Things That Time Cannot Mend, But Jesus Can

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)

It is these two realities that I struggle with today. Today is the ninth anniversary of the death of my mother, Susan Peperkorn (nee Troy). There is nothing really new or different about this year. We are in California now, enjoying the gifts that God has given to us at this stage in our lives. My children are happy. My wife is, as usual, moving about three times faster than I am. It is sunny outside and warm. I have a wonderful, supportive congregation and staff. But I cannot get the feeling of stuckness out of my head, the overwhelming blanket of death which infects us all to one degree or another.

In the quotation from Tolkien above, Frodo is remembering the knife wound from the witch-king at Weathertop. It was an evil blade, and the would bothered him all the days of his life. Even though he was physically healed, the wound would remind him evert year that he was not whole, that in his journey there had been loss, and that time does not heal all wounds.

This is how it is for me and death. I feel sometimes that I could go from anniversary to anniversary. From death to death to death, and that Satan would drag me down until there is nothing left. Mom, Bruce, Nadia, Emmanuel, Grandpaw & Grandma,Uncle Bill, Grandma Ardis, Grandpa Wilbur. I can remember them all and more. And this does not include all those whom I have buried over the decades as a pastor. Signe and Margaret. Blackey and Ed. Anastasia and Gabriel. Sometimes it seems as though life is one big funeral, and that we simply go from one to the next without any break or even time to recover.

Time does not heal all wounds, but Jesus does. I do not mean this in a pious, syrupy way. What I mean is that Jesus heals all wounds in His resurrection. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. And in HIs death, all of our loved ones near and far were covered. They were covered with His blood, so that now as they arise in the waters of Baptism, their earthly deaths will have an end.

Only Jesus can heal the wounds of a broken soul. Only Jesus can heal the wounds of death which envelop us all. This side of the grave there are wounds that can never fully heal. But this side of the grave is not the end. Jesus breaks the bonds of death itself, so that there will come a time when there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more morning. Indeed, there comes a time when death itself will be no more.

I, for one, cannot wait. My sadness will pass. The darkness will give rise to the dawn. I rest in Christ, just as all those who died in the faith rest in Him even now.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.

On the Reason for Curmudgeonness

[Originally posted on Lutheran Logomaniac]

Curmudgeon

I often wonder why I get so, uh, curmudgeonly during Christmas time. It is one of the two highest feast days of the Christian Church. The music and Scripture readings for the season are sublime. In every measurable way, it is a time of great joy and happiness. Family gather together. There is festiveness in the air. All in all, it is a good time.

But then I remember.

Nadia. Emmanuel. Mom. The many people whom I have buried over the years who are no longer with their families. The families who now are at a loss of what to do because of this emptiness.

To quote the hymn, “In the midst of earthly life, death has us surrounded.” Or to quote St. Paul, “the wages of sin is death.” Death has a way of messing up and just bringing down everything around us. Some years or season are greater reminders than this of others, but the sad reality is always there, always present, always trying so very hard to draw us into the pit of self-pity and despair.

That is why I get curmudgeonly.

But that is also why I don’t stay curmudgeonly.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, to defeat death by taking it into Himself, and to wipe away the tears of grief which wet our faces year after year.

One hymn, perhaps more than any other for me, encapsulates this reality. I hope it brings you joy this season.

Oh, rejoice, ye Christians, loudly,
For your joy hath now begun;
Wondrous things our God hath done.
Tell abroad His goodness proudly,
Who our race hath honored thus
That He deigns to dwell with us.

Refrain

Joy, O joy, beyond all gladness,
Christ hath done away with sadness!
Hence, all sorrow and repining,
For the Son of Grace is shining!

See, my soul, thy Savior chooses
Weakness here and poverty,
In such love He comes to thee
Nor the hardest couch refuses;
All He suffers for thy good,
To redeem thee by His blood.

Refrain

Lord, how shall I thank Thee rightly?
I acknowledge that from Thee
Every blessing flows to me..
Let me not forget it lightly
But to Thee through all things cleave
So shall heart and mind receive:

Refrain

Jesus, guard and guide Thy members,
Fill Thy brethren with Thy grace,
Hear their prayers in every place.
Quicken now life’s faintest embers,
Grant all Christians, far and near,
Holy peace, a glad new Year!

Refrain

God’s richest peace to you this season. Merry Christmas in Jesus’ Name.

Pastor Todd Peperkorn

Seven Years

Seven years ago today I was ready to take my life. I’ve written about it many times (HERE, and HERE are the most recent).

I’m in a pretty good place, from a mental health point of view.  I have an excellent counselor, my medication seems to be pretty stable, and I have a loving and supportive family and church.  I haven’t found a father confessor that’s less than 100 miles from me yet, but otherwise I feel like all of the various pieces are as in place as they are likely to get.  For this I am very thankful.  

