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Our Saviors Lutheran Church of Virginia, Minnesota News

pr. joyce

Sunday Sermon – Pr. Joyce Piper

1502435_488720847898065_5065822072428423218_o (1)Matthew 25. 1-13 / Amos 5. 18-24 / 1 Thess 4

What time is it?  What are we waiting for?  Are we ready?  These are all questions raised by Sunday’s texts from Amos, Thessolonians, and Matthew.

If we are waiting for the Day of the Lord, then we better be careful what we wish for, according to Amos.  The prophet Amos was the first to use the phrase “the Day of the Lord” referring to God’s dark day of Judgment.  If we’re waiting for our enemies, “those people”, to get what they deserve, then we’d best be careful.  It might just be we who receive our come-uppance.  Amos warns it won’t be what one expects.  Fleeing from a lion, one will meet a bear . . . or feeling safe at home, a snake is there waiting to attack.   That would be a hard choice; would you rather meet a lion, a bear or a snake?!

Why does the Lord hate the worship sacrifices and offerings of the people addressed by Amos?  All of the ancient prophets link social justice with proper worship of God.  Oppression of the poor and the weak are the immoral acts of the worshippers most criticized by Amos.  God rejects the gifts of sacrifice and songs of praise when offered by those who simultaneously oppress weaker persons.  If God’s justice were to roll down like waters and God’s righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, there would be room and a place for everyone.  For Amos, God’s justice cannot be separated from God’s love.

Amos and Matthew, though centuries apart in time, are in complete agreement that the fruit of having faith in God naturally and necessarily leads to acts of justice and righteousness on behalf of our neighbors.  If worship leads to anything other than greater generosity with our neighbors on God’s behalf, then we’ve missed the boat.  If we have received the love of God it’s going to show in obvious ways.  “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” as the song states. . . . Fruits of the spirit will be evident (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) . . . these things will naturally flow and show in the lives of those steeped in God’s love.

Attending to worship details without attending to the needs of the poor is empty worship according to the word of the Lord through Amos.    Worship that serves one’s own pious self-satisfaction rather than worship that glorifies God through love of one’s neighbor is not acceptable.  Simply going through ritual motions without expressing compassion toward others does not meet God’s definition of worship.

There are so many ways to go astray in worship.  We may develop strong personal preferences about placement of the altar, placement of the baptismal font, color of the pew cushions, should there be pew cushions?!, which version of the Lord’s Prayer should we use?, hymn selection, praise band questions, who is reading for Christmas Eve service and so on and on.  That’s just a short list of some of the worship conflicts I have witnessed during 30+ years of parish ministry.  NONE of those issues is on God’s list from Amos.

The only requirement God has about worship in Amos has nothing to do with placement of the baptismal font or any other  such worship details; just “Show me your justice and righteousness toward those in real need!”   Justice and righteousness flowing like ever-flowing streams in the desert.  Worship is an empty ritual if not connected to living justice.  Period.  That is where our concern for worship needs to be as well.  And hopefully we can have conversions about the peripheral matters of worship so that they don’t overtake the centrality of God’s generosity and grace.

So the outcome of the Day of the Lord’s judgment may not be what one is hoping for, according to the prophet Amos.  It might even be a reversal of one’s expectations.  Similarly in Matthew’s gospel, the return of the Lord cannot be predicted, although there are of course those who love to make predictions and platforms for themselves in making dire predictions.  Jesus’ parable of the 10 bridesmaids reveals that no one knows the day nor the hour.

By the time of Paul’s writing to the congregation at Thessalonica, there has been a serious delay in Paul’s expectations of Jesus’ return.  Paul goes on to say that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  So what are Christians to do in the meantime, while waiting for the Lord?  Paul’s message is that we should encourage one another and build each other up with hope.

The wise bridesmaids in Matthew keep the vision of Christ’s return alive through their faithful waiting in the midst of delay. By preparing for the day, the timing of which no one knows but God, they proclaim that God’s promises are true. They act out their hope for that day when God will establish justice and righteousness and peace.

Even though waiting and “keeping awake” has a clear focus on the future,  it is also a meaningful way to live in the present.  For indeed if we act as though Jesus Christ is in our midst . . . he is!  Wherever 2 or 3 gather in his name he is with us.  Whenever we respond to the needs of the least among us, Jesus Christ is with us as well.


