Category Archives: Ministries

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Virginia, MN ministries

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Blessed & Overjoyed

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I hope your summer is going well. It is hard to believe August is already upon us. The past two weeks went by especially quick. I was able to spend a week visiting my family in WI as well as attend a conference at Luther Seminary entitled “Rethinking Stewardship- from solemn obligation to inspired choice.” Playing card and board games into the wee hours of the morning with my family, picking cherries with Nozomi and Ronin, enjoying nature, and watching sunrises and sunsets over the harbor were the highlights of my vacation. I am also looking forward to sharing with you what I learned at the rethinking stewardship conference. I feel like the past two weeks have refreshed by soul.

I am very grateful for the past two weeks because congregational life for the foreseeable future is shaping up to be busy and eventful. Notably, a priority for us is to find a new person to direct our youth and family ministries. We surely miss Meagan, but we excitedly await the unique gifts and talents of our next colleague in Christ. We currently have several advertisements about the position, and we are hopeful to fill the position soon. If an intriguing person comes to mind, please encourage that person to check out all the details about the position from our website or give the church office a call. I am confident in God’s guidance and joyfully looking forward to where the Holy Spirit leads us next. In the meantime, I ask for your prayers, patience and continued participation in the congregation.

I also want to use this month’s newsletter to share with you my thoughts about the ELCA churches here in the Quad Cities. For many years, there has been interest and conversation about churches collaborating in shared ministry as well as even merging together. Because merging together is a very serious subject, and there are lots of emotions and details involved I want to be as open and straight forward as possible. Interest in having these conversations and working together to develop proposals has recently been renewed. To be clear, so far there haven’t been any formal conversations about merging. I invite OSLC into an intentional time of prayer and discernment about hopes, dreams and goals. I’d like to frame this discernment in terms of stewardship. A theological point to make is the church and all its resources belongs to God. God has called us and entrusted us to use, manage, and share God’s resources as efficiently as possible.  We are guided by the Holy Spirit-and God continuously invites us to participate with God in God’s mission.

Your thoughts and feedback are valuable and needed. Please share them with me. I will keep the congregation informed if any formal conversations are scheduled.

I am so blessed to be part of this loving community of faith. I am overjoyed and honored to be called to serve as your pastor, and I am excited to see what God will do next. Enjoy the rest of the summer.      Enjoy your family and friends and God’s beautiful creation.

Your fellow servant in Christ~ Pastor Erik

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Trust. . . Believe

John 6:35, 41-51

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

             We are currently in the midst of the “bread of life” lectionary series. I want to point out a few things to help make more sense of Jesus’ message and the imagery. In verse 49, Jesus references the time of the exodus when Moses lead the people from Egypt to the “Promised Land.” While on their journey the people complained about being hungry and God provided them with manna to eat. At its heart, the manna story is about trust in God. Scripture tell us that manna had to be collected according to the instructions God gave (Exodus 16:16-26), so obeying God’s instructions served as a way for the people to learn to trust God. Deuteronomy summarizes the story this way: “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you not your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

New Testament scholar Susan Hylen wrote, “The Greek word pisteuo, which is translated “believe” throughout John, was more commonly used to convey a trusting relationship. Thus, even though John is concerned that readers understand that Jesus is who he claims to be, pisteuo might better be translated as “trust” in these verses. John emphasizes throughout the Gospel that the audience should trust the witnesses to Jesus, along with Jesus’ own words and signs, and through these things come to trust in Jesus. This sense of the word pisteuo is surely in play in John 6:35, 47. The one who trusts in Jesus feeds on the bread of life. Like the manna, trust is required to access the life Jesus offers.”[1]

God’s peace to you all. Have a blessed week and trust/believe that God will continue to take care of you.

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3742

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UPCOMING: Fun Events & Bible Study Times

Below is a list of fun end-of-summer events, along with the ongoing Bible Study times and Fall studies & retreat information.

