1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’John 14:8-17, [25-27]
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
[25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.]
This week I would like to try something new with the weekly witness. Instead of simply telling you what I think of the reading, I would like to hear from you. Below are three discussion questions. Please ponder them and tell me what you think. You can email me at email@example.com or even better- stop by the church and we’ll share some coffee and chat about the Holy Spirit.
Discussion Questions for Pentecost
When have you, like Philip, yearned for a sign so that you can believe with confidence? (John 14:8-12)
How is the spirit being poured out in your own life and in your congregation? (Acts 2:17-19)
23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
Last week we focused on the “new commandment” that Jesus spoke of in John 13:34 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” I interpret this weeks Gospel reading from John 14 in light of John 13. Therefore, when Jesus instructs Judas (not Iscariot) that the keeping of Jesus’ word is connected to the love of the Father together with the mutual indwelling of Jesus and the Father with the disciple. So, loving each other just as Jesus modeled his love for people is what we are understanding verse 23 to be about. Again, this love that Jesus is commanding is agape love. It is not romantic (eros) love. It is brotherly/friendship love (philia). It is a self-giving, humbling, servant, promise of unconditional welcoming and acceptance type of love.
For me, this scripture is extremely upsetting and challenging and I worry that I can’t live up to this expectation. In fact, I know I can’t. However, I am greatly relieved and calmed by verse 26 because in it Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to be my guide, teacher and advocate. By naming the Holy Spirit as a teacher, Jesus acknowledges that he knows I still have more to learn and that “I’m not there yet.” So, of course I am upset and challenged, as I suspect most of you are to because at the moment, I am not equipped to fulfill this expectation. But I will be because of the Spirit’s promise. And you will be too.
Your co-worker in Christ~ Pastor Erik
“. . .If you have love for one another.”
John 13:31-35 Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This Sunday’s gospel reading is commonly known as the “love commandment.” Interestingly, Jesus declares that he has a “new” commandment for the disciples. However, the commandment “love one another” is not new. It is a solid Old Testament theme that has been a foundation of the faith for many generations. Leviticus 19:18 states, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Also, Leviticus 19:34 “The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”
So, in what sense is this new commandment to love one another new? Identifying the context of John 13 is helpful. John 13:1-21 is the depiction of Jesus portraying servant leadership by washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus is modeling love by humbling himself and serving rather than being served. Therefore, serving others is what love is. Then in John 13: 21-31, Jesus foretells his betrayal by Judas. This betrayal sets in motion the arrest, sentence, humiliation, crucifixion, and ultimately the death of Jesus. Wow. Judas has done immense evil and caused terrible pain. Jesus knew all along what Judas would do, but he still included him in the foot washing. So, Jesus models the act of love to include forgiveness and mercy. As if that is not enough John 13:36-38 is Jesus’ prediction that Peter will deny Jesus three times. So, Jesus’ love is even abundantly given to those who cowardly deny knowing him.
Loving others who are kind, gentle and loyal is easy. Jesus commands his followers to move above and beyond the easy and convenient life. Loving others who have betrayed us, caused pain, abandoned us, and live a life of greed and self-service what we are called to do. No, simple task, and we can’t do it alone. In order to lead a loving life we need to support of each other. We need to worship and be part of a community. We need to hear over and over again that we are loved, blessed and forgiven by God. We need to know that every day, through the gift of baptism, we are born-again and can start fresh.
God’s Love~ Pastor Erik
2 Corinthians 9:11
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Happy Thanksgiving! This week I especially pray for you and all people to experience on overflow of generosity- both generosity from and generosity toward. I pray for you to have a generous portion of kindness, compassion, quality time, rest and relaxation, love, peace, and good food. Our national day of Thanksgiving is centered on giving thanks to God for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Just as God has acted generously towards each of us in our lives and faith, let us reflect God’s generous character to our families and neighbors.
God Bless you~ Pr. Erik
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us.