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Join us for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Day: If you are alone . . . or lonely, come join us for a Thanksgiving meal at 2 pm, with all the trimmings! Cost is $7.50 a person, but 12 & under are free. Take out will be available. If you would like to share a favorite dish it will be welcomed. Sign-up on the poster in the narthex, deadline is Sunday, November 19th.

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Paint & Pallet

Come join us for an amazing Pallet Sign Making Event, this Thursday, Nov. 9th, 6-9pm. Help raise money for the Sr. High Journey to Houston next June! Everything is included to make these popular wood pallet signs (designs range in price, starting at $45). To sign up call Beth at 218-750-3139.


All Saint’s Sunday Message

20150413_104923Matthew 5: 1-12  The Beatitudes

What does it mean to be blessed?  to live a blessed life?

This morning’s gospel teaches us about blessedness and it’s maybe not how we usually count our blessings.   Typically we count ourselves and others blessed when things are going especially well.  Jesus’ teaching about blessedness points to the particular nearness of God that is often experienced in time of deep personal need and also when we enter into the deep needs of our neighbors.

Jesus’ public ministry in Matthew’s gospel begins with his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in chs 5-7.  Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the authoritative teacher of God’s people.  Jesus breaks into the public arena of his ministry proclaiming, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” and then he calls his first disciples from their work of fishing for fish to the mission of fishing for people.

Jesus shows his disciples what this new fishing looks like by preaching the good news of God’s kingdom way and by healing every kind of disease.  The presence of God’s kingdom way is liberating.  Jesus climbs a mountain with the crowd that has gathered and teaches his disciples about the principles of life in the way of God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as it is commonly known, has been used by several transformative faith communities as the basis for nurturing and practicing Christian discipleship during the past 75 years.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer credits the Sermon the Mount with opening his eyes to renewal in Christian community in the midst of Nazi Germany.  Another faith community shaped by the Sermon on the Mount includes the Koinonia Farm, a racially integrated community in Georgia founded in 1942 that became the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity.  The Taize Community in France and the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr are also founded on the Christian discipleship principles of the Sermon on the Mount.

This Sermon on the Mount is foundational teaching for Christian discipleship in community.  And the assumption is that Christianity is lived out, put into practice as part of a community, not as an individual method for self-improvement.

The Sermon on the Mount starts with a series of 9 blessings, called the Beatitudes.  This portion of scripture may be so familiar, like the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23, that it’s hard to hear it with fresh ears. Although it is poetic and often quoted, the Beatitudes are not easily understood.  These blessings are not just about individual lives, but also about Christian communities/ congregations who corporately practice their faith in rather stark contrast to common worldly values that we live and breathe.

Take the word “blessed” to begin with . The Greek word for “blessed” used in the Beatitudes is makarios.  In ancient Greek times, makarios referred to the gods. The blessed ones were the gods, small “g”, many gods.  The gods had achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond all cares, labors, and even death. The blessed ones were beings who lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries of ordinary people. To be blessed, one had to be beyond human.

Makarios took on a second meaning, referring to the “dead”, another way of being beyond ordinary human life. The blessed ones were humans, who, through death, had reached the other world, the world of the gods. They were now beyond the cares and problems and worries of earthly life. To be blessed, you had to be dead. That is the origin of the different saints’ days — they are remembered on the dates of their deaths. All Saints Day began as a celebration of all the people who had died in the faith whose names were unknown.

Finally, in Greek usage, makarios came to refer to the elite, the upper crust of society, the wealthy people. It referred to people whose riches and power put them above the normal cares and problems and worries of ordinary folk — who constantly struggle and worry and labor in life. To be blessed, you had to be very rich and powerful.

Eventually blessedness took on yet another meaning. It referred to the results of right living. If you lived right, you would be blessed by receiving desirable earthly, material things: a good wife, many children, abundant crops, riches, honor, wisdom, beauty, good health. A blessed person had more things and better things than an ordinary person. Having abundant things became a sign of blessedness.

In all of these meanings, the “blessed” ones live apart from ordinary folks. The blessed ones were gods. They were humans who after death had gone to the world of the gods. They were the wealthy, upper crust. They were those with many possessions. The blessed were those people and beings who lived beyond the normal cares, problems, and worries of ordinary people.

Jesus, according to Matthew, uses this word in a totally different way. It is not the elite who are blessed. It is not the rich and powerful who are blessed. It is not the high and mighty who are blessed. It is not the people living in huge mansions or expensive penthouses who are blessed. Rather, Jesus pronounces God’s blessings on the lowly: the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the meek, the mourning. Throughout the history of this word, it had always been the other people who were considered blessed: the rich, the filled up, the powerful. Jesus reverses it completely. The blessed ones in God’s kingdom, are those who are empty and in need and also those who struggle for the sake of God’s kingdom.

