Category Archives: Featured

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Hello from Houston!

Isn’t it wonderful to see the Journey come to fruition? Many of you have contributed to make this National Youth Gathering trip possible; and you are very much appreciated for your thoughtfulness and hard work!

Won’t you continue to pray for the youth and youth workers who have embarked on this important journey to Houston~ Please pray for Hailey, Kelsey, Katie, Ryan, Jace, Jayda, Alex, Eric & Meagan, and all the youth & youth workers from neighboring churches who are also attending. 

You can find updates while they are in Houston on our facebook page (Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Virginia MN) and also at  http://elca.org/gathering.

David and Goliath field 2

Goliath never stood a chance!

1 Samuel 17:32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”
45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down.”

Here are a few of the verses from the David vs Goliath story from 1 Samuel. It is an exciting Biblical story and it is one of the few Bible stories which most people (whether they attend church or not) are familiar with. People know this story because it seems like whenever there is a sports tournament the story of David vs Goliath is used as a metaphor to entice fans and the crowd into tuning in to watch the competition. The metaphor is used to describe what would appear to be an unfair or unbalanced match-up between the small/weak vs. the big/strong giving hope to the under-dog.

If we think more critically and theologically about this story, we will see that it is indeed the a match-up between the small/weak vs big/strong but not in the way the sports commentators have trained us to think. And the underdog does not win. In fact, big/strong wins. This is not a match-up between David and Goliath. It is a match-up between God and Goliath and Goliath never stood a chance. God is the victor.

If you ever feel like you are the underdog and have to face intimidating giants in your life, take notice of this story, because like David, you also come in the name of the Lord.

God Bless~Pastor Erik

laddder to the sky

I’m Glad to Know. . .

Mark 3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

                When I was a kid I remember being outside during Thanksgiving break putting up Christmas lights and decorations with my Dad. Several other people on my street were also out putting up lights because it was a beautiful day, and the weather forecast said starting that evening it would snow and be cold. While we were out, my next-door neighbor was climbing up an extension ladder to put lights on some high windows when he accidently fell. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but he fell hard, and his ladder also broke his window. He was mad, really mad.  He yelled a series of creative profanities and swear words. I thought to myself, “Oh no, Mr. B. just blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. That’s the worst thing he could’ve said.”
Unfortunately, I never asked my parents, pastors or any adult what it means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. I thought it was simply swearing at God. The Gospel of Mark teaches us that it is not about swearing. Instead, Mark says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is when someone sees and experiences the Good-Work of God firsthand and attributes that action to the devil. It means that someone is so-far-gone- that evil has completely permeated their life, character and the way they interact with the world and their neighbors.
I am glad to know that my neighbor, Mr. B, is ok and going to be ok. I want you to know that you are also ok. God loves you and so do I.

 

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

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Bless this Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik

bless this mess 2

Bless This Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik

vlm youth camp

Voyageur’s Lutheran Ministry

VLM is  an Outdoor Ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that offers summer and year-round camping programs for God’s people of all ages.

Voyageur’s Lutheran Ministry  “provides opportunities for Christ-centered spiritual growth, leadership development, and outreach in God’s great northwoods.”

For yoiuth, spend time at Camp Hiawatha or Camp Vermilion during the summer and you will experience a week of a lifetime!  It’s a chance to try some new things, meet new friends, explore your creative side, learn team work, be silly, sing, laugh, and learn what it means to live as God’s people in the world!

We have programs for all ages – a one day experience for those new to camp, a two night program for those not quite ready for a full week, and week-long programs for elementary, junior high, and senior high campers.  No matter what option you choose, we will work hard to make it a experience to remember.

During the fall, winter and spring, there are various retreats that take place for adults and youth. You can find out more by visiting their site at http://www.vlmcamps.org/

 

 

 

 

food pantry-wagon

Food Shelf Giving Throughout the Year

Our Savior’s raised funds with our Annual S(o)uper Bowl of Caring Day on Super Bowl Sunday! The proceeds we collect for this benefit the Quad Cities Food Shelf to tackle hunger in central St. Louis County.

