By Rev. Robert Grossmann
Providence Reformed Church
Dear friends and neighbors, fellow citizens of Vermillion,
Thirteen years ago in July, my dear wife Polly and I moved to Vermillion so
I could serve as pastor to a new church congregation being established here.
We have truly enjoyed our time in Vermillion, learning to appreciate and
love a large circle of friends, including of course the members of
Providence Reformed Church.
These thirteen years have closed out more than 50 years of ministry for me
in the Reformed Church in the United States that have included seven
congregations and teaching in four seminaries.
But now it is time to move on, this time into retirement at the age of 76.
We plan to be snowbirds, bouncing back and forth between Vero Beach, FL, and
Menno as long as good health continues.
At junctures like this, it is common to take stock, to ask not only where we
are personally, but also as a nation. As a Christian pastor, I am reminded
of Isaiah’s assessment of Israel during his own time. If we take God’s word
in the Bible seriously – as we should – Isaiah’s words about Israel fit our
We are an immoral mess. Isaiah says, “Alas, sinful nation, a people laded
with iniquity, a brood of evildoers. They have forsaken the lord, they have
provoked the holy one of Israel.”
The United States has forgotten God and become a nation that calls immoral
acts like adultery, abortion and sexual perversion “good.”
The result has been a national outwardly functioning pretty well, as was
Israel in Isaiah’s day, but one in which we suffer many rational and
irrational fears. Without God, fear takes over.
Where will the next mass murder occur? When will al Qaida attack again? Will
we ever be able to pay back the national debt? Will universal health
insurance degrade the quality of our health care? Will global warming ever
actually happen? (So far global temps have receded slightly since 1998, and
the north polar icecap grew by 60 percent last year.) Were we insane to get
on airliners like we did up into the 1990s without a shred of airport
security, or was our country more sane 20 years ago?
Now, like Isaiah, I point these things out not to wring my hands and say all
is lost. Not at all. Our common purpose is to bring the real God back into
Sin is real, but so is God’s forgiveness. By the end of chapter one, Isaiah
is calling Israel to repent of its sin and saying, “Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
Fifty-two chapters later, Isaiah is describing the sufferings of Christ,
declaring, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to
his own way, and the lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.”
Yes, things have changed technologically, but in real human terms, things
have not changed at all. Like sheep, we have all gone astray, some farther
than others, of course. But the real, true remedy is the same: God’s
forgiveness. Real forgiveness comes with real repentance, and real
repentance is turning away from sin.
John the Baptizer had it right when he said to the self-righteous Pharisees,
“Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.”
That is, quit sinning and live your life for God.