  • 5th Annual Back-to-School Bonfire Wed. Aug. 22nd right here in our backyard! Enjoy Nuke ‘Em, s’mores, and a great campfire. Invite your friends for early evening fun & fellowship! All are welcome!
  • Summer Evening Worship @ Gethsemane, Thursdays at 6:30pm, Aug. 9, 16, 23.
  • Rally Sunday Worship & Carnival – Sept. 9th! All 3-year-olds, 3rd graders, and 6th graders will be gifted Bibles from our congregation, and all are invited to bring a backpack or bag for the blessing of the backpacks! Join us after worship for fellowship and fun games outside!
  • Bible Studies: Men’s Bible Study, Perkins Restaurant, Wednesday mornings at 7:30am–Thursday  Bible Study @ 1pm in the Fireside/Youth Room– Ladies’ Bible Study @ Adventures Thursdays at 3pm–Rouchleau Bible Study will resume this fall.
  • Via de Cristo: The “Way of Christ” Retreat where experiencing the Gift of God’s Grace happens! This year it will be held at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. Men’s Weekend is Oct. 4th-7th, Women’s Weekend is from Oct. 11th-14th. RSVP to Butch or Betty @ 218-741-2682.
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The all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There are many thank-you notes, and words of congratulations to share. First, I want to thank all the people who helped make the Houston trip possible for our young men and women. By Meagan’s leadership and resourcefulness, all the participants will have faithful and meaningful memories to carry with them forever. The success of this trip truly was a whole congregation effort because everyone provided prayers and resources. Secondly, I want to send a huge thank you too all the people who participated in the clothing sale. It was a lot of hard work, but well worth it. I know many people are grateful for the kindness and generosity that Our Savior’s shows to the community. Finally, words of congratulations to all those who graduated. Well done. God is using you and your gifts to further God’s Kingdom.

I can confidently say that our congregation is doing well. Everyday I see and hear about acts of kindness, love, humility, excitement, and inclusiveness. I am very honored to be part of this church. Even though our congregation is doing well, we all notice that there are relational, environmental and political challenges, struggles and heartbreak in other parts of our county and world. In reflection of these wider issues I want to direct you to chapters 4, 5 and 6 from the gospel of Mark. We will also be reading these chapters in worship on Sundays for the next couple weeks. While you read, whenever you come across the words fear, afraid, terrified, I encourage you to get out your highlighter or pen and circle that word. Examine who the characters are who are fearful and take notice of what they do because of their fear. One of the topics from these chapters in Mark is the topic of fear and specifically how people react to fear. I’m writing about this topic because it seems to me the most troubling issues of 2018 are related to people reacting to fear in hurtful and unhealthy ways. I hope by studying the Bible and Gospel message, we can equip ourselves and help equip others to use our faith and react to fear with confidence and grace.

Throughout these chapters in Mark, we often see the hurtful and unhealthy ways in which people, especially the disciples, reacted to fear. I will point out a few of these examples (there are several more that you can uncover through study). When Jesus Stills the Storm in Mark 4:35-41, we see the disciple reacting with hopelessness and accusing Jesus of not caring about them.  The swineherds from chapter 5 were afraid and their reaction to fear was to reject Jesus and beg him to leave their neighborhood. Because it is such a dynamic story, most people are familiar with the verses about Jesus walking on the water in chapter 6. A detail that most people miss from that story is that the disciple’s response to fear and not-understanding is simply to harden their hearts. Later in Chapter 9:30-33, the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching and were afraid to ask him to clarify so they were silent. Their reaction to fear was ignorance.

Simply put, faith enables us to face our fears with bravery and confidence because we know that the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. By reading these chapters together and reflecting on them, I am confident we can face our fears with grace, wisdom, and compassion. When people are not trained to use their faith they often react to fear by being hopeless, judgmental, violent, ignorant and reject Christ himself.

There are two messages of good news for you today. The first is – you have faith. God has given faith to you and you can rely in your faith to get you through the most frightening issues. The second is – even if you fail and succumb to let fear guide you, God will never give up on you. The disciples constantly failed, but God never abandoned them. God will never abandon you either. God loves you and always will.

Have a Blessed Summer~ Pastor Erik

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Be Bold in Your Love. . .

Amos 2:7 5:24 and 6:4-6

2:7“they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way”

5:24  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

6:4-6 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; Who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; Who drink wine from bowl, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, But are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

                Whoa! Amos is being quite bold in his words. Some questions to ask ourselves today. What will God do in response to the cruelty and greed expressed by people? (Please read all of Amos and find out)

Is life today in 2018 much different than mid-700 B.C.? What is God going to do next?