How do Jesus’ statements of blessedness make sense for us today?

It is probably still the case that we are surprised to think of blessedness being related to those whose present circumstances seem unfortunate.  We would probably rather NOT be blessed if we could avoid mourning for example.  But mourning comes to all of us who love another.  If we love beyond ourselves, there will inevitably be loss and mourning.  We will be deeply attached to the lives of others who matter to us and someday the relationship will be affected either by disappointment, disease or death.

That’s the risk we take in loving and serving others . . . and painful as it is, it’s worth much more than a life of isolation and self-focus.

Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God that penetrates the present condition of those who mourn and transforms it.  I have felt that particular nearness of God myself in times of mourning.

Whatever opens our souls more widely can become an avenue for God to enter in more deeply.  Those who trust the Lord will be fortunate forever.  Jesus calls those who would be his followers to openness to God in all circumstances.

Being blessed is not a reward for living right or for the accident of being born into fortunate circumstances.  Being blessed has to do with seeing the presence of Christ, hearing him, receiving him, responding to him.  Near the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus says explicitly that he is among “the least” . . . among those in deep need.

So we can expect that Christ will be near us as a special comfort when we live in times of deep need.  And as we meet the challenge of journeying close to others in deep need, we are also likely to sense the presence of Christ with them and with us.

Such blessedness cannot be attained or grasped once and for all.  But once it has been experienced, there is a desire for more, a hunger to receive and share the love and presence of God, as a practice of living out our faith in following Jesus.

And God is not done with us.  Our lives are a mystery, even to ourselves.   We have no idea what God might do with us or through us.  We only know that, in the end, all that we are and do will be caught into Christ and somehow the totality of who we are will look like him. That means, of course, that God is not done with us. That God has something in store for us — big or little, hard or easy, yet God is at work to love the world through the unique person God has created each of us to be . . . and through the unique community of faith that is Our Savior’s.


Pr. Joyce

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A Message from Pastor Joyce

Philippians 4: 4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul’s final exhortation to the congregation at Philippi has the most fitting words I can imagine as I anticipate concluding my time of bridge interim ministry with you in the end of November.  This is indeed a month of Thanksgiving!  I am so grateful for the 3 months shared together with all of you and also grateful for the anticipated joyful outcome of your call process following the October 29th congregational vote.

I have experienced such warmth and hospitality in my time here at Our Savior’s Lutheran!  I also wish to include  a standard resource I’ve shared with many congregations completing their call process:  50_Ways_to_Welcome_New_Pastor Well, you all are so creative I’m sure you’ll find at least 50 more ways to express your love and appreciate for Pr. Erik & Tauna and their dear children in the first few months of moving and transition.

We will have the month of November to say farewell for a short and sweet time together. There will be gratitude in my heart as I remember you and hold you in my prayers.


In Christ,

Pr. Joyce


pr. joyce

Sunday Sermon – Pr. Joyce Piper

1502435_488720847898065_5065822072428423218_o (1)Matthew 22:15-22

God’s got the whole world in his hands!  And we all carry multiple loyalties to church, state and family, maybe membership in more than one family through marriage or divorce.  We often discover competing loyalties in our families for important holiday celebrations and tough choices must be made.  It is really hard to keep everyone’s families happy with visits scheduled at Thanksgiving and Christmas!

My sons were both born in Norway during the 1970’s when I was married and living there for 7 years with their Norwegian father.   So they were born with dual national citizenship.  That was never a problem until my son, Christian, was drafted by the Norwegian army at age 19.  The US government allows for dual citizenship unless a person serves in the military of another country, even the military of a strong NATO ally.  That understandably constitutes an intolerable allegiance to a foreign nation for the US government.  So Christian’s US citizenship was at stake.  Fortunately he was able to easily show that he had spent most of his life living in the United States since age 3 and was a full-time student at the U of ND – Grand Forks at the time.  The Norwegian government backed off from insisting on his obligatory military service and no ultimate choice had to be made. Christian continues to carry two passports and feels at home in both his fatherland and his motherland.  He loves arriving at the Oslo airport, going through the entry line for Norwegians and being greeted with “Velkommen hjem!” when they stamp his passport.  It’s possible to carry compatible strong allegiances, as long as one of them doesn’t demand an either-or choice or more than can be given.