There are an estimated 40,000 different Christian denominations in the world. That is a lot! The majority of the 40,000 are small splinter groups from mainline denominations or they are unaffiliated stand-alone congregations. For me, it is interesting to think about how one Bible is the authority of so many different groups. Different groups mean different theological interpretations, different points of emphasis, and different ways of worship. A look at the nightly news and basic study of history shows that people often look towards other denominations with suspicion and even aggression. World history headlines from the past two thousand years show that these differences have directly led to, or at least played a role in major wars resulting in countless tragedies. This reading from Mark 9 firmly directs us to reexamine how we interact with and treat people from other Christian traditions. Simply stated, Jesus tells us that different is ok. The name of Jesus is what truly matters, and the name of Jesus is what transcends cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences in order to bring all people together.
This week, I invite everyone to have a conversation with someone from a different Christian tradition to share something about church or worship style and to also learn something new about another group.
A few years ago I heard an excellent sermon which used the phrase, “remember, different people are not a failed attempt at being you. All people are unique expressions of being children of God.”
With grace~ Pastor Erik
Men in Missions – This group of men meets once a month to learn about service projects in the church and beyond that they can become involved in. It is part mentor-ship and part service, resulting in service to others.
“WELCA” Women of the ELCA – We are a group of ladies that love to share our interests and ideas about life with each other, and share the love of Christ with the outside world around us. Our circle groups are involved with many service projects, such as, creating newborn kits, school backpack kits, camperships for youth at Camp Vermilion, quilting, prayer shawls, hospital care kits, etc. If you attend the church, you are considered a member, and can join in the meetings and devotion times whenever you are able, and take part in whatever projects you feel called to do. We invite you to join us and share your ideas!
If you need a few resources to get you through the week, click on these links here for devotionals and information to lift your spirits!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Every day I notice the maple tree in my front yard gets a few more red and yellow leaves on it. When the tree first started turning, I was dismayed and even a bit upset. I want to tell the tree that it is WAY too early. I’m not ready! Summer is not over yet. There are still summer events, destinations and projects on my to-do-list. Autumn means school is starting, rally day, confirmation, committee meetings, etc. Where did the time go? However, I only grumbled for a day or two, then I began viewing the colorful tree in a different way. I began viewing the tree with enthusiasm and joy, because it means that school is starting, confirmation will begin, the new committee structure will be presented and get into full action, and all the church people will be back in the pews on Sundays. Getting back into “full-church-mode” (quote from my grandma) is something to be very enthusiastic and joyful about. Full-church-mode is a good thing. It means the Spirit is active.
Speaking of my to-do-list, here are some updates I want to communicate with all of you.
- Our new Director of Youth and Christian Education, Ben Anderson, will be formally joining our ministry team on September 5th and Rally Sunday will be his first Sunday at Our Saviors! I know last December my family and I felt very welcomed by the church (I still feel very welcomed) and I know you’ll show the same generosity, kindness, and hospitality to Ben.
- Rally Sunday is Sept 9th! We will have a bouncy house, games and snacks after worship. During worship we will celebrate our youth by giving Bibles. We will also recognize the wonderful Eucharist team. Sunday school will begin the following Sunday. Full-church-mode!
- OSLC, Gethsemane, and Messiah will have confirmation together this year. This has been a big project in the making with lots of meetings and communication amongst the churches. I think that all the kids will benefit from having a large group of friends, guides, pastors and mentors walking with them in their faith journey. There are too many details to list and I am personally communicating with the confirmation families about dates and questions. It is going to be great!
- I am going to join our synod’s companion team trip to Honduras the first week in October. As you all know, Global Mission is a passion of mine and I am very excited about participating in this program. Several pastors from our synod are going to be leading theology, church administration, and pastoral-care workshops for newly ordained Honduran pastors. I will invite you to participate in a fund-raiser during September for a portion of the trip’s cost.
- Later in September, Pastor Amy Odgren from the Synod office will visit with the church councils of OSLC, Gethsemane, and Messiah and lead a visioning discussion about ministry, stewardship, and where is the Holy Spirit is leading our three congregations in the future.
I want to thank all of you for your faithfulness, grace, and kind words. There is a lot to look forward to and be excited about. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please let me know. You are the church and I am always looking for ways to serve the church better and more efficiently.
Autumn Blessings ~ Pastor Erik
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
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.”
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