During the year, we have several events and special  times that we collect funds to give to Quad Cities Food Shelf, like giving in March, when funds are matched in the state of Minnesota through Food Share! WELCA, our Women of the ELCA group also gives regularly to combat hunger in St. Louis County.  We also collect funds during Lent for the local food shelves.

There are many ways you can give, along with others at OSLC, to help families and children thrive in our area and beyond. You will find that people here have big, generous hearts, and are always willing to help area organizations keep food on the shelf for those  who may need that little extra to get through the month.

Wednesday Sermon – Brenda Tibbets, AiM – August 13th

THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL

Wednesday Worship, August 13, 2014                                                                                      

Text:    Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Next to the story of The Good Samaritan, The Parable of the Prodigal is probably one of the most well known teaching stories of Jesus.  So well known in fact, that often when we come to hear it told again, we have already arrived at our own interpretation and our own conclusion as to what the point is.

The richness of the Parables, however, is that they constantly challenge us to listen again – to think again.  It is as though Jesus holds a mirror to our face and says, “Come closer.  Let’s take another look.”

So because this story is so familiar, let us take another look to see what God wants us to hear in this place and in this time.

In taking another look, we notice that this parable takes place in a particular context.  How shameful and shocking that Jesus is sitting with…well, you know, people that are less than “desirable” in a proper society.  Not only was he sitting with them, but he has also eaten with them.  Really!  How could he?  Table fellowship with people who did not follow the holiness codes or proper etiquette?  Unthinkable!  Simply scandalous!

Jesus’ behavior and the company he kept provided “The Good Proper Folk” with a smorgasbord of gossip.  Certainly, there was no end to the speculation as to what Jesus might do next.

Luke’s gospel tells how Jesus handled the grumbling Pharisees and scribes.  “So he told them this parable…”  Not only did Jesus tell them the parable of the shepherd seeking out the lost sheep, he went on to include the story of a woman who searched high and low to find a lost coin.  In our modern day context, how far would we go to search for a lost pet?  How many times would we turn our homes inside out to find a lost diamond from a wedding ring or a hunting compass given by someone special?

Those parables hold up a mirror that is clear.  Yes, we would all do that!  We understand the panic that comes in losing some THING that is precious.  We would certainly call or tweet all of our friends and post it on Facebook that we had finally found what we had been looking for.  Kind of a “No Brainer”, wouldn’t you say?

And then, Jesus holds the mirror a little more closely.  OK, you show all this concern for animals and objects.  What about people?  In particular, people who make poor choices?  People who live lifestyles that you don’t agree with?  People who end up in less than desirable circumstances  whether by choices made by themselves or choices made by others that affect them?  Then what?  Do you care or would you rather label them and stand away from them?  Then,  Jesus upped the ante.  This time it wasn’t livestock or pets or personal property.  He challenged them by saying, “There was a man who had two sons…”

How we hear and understand the parables depend so much on our own context, our personal and community life experiences.  As such, our understandings can change as to which character we might identify with at different times in our lives.

Mark Allen Powell, a contemporary theologian, did an experiment on the story of the Prodigal.  He did a controlled study of 100 students in St. Petersburg, Russia, in Tanzania, and in the United States.  Powell asked them what this biblical text meant to them.  The Russians focused in on the dire affects of the famine.  The Tanzanians focused in on the failure of the surrounding community that allowed someone in their midst to be starving and no one gave him anything to eat.  Probably this should be no surprise to us, the U.S. students zeroed in on the money – and how it was spent.  How about you?  What do you hear in Jesus’ Prodigal story and with which character do you identify?

The longer we’ve walked on earth, it is very possible that we have, at some point or another, identified with all three:  the reckless younger son, the resentful, responsible elder son, and the waiting parent.  In the past couple of years, I have heard this story in a new light as the mirror was held ever closer to my own household.

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God, has an impeccable sense of irony at times.

It was a beautiful spring day and I was down in the West Wing getting set-up for a Wednesday night worship.  We were going to begin a 3 week series on “The Prodigal Son.”  I was diligent in doing my prep work.  I had read the scripture text multiple times.  I read what the commentaries had to say about each of the characters and the possible meanings, customs, etc.  I had the DVD cued up to the proper place.  I had even consulted Webster’s Dictionary on the meaning of the word “Prodigal” (which by the way, means extravagant…)

And then, my cell phone rang.

