rules do not contradict themselves when we do something within our vocation as parent, employer, leader, child, worker or citizen which on the surface appears to be a violation but is a cost to our reputation. We gladly pay this in service and love for others. Then, and only then, we can see the smiling face of our Lord and Savior saying “Well done, my good and faithful servant, come into my presence and abide with me.”

Blessings on you all as you do your best to live out every aspect of your vocation in Christ
In His name
Pastor Portier