In today’s gospel text Jesus is presented with an impossible either/or trick question.  Competing factions have joined forces as “strange bedfellows” to try to trap him in a response that will make him an enemy of either the Pharisees, religious fanatics who opposed taxation of the Jews by the Roman government, or the Herodians, who energetically supported gathering taxes for their Roman patrons.  Being taxed without voting rights was foundational to our American Revolution against colonial taxation without representation.

The residents of Jerusalem during Jesus’ time lived in a similar situation with Israel being an occupied territory as part of the Roman Empire.  The Jews were allowed to have their temple worship, but they were taxed unfairly to support the Roman capital and they were not given the rights of Roman citizens.

The Pharisees, as Jewish religious leaders, opposed the pagan Roman government, and worked to overthrow it.  The Herodians were Jews who cooperated with the Roman government and benefitted from being “sympathizers” to the occupiers.  Pharisees and Herodians were generally opposed to each other, except in both feeling the threat of the growing authority and power that Jesus had among the people.

It’s Tuesday of Holy Week in Matthew’s text for today.  Jesus entered Jerusalem with great support of the crowd on Palm Sunday, confronted the Temple leadership for turning it into a marketplace for buying sacrificial animals, and then continued to have his authority questioned by the chief priests and other leaders.  In today’s scene from Matthew, these two unlikely groups have teamed up against Jesus, conspiring to set a trap for their common enemy, Jesus.  What ultimately happens instead reveals Jesus’ authority and wisdom and God’s domain over all things, sacred and profane.

The Pharisees lead off with flattery to appear supportive of Jesus.  They are not genuine in what they say, but ironically they speak the truth about Jesus.  He does teach the way of God and is fearlessly impartial.  Jesus is not a people-pleaser or a chameleon.

Then they tighten the vice, asking for an authoritative pronouncement, a yes-or-no answer to a notoriously complex question.  “Is it lawful, is it right for our people (Jews living under occupation by Roman rule) and in accord with our people’s faith and traditions, to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  Saying “no” would amount to treason against the government according to the Herodians.  Saying “yes” would be the same as disobedience to God for the religious zealots.    Jesus pivots.  He recognizes their evil intent and poses a discerning question of his own:  “Why are you trying to trick me?”

He asks to see the coin of the tax.  Jesus appears to be following their line of questioning, but is taking things in another direction.  No devout Jew would have a Roman coin in their possession because of the emperor’s graven image on it.  While Jesus is not carrying the offensive coin, his questioners are.  This seemingly innocent request by Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Jesus continues with his own questions:  Whose image or icon and whose title is on the coin?  “Caesar’s” they reply to this question and also begin to answer their own initial one.  The coin has Caesar’s image on it, so it obviously belongs to Caesar and should be returned to its rightful owner.  “Give back to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar.”  Jesus supports respect for the state.

Paul elaborates on people of faith being subject to secular authorities in Romans 13.  Part of Christian responsibility is living justly in relationship to the government.  The government, in turn, is to act as God’s servant, serving the common good and not one’s personal advancement.

Honor for government is the first half of Jesus’ statement.  Honor for God is the last half of his statement:  “But give back to God the things that belong to God!”  As Caesar’s coin bears Caesar’s image and belongs to Caesar, so God’s human being are made in God’s image and belong to God.  Government is to be respected as its role is to provide for law & order, part of God’s intent for peaceful human existence.  But government does not own our souls and should not equate its power with the power of God in that area of human life.

Luther’s Two Kingdoms Doctrine has its source in today’s gospel text and in Paul’s writings about Christians “Being Subject to Authorities.”  Church-state relations are always in a bit of tension and balance is to be found in the middle of open respectful discussions.

The priorities of our own lives are in continual tension as well.  We feel the push-pull of both the benefits and demands of our work places.  Our family responsibilities change with growing, active children and aging parents.  There are often internal collisions of priorities when everything seems to happen at once.

Our gospel for today is such a consoling reminder that all that we have belongs to God.  As we step back to that broader perspective, we cannot help but feel gratitude and a sense of peace.  “The whole world is in God’s hands.”  Our first commandment priority is to let nothing else take God’s place in whom or what we worship.  And because we are made in God’s image and placed here as God’s good stewards, we take good care of our families, our congregation, our government . . . providing resources and involvement and correction in all those places as needed.  All things fall into place when we know who we are and whose we are, as the saying goes.  So let Jesus’ followers embrace what we have, who we are, and what we do.  And since we know what belongs to God, let’s find ways to give it back to its rightful gracious and loving owner.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Pr. Joyce Piper

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500 Food Shelf Items

As we climb “500 Steps” towards a stronger financial future, let’s serve our neighbors and collect 500 non-perishable items for the Food Shelf!