What always strikes me, as this day comes around, is how many there are who suffer with depression, despair, bipolar disorder, and so many other diseases and maladies both physical, emotional and spiritual.  Just yesterday I was contacted by three different people about their trials with mental illness.  I had only met one of them beforehand.  Sadly, these sorts of days are not that uncommon.

Our Lord’s death for our salvation was nearly 2000 years ago, and the world continues to be remade by His death and resurrection.  But it is still a sorry, broken world.  More than anything else, we need to hear and receive the healing balm of the Gospel, and we must continue to learn how to give of ourselves to one another.  I speak to myself as much as to my readers.

Know again, friends, that Christ is here for you.  He suffers for you, dies for you, and rises for you.  Rejoice in His salvation, no matter how dark the road may be.  You are never alone.

-DMR

(a.k.a. Pastor Todd Peperkorn)

 

The Forgotten Emmanuel

[originally posted on LutheranLogomaniac.com]

December 21st is the anniversary of when Kathryn and I lost our son, Emmanuel. It was 2009. And, of course, right before Christmas. Who has time to grieve when there is so much stuff to do?

While the death of Nadia always makes me wish others would remember such days, Emmanuel’s death always reminds me how quickly I myself can forget. Some grief we bury. Some pain is too close, too much to bear at the time.

For pastors, of course, the Christmas season is always a busy time of year. Sermons, bulletins, calls, Christmas programs, caroling, there are always a thousand things to pull us away from our Lord, and from anything else. Pastors don’t have a monopology on this time, either. Mothers, it seems to me, are always full of things that need doing. And holidays or Christmas breaks and the like, well, they may actually be more work for mom, not less. But the list could go on.

How do we allow the business of our lives to interfere from what the point of our lives is in the first place? I forget what is important. I forget even big things, like life and death. I get distracted or I distract myself. I run and hide. I flee from such all encompasing realities.

How many of us hide ourselves from our pain? How many walk around, hurting and wounded, in fear of being found out? How many flee at the thought of being weak?

I think that is why a name like Emmanuel is such an important one for Christians. God is with us. There is no “if” behind the name. God is with us IF we behave. God is with us IF we are good. God is with us UNTIL we die. No. It is a statement of fact. God is with us. Period. The words from Exodus come to mind:

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Exodus 2:23–25 ESV)

God heard. God remembered. God saw. God knew.

That is the God of the Bible. That is the God who comforts me, even in the face of my forgetfulness and death. That is the God who would come as a little child.

-Pastor Todd Peperkorn

 

Nativity Giorgione 1507

A Day

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday was a day of great darkness and paranoia.  Anxiety, fear, anger even were the watchwords of today.  Today, it was completely different.  Yesterday I was embraced by my family and my congregation, and most especially by the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I don’t mean this in an abstract “think about Jesus” sort of way.  I mean by the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper.  Our Lord binds Himself to me, forgives all my uncleanness, and draws me into His loving embrace.

One of the strangest changes of my move to California has been the shift in my view toward shut-ins.  I had wonderful shut-ins in Kenosha.  But visiting always created great anxiety in me.  Here, I look forward to them in a way I never did before.  This is a gift I did not expect.  The Eucharist is the lifeblood of the church.  God continues to teach me this.

“O Taste and see how gracious the Lord is; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

Be at peace, brothers and sisters.

-DMR

Paranoia

This was a new one for me. Today I had some remarkable highs and lows. Highs of super productivity, and lows of not being able to get my head off of my desk.

But what was new today was paranoia.

I don’t remember experiencing this kind of paranoia before. It was as if everything and everyone was out to get me. I was looking into people’s eyes and saw anger and resentment. Closed doors meant plotting against me. Every look, every turned shoulder, every voice spoken that wasn’t abject praise I heard as loathing. And praise was manipulation.

I am a pariah. I am a leper who is unworthy to be in the presence of anyone. My touch is death, and so one and all plot to destroy me.

Paranoia.

I can’t really say I’m a fan of this twist.

I know that this is not true. I know that I am surrounded by people who love me and care for me. I know that God is merciful and that He will never abandon me to such depths, but that He travels with me through the valley of the shadow of death.

But it feels so real. So terribly, terribly real.

The hand of a friend is peace. A hug from one who cares is comfort. The love of my beloved is hope.

Even in paranoia, we are all incarnational. It is only in flesh and blood, real humanity that does not shrink from the chaos, only in that flesh and blood can healing begin.

Never underestimate the power of your humanity. It may not seem like much, but that moment of contact with the sufferer may be all that is between them and the abyss.

Time to go pray Psalm 46 and go to sleep.

Be at peace, dear brothers and sisters.

-DMR

A Lutheran View of Depression