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Pastor Devotionals

Monthly Devotional, June 2020

Dear OSLC,

Now it is June. We’ve been dealing with the pandemic for over two months now. It is no longer new, but still the end is not in sight. We are somewhere in the middle. So far, the middle is not a very nice place to be. Some of our businesses, organizations, and houses of worship are reopening and some are remaining closed. There is disagreement and hostility between levels of government on what is acceptably safe or unsafe. Sadly, people around the country feel compelled to choose one side over the other, and be for something and against something else, even though there truly is only one side that we are all on – humanity. This middle time is proving to be a time of frustration, impatience, anger and division, and I worry that the middle is going to last for a while. The middle is messy.

In times of messiness, we turn to scripture for comfort, perspective, and wisdom. The Bible tells us about times when people experienced hardship and uncertainty. The book of Exodus teaches us about people living through a middle time.  We learn that Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. If we look at a modern day map, we can see that they didn’t really have that far to go, but it took them 40 years.  For long stretches of time it seemed like they weren’t really going anywhere, or making any progress. Previously, when they were living in slavery, the agenda was clear- escape Egypt and go to the promised land. The beginning was clear and the end was clear, but the middle was uncertain. Once they were freed, things became murky. They only had food for one day at a time, and their only guidance was a cloud by day and fire by night, and neither the cloud nor the fire explained where they were going. They became frustrated and angry. They yelled, grumbled, and were rebellious. Indeed the middle was not a nice place to be. The middle was messy and stressed them out.

But God was with them in the wilderness during the middle time. God guided them. God inspired their leaders. God provided food and water. God healed their sicknesses. God disciplined them and taught them and loved them. God taught them how to be a people, how to be a community, how to treat each other, and God taught them about faith. Just so, God is with us in our middle time. Even when we disagree on what to do next and how to do it. Even when we get frustrated, impatient, or even angry, God will remind us that God is in our midst, continuing to lead and care for us. And God will eventually bring us to where we need to be. Remember – God makes promises and God keeps those promises.

My prayer to God and my request to you is to be abundant in grace. Be generous to each other. Be patient with each other. Listen to each other. We should constantly be asking ourselves, “What does all this mean, and how can we use this time to further our relationship with God and our neighbors?” God does work to bring something good out of the bad times.

As we prepare to emerge from this messy middle time, I am assembling a new committee of people who will work towards making plans for how to assemble safely for worship and ministries for the coming months or longer. This team will also work closely with other churches and leaders to discern when it safe to gather again for worship. Notably, we will not gather until is safe to do so.

Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik

Devotional: Memorial Day Weekend

John 10:10b I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

This Monday is Memorial Day here in the United States. It is a day often honored by getting together with groups of loved ones. This year, many people will honor it a bit differently because of restrictions on travel and gathering. Perhaps though, with a bit less noise and busyness, we can ponder more of the somberness of the day and where God fits in with it.

First, some context, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday in 1971, but dating in practice back to shortly after the Civil War. It is a time to rest from work and the routines of our week in order to create an intentional time to remember and honor those who have died in service to their country. Also, it is a time to hear and tell stories about the sacrifices of actual people which enables the younger generation to attach a face to a name. Importantly, making this day more than just a series of memories will help us all to keep from making war an abstraction. Hopefully, when we hear and tell these important stories we will be inspired to actions of peace, patience, and solidarity so that in the future others will not have to make the same sacrifice.

In this sense, Memorial Day should not be merely a vacation, a time to go to the lake, or a long weekend, but a time to renew our sense of gratitude for those who have served their country, and for the freedoms we enjoy because of that service and sacrifice. And it can also renew our own sense of commitment to working for a world that is committed to justice and peace.