It was my sister-in-law wondering if I had heard from one of my adult kids.  The tone of her voice warned me it wasn’t good news for me and my husband.  The story unfolded.  Our son had been arrested and was in jail.  My first thought was, “Come on, God!  Now?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  He’s arrested right now as I’m getter ready to teach on the Prodigal son??!!”

Suddenly, the parable was no longer about someone else’s family.  The parable was becoming all too real, all too close for comfort.

Due to circumstance beyond our control, we were not allowed to have contact with our son until the day of his court date and he was brought in front of the judge to hear the charges against him.  It takes time for court systems to process paperwork and there are specific rights under the law as to how long a person may be detained.  But the weekend was coming…we hadn’t heard and we were nervous.  Finally, a hearing date was set for Friday morning.  After the hearing and after being interviewed by the probation officer, our adult son was relinquished into our custody.

Never before had I witnessed such a visible change in a person’s demeanor and body language as when my husband and I walked the long, marbled courthouse corridor to the place where our son was waiting on the hard bench.  Total abject shame.  And all I could think of was, “This is our boy.  This is our son.  This is the one we have worried about and prayed for – and loved…That hasn’t changed nor will it change.”

I walked over to him where he was sitting and quietly said his name.  He wouldn’t look up.  So I told him to “Stand up!”  He did.  And all I could do was to put my arms around him, crying, and tell him, “Don’t you know how much we love you?  We love you and we’ll get through this together.”  In that instant, the Parable of the Prodigal became totally real in every sense.    Rather than teaching it, I was being taught.

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God is actually “The Prodigal” throughout this parable Jesus told.  Our heavenly Father is the One who is the source of prodigal/extravagant love.  The source of extravagant forgiveness.  The One who waits and watches…and welcomes, with outstretched arms telling all of his children, the reckless and the resentful alike, God calls each of us by name and asks us to look up as well.   “Don’t you know how much you are loved?  Come in.  Let me take you home.  Let’s get you put back together.  You need a bath – and in my baptismal waters, all shame and disgrace are washed away.  I will clothe you with the clean clothes of new life and fresh beginning.  I bet you are hungry, too.  Here is my table and the meal is ready.  This is what love and forgiveness look like.  This is what it tastes like: and I want you sitting with me and with the entire household.  You are marked with the cross of Christ forever.  You belong to me.  Trust me.  We will work this out – together.”

Life experiences change the context in which we hear scripture and see ourselves in the parables.  The Parable of the Prodigal is your story.  It is my story.  It is God’s story.  People in trouble who make the news are now seen as somebody’s kid.  And God knows that somebody’s kid’s name and waits for them with open arms, too.

I’m not here to judge the parenting they’ve received or the choices that have been made.  Consequences still happen and restitution must be followed through.  But God’s invitation is for all people.  God’s grace goes above and beyond what we understand or can even imagine!  We need only look up and accept his invitation, his pleading to come.  St. Paul writes, “So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 

God’s prodigal love and forgiveness is for you!  We must celebrate together when the lost are found and the dead are brought back to life!  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry

Apollo Duo

Apollo Duo to Perform Concert – Sun. Sept. 14

We are so excited to host the Apollo Duo Concert Sunday, September 14th at 2:00 pm. The Apollo Duo is a flute and percussion duo based in Chicago and Minneapolis.

The duo formed in 2011 when flutist, Stefanie Abderhalden, and percussionist, Jeremy Johnston, were graduate students at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. The duo began with a performance of music for fife and drum and since then, has performed a variety of music for flute and percussion at various venues throughout the Midwest. The Apollo Duo strives to perform many styles of music for flute and percussion. The duo promotes playing new music and works to commission new, innovative pieces written for their combination.

The concert is open to all, no tickets necessary. There will be a free will offering, proceeds benefiting the musicians. The Duo will also be providing special music at Our Savior’s Sunday morning worship at 9:30 am. All are welcome.

Jeremy Johnston and Stefanie Abderhalden of Apollo Duo

 

Photo credit: http://www.facebook.com/apolloduomusic