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Kind Yet Simple. . .

 

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” 8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. 15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.”

                What a powerful story. I love verse 13. I take from this story the wisdom that simple actions and easy tasks are often the most impactful, but these same actions are often dismissed because of pride and/or status. It also teaches us that God is not moved to act on our behalf out of complicated rituals, or important people using wealth and power. God acts because God is God. In this story, the poor slave girl, the prophet, the generals servants/slaves can see how God works but the powerful do not.

Today’s challenge- Go out into the world and do something kind yet simple for someone who is least expecting your graciousness. If they ask you why, simply tell them, “because that is how God works.”

Blessings~ Pr. Erik

Let Us Prepare for this Race Together

Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,

and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1b

Wonderous October everyone,

What a wonderful month to live in God’s beautiful creation!  October certainly is one of my favorite months. Highlighting the month, we have Reformation Day and Confirmation Day.  October is the first full month that all our ministries and youth programs are back in full operation after summer break.  As an extra October bonus – there is pumpkin flavored coffee available now, which I love. The other aspect of October that is both overwhelming and exhilarating is that I feel it is the beginning of a long-distance race. A super long-distance race that we will run until next April when we celebrate Easter. Here is my reasoning – we have Reformation Day, then All Saints Day, then Thanksgiving, then Advent and Christmas. I feel like most years, Ash Wednesday/Lent begins before we can even catch our breath from all the excitement of Christmas. Then, before you know it, we have Wednesday evening meals/worship in Lent before the Holy Week and Easter. Wow!!! (three exclamation marks is not too much of an exaggeration). So, lets prepare for this race together. Let’s encourage each other. Pray for each other. Make sure our brothers and sisters in Christ have the physical and spiritual nourishment they need to sustain themselves.

This past June, both Gethsemane and Messiah celebrated Pentecost by worshipping with us at Our Savior’s. It was a faithful and fun day filled with good friends and good music. Coming up, we are all going to be celebrating Reformation/Confirmation Day at Gethsemane. There will be two worship services at Gethsemane on Sunday, Oct 27th and Bishop Tom Aitkin will preside at both. The earlier service will be at 8:30 and it will be a traditional Reformation worship service. The later service will be at 10:30 and we will celebrate and confirm our young people. I am really looking forward to hearing Bishop Tom preach about how God’s grace reformed and continues to reform the God’s church and God’s people. Please note: There will be no worship service at Our Saviors on Oct 27th.

We will also have a potluck supper at Gethsemane on Wednesday Oct 23rd.  We will be supporting all the confirmands this evening and hear their faith statements. Guides, mentors, family, and anyone who has participated in the faith journey of a confirmand is warmly welcomed to attend.

 

Your Co-Worker in Christ

Pastor Erik

 

Reformation Sunday Oct. 27

REFORMATION SUNDAY:

Shared OMG services will be held @ Gethsemane

  • 8:30am (Reformation Service)
  • 10:30am (Confirmation Service).
  • NO worship service will be held at OSL or Messiah Lutheran Church next Sunday, Oct. 27th!
  • There will be a joined choir at the 8:30 service, you are invited to practice at GELC Wednesdays at 6:oopm for the service.                                

Bishop Tom Atkin will preside both services.

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Ecclesiastes 5:18

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.

Wow, it is August! How did that happen? Is it just me or does it seem like the summer has flown by? Last May I wrote a list of all the things I want to do, places to see and house projects to complete during the summer… I still have a long way to go on my list. In reality, I haven’t achieved much on my list because this summer has been quite busy at church. But, busy is generally a good thing. Busy means that the Spirit is active and energized. My busy life received a wake-up call today when I read a daily devotional that my friend sent me. I read the book of Ecclesiastes. (I encourage you to read this book now before continuing with the newsletter. It is only 11 pages)

Ecclesiastes was written by a wise teacher. A teacher who reflects upon their life shares words of advice. The teacher realizes that many years were spent striving after riches, success, accomplishments, and even wisdom is like chasing after the wind. The teacher says that constant striving doesn’t bring fulfillment or meaning to life, and that life is meant to be enjoyed.

In the devotional, my friend reminded me that when I read Ecclesiastes to read it like it was written to me personally from a friend, from someone who knows me and knows what I need to hear. I suggest you do the same. When you read it, take it as encouragement to occasionally step back from the work of life. To take it as permission to leave your work, even if just for a moment, and to step out under the sun – after all it is August and the days are getting shorter every day. Ecclesiastes reminds us to accept God’s invitation to sabbath, as an invitation to rest.

These Holy words have been a major help to me this week and month. Summer is almost over, and it should be enjoyed and spent surrounded by loved ones. September is going to bring lots of exciting youth ministries and other activities, and we are going to need to be well-rested.

Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik

 

Hope & Expectation

Romans 5:1-5

1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

 

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ. Romans 5:1-5 is one of the readings coming up on Sunday. I find lots of meaning and significance in this reading. One of the things I like is the vocabulary word “hope” that the Apostle Paul uses. Interestingly, another interpretation of the word “hope” from Greek into English is “expectation.” So, we can read verse 2 in a different way, “ we boast in our expectation of sharing the glory of God.” The word “hope” and expectation” can mean the same thing, but I feel as if “expectation” is a bit stronger and more concrete.   It is especially strong in light of the end of verse 4 through verse 5- “character produces expectation and expectation does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. The Apostle Paul states in a factual way that the Holy Spirit has already put God’s love into our hearts, and because this act has already happened, we can expect and plan on participating in and sharing God’s glory.

Often times we think of hope in a passive way. For example, I hope there will be an ice cream sandwich waiting for me in the freezer after the kids are asleep in their bed tonight. There might be ice cream or there might not be. I don’t know. Hope implies some doubt.

Therefore, when it comes to God and our relationship with God – God’s love and sharing in God’s glory is more than simple “hope” it is expectation based on who God is due to the love and grace that God has already poured into us.

Have a wonderful week everyone. It is my expectation that all of you will continue to be lead by the Holy Spirit in new, fulfilling and life-giving ways.

Blessings ~ Pastor Erik

 

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit in Your Life

Acts 2:1-21
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 pastorerik@oslcmn.com or even better- stop by the church and we’ll share some coffee and chat about the Holy Spirit.

Discussion Questions for Pentecost
Amazed. Perplexed. Witness to deeds of power. When have you had a Pentecost experience? (Acts 2:1-21)

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)

(http://www.workingpreacher.org/)

A Challenging Love

John 14:23-29

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”

“. . .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

 

Giving Thanks. . .

 

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.

Psalm 107:8-9

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

All people. . .

Mark 9:38-40

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