Sincerely~ Pastor Erik

Devotional, May 15, 2020

Today’s Devotional is from Pastor Erik ~

Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer let your requests be made known to God.
Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.
1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray without ceasing.
James 1:5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you.
James 5:13 Are any among you suffering? they should pray.
James 5:16 The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

When we don’t know, pray. Strange times in which we are living. The uncertainty of this time bothers me. It bothers me as a pastor. It bothers me as a father. It bothers me as a son. It bothers me simply as a person who lives and participates in society. This past week, I’ve been speaking with people about church and the question that keeps coming up is, ‘When will we gather again for worship?’ This question is being asked along with several other follow up questions like: “When we will we be able have communion again? What about confirmation this next year and other youth events like the youth gathering next summer. What about the stuff sale and 25 cent clothes sale? When…

Perhaps the hardest thing for me and I think most people is to say the words and admit the fact, “I don’t know.” But that is the truth. I don’t know right now. What I do know is that you are experiencing this too. You are experiencing this uncertainty as a parent, grandparent, friend, businessperson, caregiver, student, and faithful follower of God. We are used to checking our calendars and making plans for the future. We are used to looking forward to events where we see our friends. We are comforted by having a routine in life of work, social and religious activities. But, we’re no longer able to reasonably assume the future and make plans. We don’t have control of the future. We’re living in the present in a way we’re not used to doing. As my kids say, “the virus is ruining everything.”

So what do we do? Give up? Throw our hands up in despair? Wallow in self-pity? No! We are Christians. When we don’t know, we pray. When we’re worried, we pray. When we’re confused, we pray. When we are scared, we pray. When things seems lost, we pray. In all things we turn to the One who does know, the One who is not confused, uncertain, worried, or scared. We turn to God. One way I’ve been turning to God this past week has been to pray Psalm 86 everyday. I read/pray it out loud even though no one else is around. I do this so that not only do I read it, but I can hear it too. Psalm 86 specifically communicates to me God’s power and certainty and it is helpful during times when I am feeling powerless and uncertain. Pray Psalm 86 or any other scripture that speaks to you.

So, fellow co-workers in Christ, keep praying. Pray for your loved ones. Pray for care givers. Pray for me and other pastors and religious leaders as we seek wisdom from God. Pray for all those guiding the lives of this nation. Pray for a vaccine. Pray that we all can become more humble, gentle, patient. I do know that prayer works and prayer is needed, but keep in mind that prayer is the companion of action. For example, Pray for those who are lonely or scared, and then give them a call. Pray for the church and then generously act on behalf of God’s mission. Pray for patience and then watch a beautiful sunset or take a nice walk.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always. ~Pastor Erik

PASTOR’S DEVOTION FOR THE MONTH OF MAY:

I never thought 2020 would be like this. In fact, since 2019 brought challenges to OSLC due to staff changes, I was planning for 2020 would be a year to take a breath and, relax, worship and simply enjoy each other’s presence. Not to make light of the situation, but I I’m reminded of the saying, “when people make plans- God laughs.”

This past week I was following the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA mostly out of curiosity because Rocky Mountain is where I was previously rostered in before moving to Minnesota. They were having their annual assembly and they used internet meetings to conduct their meeting. I mainly wanted to see some familiar faces and I wanted to hear what their guest speakers had to say in this time of the coronavirus. I was especially taken by one speaker who asked, “Is this an interruption or a disruption”? He posed this question to help everyone consider that the impacts of the coronavirus represent a fundamental shift in the way our society and therefore our churches will now operate. The reasoning was, if the coronavirus was just an interruption, then we would be looking forward to getting back to normal. But if this is a disruption, “then we must recognize that our normal is a thing of the past and make room for a new way of operating in this world.”

We’ve all experienced disruptions in our lives, and some are big, some are small. For example, we now stream our videos from Netflix and Amazon instead of renting videos from Blockbuster. This week I had all my dog’s food and chew toys delivered to my house by the UPS man rather than driving to the store, putting the food in the cart, buying it and bringing it home (amazingly, delivery is even cheaper than the old-fashioned way). Another example, after 9/11 people stopped greeting their loved ones at the gate at the airport and instead we all wait patiently in the cell phone lot. Everyone knows we must remove our shoes when we go through airport security and we can’t bring liquids in our bags. Our travel routines were disrupted, and we have now been living in this “new normal” for almost 20 years.

