St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

Pastor Roger's Page

3512 Clinton Street West Seneca NY 14224 USA (716) 668-2152 (716) 668-3585 sjlcws@gmail.com

 Pastor Roger

Pastor Roger joined the ministry team at St. John's Lutheran in 2017.  He has a background in music, youth ministry, and hospital chaplaincy.  He is in long term recovery from alcoholism and is active in recovery ministry.

Pastor Roger lives in West Seneca with his wife Tricia and their three children Roger III, Elsie, and Leo.  

Email: rwgriffithsjr@gmail.com

Phone: 716-913-9365

LYO of SJLCWS (on snapchat)

Social Media - @rwgriffithsjr

We can’t hate our way out of any problem

May the words of my mouth and meditation of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

The first book that I ever read that I could not put down.  The book was called Nobody’s Fault. Now It is a story about grief written for older children.

Something in the book touched me deeply, I never forgot it.

In the story a young boy dies in an accident and his older sister is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, and anger, and sadness. She is trapped in the grief loop, where she replays the tragedy over in her mind and spends a whole lot time blaming. Blaming herself, blaming others, blaming… for the death…the accidental death of her brother.  She moves through that grief by talking about her experience and her feelings with a child psychiatrist and eventually with the sharing, trust is built and she finds healing and she finds a grace that brings her to a place of understanding described in the books title. Nobody’s fault.

The man in the story from John’s Gospel was blind. He was born that way.

The disciples assume the cause to be sin.  And they are curious… was the sin the blind man’s or his parent’s?

Now don’t judge them too harshly that, The explanation of any person having an illness or disability being God’s retribution for sin was a commonly held belief in those days.  Think of the story of Job and how his friends see the way he is being afflicted and assume it must be a punishment some failing in God’s eyes. 

Unfortunately this wrong and really evil way of of thinking persists into our own times… As we learned in the late 20th century with how we, and particularly the Christian church, dealt with the HIV AIDS pandemic or how many continue to deal with those of us who face addictive disorders, fear based thinking about disease or disability which relies upon prejudice, self-righteousness, or racism does not provide healing, it only makes things worse. 

In its simplest terms, “you don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

To do the opposite, well, it’s that kind of shallow thinking, it’s that evil, the true blindness…that Jesus calls out in this Gospel lesson.

Even now as we face a new pandemic, our base instincts, our blindness, will compel us want to blame and to shame. 
We will find ways to use the corona virus judge people as safe or unsafe based on nationality, race, or ethnicity.

But friends, we cannot hate our way out any problem.  And fear based thinking will not bring us any solutions. In our personal lives or in how we deal with a global catastrophe.   

As Jesus shows us again and again it is compassion and faithfulness in the face of suffering that bring about healing, character, and hope.  This man who has blindness provides the occasion to manifest “the works of God.” Not to the occasion to blame God.  Through Jesus, God gives us the vision of what

The blindness that is the disability of the pharisees in this story is self-righteousness. To think that we could possibly see as God sees? Jesus names these types of people the truly blind.

When this true blindness or way of thinking encounters the compassion and grace of God in Jesus Christ, it cannot grasp it… perhaps this is why it can only keep asking the man who receives sight “how is this possible?” And when confronted with the truth can only feel revulsion, anger, and resentment.


The blind man knows he can see… no amount of arguing or anger can get him to change his mind. He was blind, yes, but now he has sight. His sight was a gift given by Jesus Christ, no amount of arguing could change that.

In our baptism we get this type of sight too.  Nothing can argue it away…

God’s promise to us in our baptism is to always, always see us with compassion, as God’s beloved child.  This is a part of what we mean when we talk about God’s grace.

Amen


In Christ,
Pastor Roger

Easter Message

On that first Easter Sunday Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome were carrying spices but they were not carrying joy in their hearts on their way to the tomb.  


These wonderful women were… it was almost as if they were acting on instinct.


And — when we are traumatized…  or when we are, experiencing the depths of grief — it takes incredible energy… it takes incredible courage just to get out of bed in the morning. 


__ “We need to get the spices, we need to go to the tomb, we need to anoint his body, we need to find someone to roll the stone away… we need to say goodbye the right way.”  


His death had been so disturbing and awful, being able to perform these simple and normal rituals…  satisfying the instinctive need to honor the dead… this is how they… how we all have always created the space for healing after a loss. 


__ “We need to call the funeral home, we need to meet with the pastor, we need to order the flowers, to pick the hymns…. we need to invite everyone to lunch to share stories, we need to say goodbye the right way.”


A good argument could be made… by all of us living through this COVID-19 pandemic… that this Easter Sunday will have brought our congregation as close… spiritually and emotionally… as close as we have ever come to sharing the surreal amazement and sadness of that first Easter Sunday.


The penitential season of Lent, the betrayal and chaos of Maundy Thursday, the trauma of of Good Friday… these all felt… authentic.. they felt in tune with life in these days.    


But, Alleluia…? “this joyful eastertide” …?  this morning, that just feels like bullshit... an



it feels inauthentic… there will be no packed church this Easter Sunday shouting “he is Risen Indeed”… there will be no children singing…no bells ringing… or elaborate processions…  there will be no Holy Communion.


Like Mary and the other women it is completely understandable if our reaction to the news of resurrection this morning is to be really upset over being denied our normal rituals…. There would be no anointing and preparing Jesus body for burial…  there would only be terror— and amazement— and fear and an empty tomb…  


As I look again at this camera lens in the middle of an empty church… I can relate. 



What the Women on that first Easter morning couldn’t process yet was that the emptiness they thought they needed to fill up with rituals for their healing gets completely flooded by resurrection life. 


The only thing left empty was the tomb.  


That resurrection, that divine life…had swallowed up death completely. And they couldn’t grasp… they couldn’t make sense of the words of the young man in the white robe telling them that this divine life that flows from God had raised Jesus and was going on ahead of them to Galilee, like he said he was going to… 


Faced with this new reality of resurrection life and being forced to completely abandon their rituals, their spices, and their plans for honoring the dead… they did the only sensible thing… they fled and said nothing to anyone… 


It was too overwhelming… it was too good… How could God be this good? How could any of this be possible…? It would take them a long time to begin to make sense of how their faith was shaped by that morning… and our wisdom about how the new reality of resurrection life… forms our faith is still being discovered and rediscovered in every generation since.


Every generation has to carry their own spices to the tomb… so that God can show us that they are useless there now, the stone is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia. 


Every generation must experience and participate in the twisting of faith to gain political power, to exploit the poor and promote human prejudices, racism, bigotry, and all forms of injustice so that God can remind us that Resurrection Life is relentless in its struggle toward justice and compassion and that the stone of our hatred is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia. 


Every generation must come through the valley of the shadow of death so that God can reveal to us again and again how Resurrection Life does not not stop because the women fled in terror, in the face countless martyrdoms, or being forced to worship in catacombs, or after centuries of persecutions and abuse the stone of our fear is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia. 


Every generation must attempt to serve a dead Jesus, to hold onto rituals and human traditions …so that God can show us the empty tomb, and remind us that our faith is living and that there is no breathing and growing and that we serve Jesus who says, “I am the resurrection and the Life.” the stone of death is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.


On this Easter Sunday, this one that is more like that first Easter Sunday than we have ever known…perhaps we do need to take our turn and go to the tomb carrying our useless spices and our shock and sadness and fear… Perhaps we do need to move through some of this instinctively as we lament the ways things were before, to seek to perform our normal rituals over the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus … but, you know…just like Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome we won’t find him there. The stone of everything that we thought about how things work and who Jesus is… that stone is rolled away and he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.