Brought to you by the newly formed Hunger and Justice Team.  Follow us on Facebook (Hunger and Justice group at the OSLCMN Facebook page) or sign up on the Mission & Ministry board in the narthex.

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100 Steps of “500 Steps Up” Goal

We are excited to share that together we’ve raised $3,000 (100 Steps) toward our $15,000 (500 Steps Up) matching goal! We thank everyone who gives so generously of their resources and time to build, strengthen, and share the ministries of our congregation!

There is still time to give before the Dec. 31st deadline. Click here to make a donation, or continue reading to learn more about this exciting appeal.

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will be glad and rejoice in it.”  Psalm 118:24

Dear Faithful Friends,

Thank you, thank you for all you do.  Our Savior’s Lutheran Church has so much for which to be grateful.  As a congregation, we have some exciting steps ahead in our Christian journey.

OSLC has been strengthened with Colleen Brown serving as our secretary.  And have you noticed all the children in worship?  Our Youth Director Meagan Esterby continues to ignite energy in young people throughout our community.  We are very blessed with a renewed caring spirit through many of our evangelical ministries.  When we join together each step of the way, we really do make a difference.

As the Call Committee continues their mission identifying our next pastor, we remain confident that God is guiding our church family.  We give thanks for the blessing of Bridge Pastor Joyce Piper, as she walks with us in Christian mission.

Yet there are concerns because the financial picture is less bountiful.  Currently OSLC is approaching the maximum amount allowed to borrow.   The Finance Ministry Team has come up with an appeal to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation.  We’re calling it “500 Steps Up”.  This opportunity takes 500 steps up a “mountain” to reach a goal of $15,000 at the top.  An anonymous donor has committed to match donations, up to $15,000, given through December 31st towards this “500 Steps Up” appeal!  This means dollar for dollar, all “500 Steps Up” donations will be doubled!  With this challenge, OSLC will be able to repay the line-of-credit and put us on a strong financial footing for the New Year!  Please note these matching funds do not include regular giving to the general fund, which is also greatly needed.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for giving so faithfully of your time, talents & resources.  There will be a poster in the narthex showing the progress we make in donations towards the “500 Steps Up” appeal.  If you are able to give towards this challenge, please designate on the memo line of your check to “500 Steps Up” or click here to make your special “500 Steps Up” offering online.

In Christ’s Love and Peace,

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church Council and The Finance Ministry Team

Nathan LeBeque, President

Charlie Baribeau, Treasurer

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Sunday Sermon – Pr. Joyce

1502435_488720847898065_5065822072428423218_o (1)Matthew 21:33-46 / Isaiah 5:1-7

It has NOT been a quiet week in Lake Woe-be-Gone.  It has been another heartbreaking week in Lake Woe-is-With-us!

News of yet another senseless massacre of innocent folks sickens us.  We are so weary of violent news that reminds us there are too many lost souls with big weapons and no regard for life.  Our vineyard is very messed up if it’s not safe to attend a concert, a movie, a nightclub, a prayer meeting in church, go to school, or walk down a street for pedestrians only.

At Wednesday confirmation we closed our devotion time with a lament from Psalm 13:  How long O Lord?!   How long will you forget us?  How long must we have pain in our souls and sorrow in our hearts?  We are living in a time of lament along with the psalmist.

Our scriptures from Isaiah 5 and Matthew 21 assure us that God is crying also.  The fallen state of our humanity is nothing new and God’s response to violence, greed, murder, and injustice is consistent.  God condemns wickedness and never stops pursuing all of humanity with an invitation to love others as we have been loved by God.

The vineyard love-song from Isaiah 5 is a vision of paradise lost again during the 8th century before Christ, nearly 3000 years ago, give or take a couple centuries.  The nations of Israel and Judah were God’s chosen people, given a Promised Land known as the Fertile Crescent.  The vineyard love-song becomes God’s lament in these verses and the verses that follow.  The vineyard has produced noxious/poisonous fruit rather than fine wine.  God changes his tune from “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”  What starts as a love song changes into God’s lament over his people who amass property at the expense of others, who ignore hunger among neighbors in their midst, who speak falsely calling evil good and good evil, who take bribes and deprive the innocent of their rights.  In summary in vs 7, God expected justice (mishpat) but saw bloodshed (mishpakh); expected righteousness (tsedaqah) but heard a cry (tse’aqah).  The Hebrew words that sound almost identical but have entirely opposite meaning capture the betrayal that God feels from the people God has loved and given everything.