We are going to read part of Amos this Sunday. I love Amos because of his bold courage and because of his deep concern and love for others. His concern and love are often overshadowed because of the harshness of his words, but his love is revealed by urging people to repent and lead humble and generous lives in order to avoid calamity.

A commentary by professor Elaine James helps to clarify. “As theologian James Cone writes, ‘Most theological treatments of God’s love fail to place the proper emphasis on God’s wrath, suggesting that love is completely self-giving without any demand for obedience. Bonhoeffer called this ‘cheap grace.’  1. God’s love demands righteousness, and breaches of God’s call to justice and love cause God grief. As Amos is keen to show us, God is not indifferent to human suffering, oppression, and injustice. Cone goes on: ‘The wrath of God is the love of God in regard to the forces opposed to liberation of the oppressed.’  2. God’s judgment, for Amos, is a manifestation of relationship with a living God, a God of passion who deeply cares.”

I hope everyone has a great week. Be bold in your love. Blessings~ Pastor Erik

Amos article

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3700

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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

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. . . Helper, Counselor, Advocate, and Guide.

John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
This Sunday is Pentecost! Such an amazing day when we celebrate the Holy Spirit and reflect on the leadership, guidance, and power that the Spirit continuously bestows upon us and the church. During worship, we talk a lot about Jesus and God the Father, but we spend just a small amount of time talking about the Spirit. This lack of time devoted to the Spirit has left many people confused about the who the Spirit is and what the activity of the Spirit includes.

I found Professor Jones’ words (Wartburg College) to be very helpful, “In John, Jesus’ preferred term for the Spirit is the Paraclete. The Greek noun Paraclete is related to a verb that means “I call alongside.” The Paraclete, then, is the Spirit of Truth whom Jesus calls to accompany his followers as helper, counselor, advocate, and guide. Jesus promises to send the Paraclete as a replacement for his own presence among his disciples.” Jones further writes, “Jesus describes the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth who will expose sin, righteousness, and judgment and who will lead Jesus’ followers into all truth. It is vitally important that readers understand what Jesus means here by truth.

The Spirit of truth is not focused on propositional, dogmatic truth. Jesus does not send the Spirit to ensure that the community makes no errors in its theological descriptions of the Trinity or of the precise nature of Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine. No, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to help his followers live in the Way of Jesus.”

I hope to see all people at worship on Sunday. It will be an amazing day. Celebrating an amazing promise. A promise given to an amazing group of people.

God’s Peace~ Pastor Erik

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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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For surely I know the plans I have for you. . .

Jeremiah 29:11
“For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

This week, in many homes throughout the country, people are celebrating a graduation. People are graduating high school, college, and even in some homes (like mine) there is even a pre-school graduation party. On graduation there are special moments to reflect upon; a job-well-done, knowledge gained, challenges overcome, and meaningful friendships. There is also a time to look towards the future, and we look forward with a mixture of excitement, mourning, hope, anxiety, and curiosity.I wanted to share this passage from Jeremiah with all the graduates, to remind you that whatever adventure the future brings, you should know that God only wants the best for you and that God has already made plans for your success.

Congratulations and Blessings on your journey- Pastor Erik

Choices

Weekly Witness ~ You Did Not Choose Me But I Chose You. . .

You did not choose me but I chose you. John 15:16

These are words spoken by Jesus to the disciples and they are also words spoken by Jesus to you.

It seems to me that people today have more choices in their lives than any other time in human history. To name a few; what to eat, what to wear, where to live, where to go on vacation, which topics to study in school, which career to pursue, who to love, how to treat others, how to worship God, etc. Everyday is filled with choices. Often times the abundance of choices lead to more opportunities and the ability to engage in fulfilling activities, but the abundance can also distract and overwhelm us.

Knowing that God chooses us and that we don’t choose God is very good news. It is good news because it means that our place in God’s Kingdom and the abundant love poured out onto us doesn’t depend on us. This is great news because as much as we try, humans are not always dependable and reliable. We often fall short, and we make poor choices. The good news is that God loves each and everyone of us so much that God is unwilling to risk the relationship. There is an old phrase, “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” In terms of your relationship with God- the choice has already been made.

Blessings~ Pastor Erik