Tag Archives: Pastor Erik

Christmas bells and music

The Wonders of Christmas. . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!

This is a very familiar text for us. These words fill us with wonder every year and have inspired countless hymns, songs, movies and plays.  One of our favorite family traditions during December is to watch Christmas movies. We love the classics: Charlie Brown, The Grinch, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story. The list goes on and on.  We gather around, family and friends, enjoying eggnog, hot cocoa, and other special Christmas treats and laugh out loud at the mishaps of the Griswold family, quote Charlie Brown, and cheer words of encouragement to George Bailey. These movies bring us together.  In all these movies Christmas never goes as planned and often is a complete disaster. Although these movies feature a dramatic and comedic flare, just like our real lives we experience struggles, challenges, and things rarely, if ever, go exactly as planned. Another relatable and genuine aspect of these movies is that regardless of what happens during the preparation time in December, Christmas always happens, and people learn that Christmas means more than presents and bright lights. In these holiday favorites, Christmas may be a complete disaster for the characters: lights that don’t light, a sad tree that just needs a little love, an empty pantry with not even a crumb left for a mouse, but we know Christmas will still happen.  The Whos will still gather in the Whoville square, hold hands, and sing Christmas carols. Love will still be felt. Christ will still be born and will forever mean “God is with us.”

Jesus’s birth was also full of mishaps and drama: an unwed teen mother, a last minute trip, a dirty stable, and flight to Egypt.  Nothing stopped Jesus from being born, because nothing can stop God from entering into our world.  God’s love is strong and overcomes all the obstacles we create around it. On Christmas day we celebrate God incarnate in the baby Jesus.

God’s Blessings to all of you during this wondrous, meaningful, dramatic and faithful season.

Yours in Christ~ Pastor Erik

 

 

give

She gave out of all she had. . .

Mark 12:38-44

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

                Jesus’ words have constantly and consistently been a problem and an inconvenience to the elite/wealthy members of society ever since he spoke them. The Gospels are filled with stories showing Jesus comforting the conflicted and conflicting the comfortable. Jesus brilliantly sees through and beyond the surface and recognizes the actual intentions and character of rich and poor alike. Do we follow Jesus example? Do we hold people accountable to their actions that denigrate and oppress the voiceless? Do we hold ourselves accountable for participating in systems of greed and oppression?

For the past several weeks I’ve found myself thinking back to a day in early October when I was in Honduras. We were in the 15-passenger van travelling to El Buen Pastor Lutheran (Good Shepherd Lutheran) for worship on a Sunday morning. During the drive I notice several huge factories on the outskirts of town. Each factory contained 10,000 workers devoted to making name brand shoes and clothes. The workers earn 8 dollars per full day of work. Next to the factories were several 2 to 3 million dollar homes with big fences and heavily armed security guards patrolling the properties. It is not secret to anyone that the people who own those homes are connected with gangs, narco-trafficking, and/or corrupted government. Seeing such stark examples of elite/poor, greedy/humble, oppressor/oppressed I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words. I do feel some comfort knowing that some day Jesus will right all these wrongs and bring into the fullness of Kingdom, but I am also impatient and upset that people are suffering now. But I am also encouraged that Jesus invites me and you into God’s powerful mission of sharing God’s love and peace with all. My wise Grandmother used to tell me that if I don’t like something instead of whining and complaining I should do something constructive to help change it.

Blessings~ Pr. Erik

Christmas Candlelight

Advent and Christ’s Arrival

 

  Luke 21:25-36

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Blessed Advent everyone!

The future coming of Jesus Christ with glory and majesty is a big part of this weeks reading. We are at the first Sunday of the liturgical year, but our reading today builds upon and continues themes from previous weeks. Recently, we observed All Saints Day which focused on drawing all people, with special recognition of those who have recently passed away, into the body of the resurrected and ascended Christ. Promises made by God and promises kept by God are themes to diligently remember. We’ve also been talking about Apocalyptic texts which reassures the promises that God has made to God’s people in spite of the tragedy and oppression that the community faces. Last week was Christ the King Sunday which centers on one of Christ’s roles/offices which is King. Themes of Christ’s kingship extend into Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

Sunday’s gospel reading is located near the end of Luke’s gospel. Jesus tells his followers to be alert because redemption is drawing near are also words that we (people living in 2018) should also take to heart. Paying attention and being alert to the needs of our neighbors are super important. Being alert to what and where God is calling us to live our lives is our purpose. In short, Advent is a time to prepare for Christ’s arrival, and we prepare not by simply waiting, but by actively engaging in the world that God love so much.

