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From the Pastor

“A problem not worth praying about is a problem not worth worrying about.”

How many times have you lost sleep over some matter or another? Maybe it was something that, at the time, seemed huge or profound. Maybe it was something that, at the time, just seemed nettling or bothersome. Either way, how many times has your peace and rest been sacrificed in the face of some sort of trouble?

If you are “typical,” at least occasionally some sort of trouble has intruded upon your sleep. It happens. Our minds sometimes have trouble letting go of the day’s labors and cares. In fact, if modern sociologists are to be believed, we may be having a harder time literally “unplugging” ourselves since we are ever-more connected to news and events through our text-messaging, social-networking sites, and 24 hour news cycles. It may be that we are, quite literally, worrying ourselves to death.

Believe it or not, the point of this article is not to dabble in the science of sleep or sleep disorders. Those things belong to other disciplines. Rather, the point of my observations is to highlight the increasing amount of stress that we put ourselves under and to ponder why there is not a corresponding level of prayer. I suspect that, had I phrased the question like this: “How many times, when confronted with a problem do you first PRAY?” the answer would be substantially less than if I had asked, “How many times have you ever lost sleep over some problem or another?”

It may seem somewhat simplistic or naïve to say, “A problem not worth praying about is a problem not worth worrying about.” But stop and consider it for a moment. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we commanded by God to worry but we are commanded and invited many times by God to pray. The Second Commandment reads, “You shall not make a wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.” So what is the right use of the “name of the Lord our God?” Luther explains the Second Commandment this way: We are to fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use that name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.” In other words, the rightful use of the name of the Lord our God is in prayer. We are commanded in this commandment to pray. So why is it that we feel our worry (which is not commanded) is somehow worthier of our time, but our prayer (which is commanded) is not?

The first and primary Christian response to any problem is prayer; to stop everything and call upon God’s holy name and seek God’s guidance and help. Worrying takes no special faith. Praying, on the other hand, requires faith. Many good and fine people with no faith may identify a problem and be concerned with it, but it takes a Christian to identify a problem and pray about it. If our rule of prayer is that “we won’t bother God with our worries,” then what will our rule of belief or faith be? In other words, just how strongly can you believe in God’s help if your first response is not to ask for it?

On the other hand, we are often driven into God’s mercy by the winds and storms that buffet our small boats. When the apostles woke Jesus, who was sleeping in the stern of the boat, he calmed the winds and the waves. When we dare to call out to Jesus because we are being overwhelmed by the storms and waves of our troubles, we find out that we have not been driven upon the rocks but into the arms of his mercy. Prayer is heard, prayer is answered even where we sometimes fail to see it right away. Calling out to God “in every time of need” is not only a commandment, it is how God reveals his love for us, by calming the winds and the waves.

Pope John Paul II was once asked, in the midst of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church how he was sleeping. “Fine, fine,” he answered the reporter. “How can you find rest in such a troubled time?” the stunned reporter asked. “I have a crucifix above my bed,” the pope explained. “I say my prayers every night, I look up at Jesus and I tell him, ‘it is your Church, you take care of it now’ and I sleep soundly.” Prayer is part of our admission that “God is God and we are not.” It is allowing God to do what only God can do; still the wind and the waves and to save us. And having done so, we rest in peace.

My wife Vickie is a retired registered nurse. We have three children – Dan, Tim and Amanda and five grandchildren, with one more on the way. We live in Adamstown, so geographically we are located between the three cities our children live in. In other words, we spend a lot of time with them. I was ordained in February of 1977 and received a call to serve St. John Lutheran Church in Palatka, Florida. In the ensuing 30 plus years I served congregations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. During that time I was sent by the synod to help congregations experiencing conflict come to a more peaceful resolution. In 2012 I was called to be Assistant to the Bishop for the Delaware Maryland Synod, where I served four years, after which time I decided to end full time ministry.

For the last five years I have served three times as an interim pastor. Twice at Trinity Lutheran Church in Boonsboro and once at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Walkersville. I first felt God’s call to the ministry in high school and learned early on that I am supposed to be a pastor. Nothing else seems to satisfy my soul as much as preaching or teaching or distributing Holy Communion. In these acts of ministry I receive more than I give. I also enjoy painting, restoring woodwork, and bike riding (in 2009 I joined two other Lutheran pastors and rode a three person bicycle throughout the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to raise $400,000 for Lutheran World Hunger).

As a pastor my style is informal and relational. I am on journey of faith just like every other child of God is and I need the presence, counsel and support of God’s family as I take my place in that family. My door is always open for a conversation, a cup of coffee or a meal together. Although I live in Adamstown, my cell phone (304-561-4482) is always with me and I plan to be at St. Mark’s several times a week. Please call or text me at my cell number first. My e-mail address is pastorronschlak@gmail.com. I check my e-mail every few hours. I look forward to meeting you.