So, church has not simply been interrupted, it has been disrupted. Church is going to change. (Read that last sentence again and think about it for a moment before you continue reading) “Church is going to change,” is not a sentence I like typing. It’s not something I want to say or hear. I want to make plans for going back to normal, but the fact is we’ve been disrupted. Our worship will be different in the locations we can sit, the way we partake in communion, pass the peace, collect offering, and interact with others. As you all know, I love to give hugs, and that can’t happen anymore. But it is not all lament, I think some changes will enhance our ability to participate in God’s mission. I don’t know exactly what all those changes will be, but I’m ready to make the changes rather than get left behind and become ineffective in doing what Jesus has called us to do. One change that is permanently with us, for the good, is online worship. We will continue to have an online worship experience for people. Not just for health reasons, but when people are out enjoying the beauty of Minnesota on the weekends or out of town they can still worship and be connected to the community. I’ve also been humbled to hear from a couple folks who physically haven’t been able to worship in person for a couple years how grateful they are for this ministry. Having virtual meetings is also an opportunity. For example, our Synod’s Global Mission team, which I am part of, will have more frequent meetings over Zoom instead of occasionally having everyone drive to Duluth. This will cut down on travel, time and expense and hopefully bring more people into involvement. The folks from I-Falls have no excuse now. Our own congregation can use this technology to be more efficient and invite more people to participation.

Let us pray: Gracious God, we know that disruptions can be difficult to adjust to, but we also know they can bring new opportunities. Continue to guide us and reveal to us the majesty of your world.

Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik

May 1, 2020

Psalm 116:1–4, 12–19
I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

This psalm really spoke to me this week. During a time of uncertainty and difficulty, I gain confidence and comfort knowing that God is a God who listens and responds to my prayers. God also listens and responds to your prayers too. Lately, several people have asked me to help them or teach them how to pray. It seems like the difficulty in beginning to pray is just figuring out what words to use. It seems strange to talk, especially out loud, if there’s no one else in the room. Laughably, I speak to an empty room all the time- just check out the worship service videos. Remember, there isn’t a wrong way to pray, and if you want to do it silently, it is ok. But even if you don’t mind talking out loud, it can be hard to know what to say, or how to “start the conversation” with God.

Well, the first thing to do is be comforted: you don’t have to perform for God in your prayers with perfect words or long speeches! God much prefers honesty to style. And if you only have enough to say to fill up one minute, that’s ok too. Another source of comfort: you already have a lot of experience praying. You have said and heard many prayers in church. Even if you don’t have them memorized, your brain is used to the language of prayer. Once you start to do it, it will feel perfectly natural. If it helps, you can begin with the Lord’s Prayer. You probably know it by heart, and it will help you relax a bit. You can also find a Psalm, or read another part of Scripture to loosen you up a bit! Another possibility is to start like you would a letter and say, “Dear God…” Whichever way you begin take heart knowing that we all end our prayers in the same way- “AMEN!”

Stay safe and God bless~ Pr. Erik

April 24th, 2020

I invite everyone to open their bibles and read Judges chapters 6-8. It is the story of Gideon. I’ve always liked the story of Gideon, and I’m highlighting this story now because some of the themes and issues that Gideon dealt with seem very pertinent for today’s struggles.

Chapter 6 tells us about a time when the Israelites were experiencing terrible suffering by the Midianites. Everything they valued and everything they worked for was either stolen or destroyed. Our main character in the story is Gideon, and when we are introduced to him he is hiding in a wine press, trying to thresh wheat in order to keep it from the enemy. Basically, he was working from home, and trying his best to preserve a future for himself and his loved ones. (A familiar place where many of us find ourselves these days) Then, an angel of the Lord comes to him and declares, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Notably, Gideon doesn’t boldly stand up and reply “Here, I am.” Instead, his response is something more realistic. Gideon said to the angel, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off and given us into the hand of Midian.” Gideon is honest. He’s fearful and feeling unsafe, and he’s wondering where God is. Where is God while people are suffering? Where is God while he’s trying to thresh wheat in a wine press? Where is God when we’re working from home because it is unsafe to be out? Where is God when the schools are closed? Where is God when jobs are lost and money is tight? Where is God when the church is unable gather to worship? Gideon’s question is, “Why has God allowed this happened?”

Whether it is Covid 19 or any tragic event during the course of our lives, we find ourselves asking the same question as Gideon. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that God invites us to ask and converse with God about our lives, joys and struggles. Another thing that I do know is that no matter what, God is with us. In fact, that was the angel’s greeting to Gideon. The Lord is with you mighty warrior! I doubt Gideon felt mighty and he doesn’t seem like much of a warrior. But God called him to be a leader and do great things. God believed in him and saw in him something he didn’t see in himself. I think the church is a mighty warrior too, and because the church is not a simply a building, but because the church is people, you are also a mighty warrior.

