I took this picture not to show how bad this storm was but to try and explain to people how bad it can get.  This was a ‘no travel advised “day and yet I could see the road.  Of course this in on the outskirts of town in a sheltered area but imagine if you were in the open.

We folks up here in North Dakota and Northern Minnesota know how bad the weather can get.  In fact folks that talk to us from other places say that we speak about “weather” as if it were an entity and sometimes that is the way that it seems.  It is hard for “outlanders” to get it sometimes, but to show you how sometimes you can’t beat it I found this article from about a month ago from up in Duluth.

DULUTH, Minn. – A snowstorm blanketing northern Minnesota has forced a church to cancel its annual lutefisk dinner. First Lutheran Church in Duluth had planned to hold the fundraising dinner Wednesday. But organizers say it was too risky to ask people to venture out into what could end up being 20 inches of snow by late Wednesday.

The annual salmon, meatball and lutefisk feed usually raises $10,000 for the church’s charitable programs.

Volunteers on Tuesday made 1,750 meatballs out of 200 pounds of beef.

The Duluth News Tribune reports the meatballs will be sold to church members Sunday at $5 a dozen. The 550-pound lutefisk order was canceled, and the 390 pounds of donated salmon probably will go to a local charitable meal provider.”

Unless you are from here you will never understand how hard a decision this was.  What do you do with 550 lbs of lutefisk since my Father has been gone for many years.  Were he still alive I could have helped them out.

I haven’t had had to make a decision that difficult since my early days as a Pastor.  We had a pretty good sized youth group back then and I was not trying to protect lutefisk but young people.  We were supposed to load them up on a bus and take them somewhere for a youth gathering and the word was out that a big storm was coming.  This was in November and I remember it well because there was no snow.  The storm was supposed to come at 3pm and I remember that because Church was over at noon and I announced that I had canceled the trip and that gave me 3 hours to question what I had done.  We didn’t have all the cool stuff the weather people have now and I also remember the strange specificity – 3pm.  So I agonized before Church and I called the president of the congregation at that time and I bet many of you remember him.  His name was Jim Maxwell and he was a teacher and a principal and a Superintendant of Schools.   He used to teach with his wife to be, Olwen, over in Cando where my mom and dad lived on a hobby farm until dad died and my mom is still there.  Anyway I asked him if I had done the right thing and he said that “all you can do is get the best information, look at the risk benefit ratio, make your decision and forget it”.  I thought that was good advice and then he added, “the same number of people will be mad at you whatever you do”.

So you can imagine at 3pm I was praying for a blizzard.  Nothing.  At 3:15 two lonely snow flakes flittered past my window.  I was about to despair when around 3:30 the snowflakes looked to be the size of half dollars and they were thick.  By 4pm we had a great storm going and I was happy.  I had protected a bus load of young people.  The storm lasted until late Monday and of course some folks said we should have left immediately after church and we would have made the event.  I pointed out that the kids couldn’t have come home for two days but that made no difference.  Maybe that was the point.  There were some that braved the storm and made it from other towns but the event center became a make shift motel.

So we have had warning of a “life threatening storm” that was supposed to come in very early this morning.  I got up about 3 am and all was well. 6 and all was calm.  I started to get ready and then thought  of the empty miles that I have to cover.  What if the storm came between services and I was in the open?  What about the folks that might come from the country, (even though they see the same forecasts I do)?  What about the organists etc. Anyway the first service is canceled.  A few minutes later the second one is canceled.  Now the question is what do you do with the service in town?  I’m here, do you cancel?    The parking lot is a mess and it is going to take a while to clean it up, what do you do?  The president made the call to cancel and I was glad he did, but you still get the questions – my wife says the Catholics didn’t cancel why do we?

Here is a teachable theological moment.  For Catholics church is an obligation.  I’m not being nasty I am being literal.   Literally, it is something you have to do.  I could drag out the old saw that for us Lutherans church is something you get to do, and for them it is something they have to do.  I was raised in a community of about 5000 people that had two Catholic Churches and a Catholic School and a Convent.  The one church was attended mostly by Latino’s, and  the other by folks from Ireland and Germany and Hungary and names that used to be found on European maps and are now changed to something different.  They had names like Techovik and Marchinovich.  But whatever the name, Martinez or Garcia or Malechich or Reynolds, they knew that they were Roman Catholic and they were taught one absolute rule about church attendance; they had to go every Sunday and every Holy Day of obligation.  No matter what.  They are no exceptions for weather or anything else.  If you had to work or were sick there were rules about that too. 

So as I watched a small group of Catholics struggle to get to church and home other questions came.  We have a pretty good number of folks that obviously don’t get the concept that church is something they “get to do” because they seldom do it and I would bet dollars to donuts that one or two of them showed up.  That is another story for another time.

So anyway I get to sit here in my chair and watch sports programs on a Sunday morning that I never get to see.  I can’t help but wish my dad were here to watch all the lead up to next weeks Super Bowl that his beloved Broncos will be appearing in for the first time in along time.  He could sit here with me and watch football and if we had that 550 lbs of lutefisk that would be special indeed.