With faith, hope, and love~ Pastor Erik

 

Rooted in Faith + Growing in Christ + Reaching to Serve

 

Christmas Rejoice

UPCOMING: Fun Events & Bible Study Times

News,  events & Christmas services:

 

Christmas Wreaths: You can make an order at the church on Sundays, or in the office Monday – Thursday, by Dec. 2nd. They will be distributed on Sunday, Dec. 9th. The cost is $20 and the proceeds will go to Youth Ministry.

  • Dec. 2nd, WELCA Bake Sale in the Fellowship Hall.  Also, in the evening, there will be a Lessons & Caroles Fest @ Gehtsemane 6pm.
  • Dec. 4th, Tuesday, Traditional Lutefisk & Meatball Dinner at Gethsemane, 3-7pm!
  • Dec. 7th  7pm, Choralaires Concert @OSLC, and they will be at Gethsemane Dec. 14th, 7pm.
  • Dec. 9th will be our Youth Christmas Program.
  • Dec. 12th Christmas Caroling – meet here at 5:45pm! All are invited~
  • Dec. 14th – Choralaires Concert @ Gethsemane, 7pm.
  • Dec. 20th there will be a Blue Christmas Service here @ 5pm.
  • Dec. 23rd there will be a Christmas Music Extravaganza during our regular worship time @ 9:30am.
  • Our Christmas Eve Service will be at 4:00pm. There will be services at Gethsemane at 3:30, 5:30, 10pm.
  • Messiah Lutheran’s Christmas Day Service will be at 10am.
christmas and thanksgiving

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

group prayer artistic layer

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

Autumn Maple leaf transition and variation concept for fall and change of season

The Changing Season

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Every day I notice the maple tree in my front yard gets a few more red and yellow leaves on it. When the tree first started turning, I was dismayed and even a bit upset. I want to tell the tree that it is WAY too early. I’m not ready! Summer is not over yet. There are still summer events, destinations and projects on my to-do-list. Autumn means school is starting, rally day, confirmation, committee meetings, etc. Where did the time go? However, I only grumbled for a day or two, then I began viewing the colorful tree in a different way. I began viewing the tree with enthusiasm and joy, because it means that school is starting, confirmation will begin, the new committee structure will be presented and get into full action, and all the church people will be back in the pews on Sundays. Getting back into “full-church-mode” (quote from my grandma) is something to be very enthusiastic and joyful about. Full-church-mode is a good thing. It means the Spirit is active.

Speaking of my to-do-list, here are some updates I want to communicate with all of you.

  • Our new Director of Youth and Christian Education, Ben Anderson, will be formally joining our ministry team on September 5th and Rally Sunday will be his first Sunday at Our Saviors! I know last December my family and I felt very welcomed by the church (I still feel very welcomed) and I know you’ll show the same generosity, kindness, and hospitality to Ben.
  • Rally Sunday is Sept 9th! We will have a bouncy house, games and snacks after worship. During worship we will celebrate our youth by giving Bibles. We will also recognize the wonderful Eucharist team. Sunday school will begin the following Sunday. Full-church-mode!
  • OSLC, Gethsemane, and Messiah will have confirmation together this year. This has been a big project in the making with lots of meetings and communication amongst the churches. I think that all the kids will benefit from having a large group of friends, guides, pastors and mentors walking with them in their faith journey. There are too many details to list and I am personally communicating with the confirmation families about dates and questions. It is going to be great!
  • I am going to join our synod’s companion team trip to Honduras the first week in October. As you all know, Global Mission is a passion of mine and I am very excited about participating in this program. Several pastors from our synod are going to be leading theology, church administration, and pastoral-care workshops for newly ordained Honduran pastors. I will invite you to participate in a fund-raiser during September for a portion of the trip’s cost.
  • Later in September, Pastor Amy Odgren from the Synod office will visit with the church councils of OSLC, Gethsemane, and Messiah and lead a visioning discussion about ministry, stewardship, and where is the Holy Spirit is leading our three congregations in the future.

I want to thank all of you for your faithfulness, grace, and kind words. There is a lot to look forward to and be excited about. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please let me know. You are the church and I am always looking for ways to serve the church better and more efficiently.

Autumn Blessings ~ Pastor Erik

blessed1

Blessed & Overjoyed

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

Your fellow servant in Christ~ Pastor Erik

trust 2

Trust. . . Believe

John 6:35, 41-51

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

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

Vision-kills-Ultron-Light

The all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

Have a Blessed Summer~ Pastor Erik