Through the oppression of the Midianites, people experienced fear, despair, anxiety, selfishness, and isolation. But God hears the cries of the people and God gets involved which leads to victory. Similarly, the virus has also caused fear, despair, anxiety, selfishness and isolation. God hears our cries and I am confident God is involved and is present. Gideon trusted God in the midst of hard times, and we can too. No matter what comes, know this: God is with us and is stronger than anything that threatens us.

Your co-worker in Christ. Pastor Erik

April 17, 2020

Thank You!

There are so many people to thank for all the ways people are stepping up during this difficult time and making a difference in the lives of God’s people. We are in ministry to walk with others through their joys as well as struggles and to equip others to fully participate in God’s mission. That mission remains t17 he same even when we can’t physically gather in our Sanctuary. My heart overflows because I see the congregation fully embracing God’s mission. Thank you for continuing to support the mission of our church with your generosity. Thank you for sending in your offerings through the mail or through our online giving. Thank you for sharing our worship service with your friends and family. There are some powerful stories coming to light about how people who hadn’t been in worship for years are engaging their faith through online worship. Thank you for your notes of thanks and encouragement to me during this time. Thank you for making phone calls and checking in with one another and expanding our congregational care. Thank you for being you and not letting the challenges of the world diminish your hope, commitment, and grace.

Above all, my main focus of thankfulness and awe is directed to God. God is the one who sustains us through this time. God is the one who is always present and is with those who are alone. God is the one who will guide us through these confusing and frustrating days and weeks. God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead so that we are fully redeemed and can live our lives with complete confidence in God’s grace. Therefore, we can devote ourselves in responding to this grace with good work to our neighbors. God is the one who gives us life and purpose and a peace that passes all human understanding. I take heart that the last thing we said and proclaimed as a physical gathered congregation was “go in peace, serve the Lord,” “Thanks be to God.” I take heart because we have done exactly that.

Your co-worker with Christ~ Pastor Erik

GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

Leviticus 25:1-5 

LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.’ ” 

The concept of a year of rest for the land is an ancient one for farmers. God commanded the people to give their land a rest every seven years. No plowing or planting, no harvesting. Just let the land be. We know now that this is important to help the land be productive, to allow it time to recover from being farmed. We are in a time of rest now. The difference is we didn’t choose this and we didn’t have much time to prepare; we have to stay home, distance ourselves for the sake of our neighbor. Like the land during the fallow year, many of us simply have to let ourselves be. 

After calling many of you to check in and see how things are going, I know most of us are at home now running out of things to do and occupy our time. The weather is still a bit cold and outside is wet and muddy so gardening and yard work are not options yet.  We’ve already organized our basements and cleaned out our closets. Now what? I can’t help but wonder what God is planning to do to redeem this slower time for us. Could this turn into a time of rest and renewal? I hope so.  I know I am spending more time with my kids now and feeling the bonds of our relationships strengthened. We’ve been reading a lot more kid’s books together and I can tell that my daughter is strengthening her reading skills everyday.  I’m also really glad I enjoy the company of my wife, and I feel our relationship flourishing as we work together to meet these challenging times. I think maybe, God is redeeming this time.

As many of you know, I am passionate about the environment and being a good steward of God’s creation. I’ve been interested to see that pollution is way down across the globe. There are some amazing videos on youtube that show dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice and other wildlife coming out of hiding. Maybe God can use this time to teach us about what our planet can be like, again. Please don’t misunderstand me. This virus is real and it is bad. But I think God has a way of revealing God’s self in the midst of bad situations to illuminate God’s love and grace.  

I am inspired by hearing stories of brave and talented people who work in essential services like healthcare and knowing that those people are using their God-given talents to do amazing work. These stories prove to me that God is here with us. God is with the nurses and doctors on the front lines. God is with those who are doing their part by staying home. God isn’t just with us; God is working through us and among us. For those of us who find these days to be quiet and still, God may just be doing the work of renewal deep in your soul. What is God reminding you of? How is God giving you new life? Pay attention and embrace God’s work, even when it’s invisible.