Fast forward 800 years and Matthew’s gospel shares another devastating vineyard story.  This parable is in the section of Matthew after Jesus has entered Jerusalem, attacked the corrupt leadership of the Temple and continues to confront the chief priests and Pharisees for their lack of faithfulness.  We know how that story ends.  Jesus will die for speaking truth in the face of injustice.  The wicked tenants will kill the son just as this parable foreshadows.  A couple weeks ago Matthew’s parable revealed life isn’t always fair.  This parable is just downright mean and nasty with violence and judgment.

Here’s a sidebar comment:  I get a little nervous about delving into these scriptures that carry condemnation of the wicked, because the scriptures have far too often been used throughout history in judgmental ways.  People sometimes take the place of God and use scripture as a hammer to condemn their enemies and condone further violence.   These scriptures are meant to bring conviction against injustice, but conviction against hardened hearts needs to not just be about “those people” out there but starting right here . . . what’s my part in this nasty state of affairs and what am I going to do about it?

Lament is a necessary response to darkness and evil, but it can also go in unproductive directions that lead to dead-ends.  Judging others without taking one’s own personal steps to remedy a situation is a dead-end.  Giving up entirely is another dark temptation.  I get it.  I understand the helpless feeling of senseless death. A real gut punch.

Last week a gifted young pastor in St. James, MN and dear friend of all who knew her died a few days after a routine gall bladder surgery.  The complications of an artery being nicked during surgery may never be completely understood.  How could THAT happen?!  In any case Pr. Maggie Lux Cumings, died at age 37 and has left behind in this earthly life her husband of 11 years and two children ages 8 and 4 years old.  Maggie’s last name at birth, Lux, means light in Latin.  And throughout her all-too-short lifetime she lived up to her name as her obituary describes her as “effervescent, wise, witty, comforting and irrepressibly cheerful.”  She was the life of the party or worship or even at long, planning meetings for synod assemblies, not as the center of attention, but because she included everyone and just made things happen in delightful ways.

Our vineyard is indeed a mess.  We are messed up.  And lo and behold, God loves messed up people.  God does not stop going into seemingly hopeless situations.  Over and over again in our parable, the landowner keeps sending in more resources, even his beloved son whom they killed. 

The builders rejected the cornerstone . . . Jesus was crucified.  But death did not have the last word and never will.  Rock/paper/scissors!  Life conquers death.  Love overcomes hatred.

So let’s embrace the lament, but let’s not get stuck in judging others or paralyzed by fear.  God never gives up on us and all things are possible through God’s love.

Pr. Maggie was a fine writer and fortunately maintained a blog, so her legacy of sermons and reflections carry on.  So here are some words from Pr. Maggie’s blog during the past year as she continues to preach to all of us with the last words of this sermon:

“Let’s be gentle with each other.  And let’s be fierce against the forces of hatred, intolerance, and fear.  Let’s remember love.”

And all God’s people said:  Amen!

In Christ,

Pr. Joyce


Youth and Family Ministry Update

Dear friends,

The last few months we have celebrated many baptisms in our church! What a blessing and joy as we walk with the families of our congregation!

We celebrate this baptismal theme in Confirmation each year, both by exploring the five baptismal promises at our Confirmation Camp Retreat in August and affirming those promises again during one of our Confirmation devotions at the start of our year together.

At a workshop this summer our speaker explained how children, teenagers, and all people seek three things: an identity, a role, and a place to belong. As a faith community, we have the important responsibility to help the children and youth of our congregation discover those answers as the children of God!

In Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism we are named and claimed as the children of God (identity), we promise to “serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for peace and justice in all the earth” ELW 236 (role), and we are welcomed “into the body of Christ” ELW 231 and promise to “live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper” ELW 236 (place to belong).

Even amid overwhelming schedules and competing weekend activities, what we have to share is important. It is not flashy new activities, spaces, or programs. It is the grace, purpose, relationships, and community we discover in our baptisms. And that really is worth sharing.

with joy,

Meagan Esterby

Director of Youth and Family Ministry • 218.410.4704