Bless you now and evermore~ Pastor Erik
 

SUSTAIN THE WEARY WITH A WORD.

Isaiah 50:4
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.


 I know I am weary. I am weary of watching the constantly changing news, weary of not being able to do things and go places, weary of missing my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, weary of worrying about loved ones. “Sustain the weary with a word.” Sounds like just the thing for this week.

 And not just any word, but the Word. The word of God. In times of weariness and uncertainty, these verses from Philippians are right on. They teach us and remind us of God’s character, who God is, and God’s strength. It shows us Jesus  becoming fully human and entering fully into the human experience. Not only is Jesus one of us, but he is the best of us. 


Philippians 2:5-11
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Let the words from Philippians enter your heart and mind. In a time when we often feel powerless in the word, take comfort in knowing that God is powerful and in charge. When we can’t “do stuff” out in the community, know that the word is can and will “do stuff.” I love this quote by Martin Luther. He fully trusted the Word to go out and do God’s mission.  “I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word…did everything.”[i]


[i] Martin Luther, “Sermon on Monday after Invocavit” (March 10, 1522), in Luther’s Works 51:77.EDITSUSTAIN THE WEARY WITH A WORD.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

Happy February everyone,

On January 26, we read psalm 27 in worship. It is one of my favorite psalms. Simple, beautiful, uplifting. I have often gained comfort and courage by reading verse 1 and letting the psalmist’s word dwell in my mind.

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Whenever we have scripture that invokes words and images of light and dark I remind myself that in psalmist’s time, and most of human history, people have had two types of light in their daily lives- the sun and the lamp (oil, not electricity lamps) . The sun is so powerful that it can’t be stared at. It gives light, warmth, and enables plants to grow. The sun is certainly a gift from God. In Genesis 1:3 God said, “Let there be light” and it was so. 1 John 1:5 wonderfully tells us, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

 In the psalmist’s time, people had small oil filled lamps that they would occasionally light at night. Several examples of these lamps have been discovered by archeologists and can be seen in museums today. I have a replica of the most common lamp on a shelf in my office. It is small and can fit in the palm of your hand. It is filled with oil and has a 2-3 inch wick coming out. I’ve lit my replica lamp a few times in order to see how it works. It works well, but with just a single small wick it casts just enough light for someone to see a few feet in the darkness. I am reminded as well of the words from Psalm 119, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” 

Reflecting upon light, lamps and psalms I feel the wisdom of these words teaches us that we do indeed receive God’s light in our lives and God’s light illuminates our path by our feet, but it doesn’t show us every detail of the path ahead or which direction it is going to go in the next mile or the next year. These thoughts can be applied to our individual lives, or our congregation, or even to the wide universal church. In essence, we learn that we live as people who honor the past, try to discern the future, but ultimately are called to live fully in the present as God’s hands and feet in this beautiful yet broken world.

So, as we prepare for Lent at the end of February, (metaphorically or literally if you like) light your lamps and let your light shine as a beacon of hope to others.

Your co-worker in Christ, Pastor Erik

Blessed are You. . .

Luke 6:20-23
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets
.


We use the word “bless” often. I know I do, both at church and at home. Upon self-reflection, whenever something kind, helpful, or pleasant occurs, I say, “I’m blessed.” For most of us, we use the word “bless” to simply mean “happy” or “nice,” but the a closer examination of the word blessed teaches us that that word has a deeper and richer meaning. In the New Testament, the Greek word for bless is Makarios. Instead of translating Makarios as “happy,” a better translation is “unburdened” or “satisfied.” 

At the moment, I’ve been inspired to listen to some classic Rolling Stones while I write.  As we ponder the meaning of unburden and satisfaction along with Mick Jagger, here are some questions to consider… Do my actions and behaviors unburden my loved ones? Do my actions unburden strangers? Do my generous words and actions satisfy the needs of others?  What burdens hold me back in life? Are you satisfied with your life?

Know that OSLC is a place where you can unburden yourself. Bring your burdens, lift them off your shoulders and set them in front of the cross. Also know that Jesus, as the bread of life, is the only one who can offer complete satisfaction to you.

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

 

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