Tag Archives: Pastor Erik

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Lent Services and Activities

OMG LENTEN AND HOLY WEEK SERVICES & EVENTS

OMG is a trio of ELCA churches in the Virginia and Mt. Iron area that have come together to offer the following services and events for you to worship and enjoy fellowship! Come join us!

OMG Fat Tuesday Pancake Dinner @ Gethsemane Lutheran Church: 5-7pm Open to everyone! A freewill offering will be made if you wish to give, and the proceeds will go to Quad Cities Food Shelf as Minnesota Food Share matches donations in the month of March.
Ash Wednesday Services With Holy Communion & Ashes:
March 6th: 12:00pm, and 6pm Soup Dinner followed by 6:45pm Worship, Gethsemane Lutheran Church

Wednesday Lent Soup Dinner & Worship with Communion, 
6:oopm Meal & 6:45 Worship:
March 13 Gethsemane Lutheran Church
March 20 Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
March 27 Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
April 3 Messiah Lutheran Church
April 10 Messiah Lutheran Church

Holy Week Services& Events
April 17 *Confirmation Students & Families Seder Meal, 6:30pm Messiah Lutheran Church
April 18 Maundy Thursday Foot Washing & *Seder Meal, 6:30pm Messiah Lutheran Church
April 19 Good Friday Services, 12:00pm & 6:30 pm Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
*Seder Meals will be RSVP events.

Easter Services:
9:00am & 10:45am –  Gethsemane Lutheran Church,   9:30am Our Savior’s Lutheran Church,  and  10:00am  Messiah Lutheran Church

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Declared a Blessing. . .

Luke 6:17-26

17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of 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. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

 

Hmmmm. Luke declares to us that Jesus had some sharp words for his followers. Sharp words for them also means sharp words for us. In terms of how the estimated 7+billion people on the earth, I am a rich person. I also wear an XL shirt size so I am obviously not and have not been hungry. And I laugh loudly and often. Woe is me. (and probably you too).

So, what to do? Where is the gospel in this? I think an important thing to do when reading this text is to look closely at what vocabulary words and what they mean and what their original meaning was. The word “blessing” is a good place to start. As 21st century people in the USA, we tend to define “blessing” as receiving a God-given favor or benefit, or experiencing a level of prosperity greater than others. It is not the same understanding as being “happy” or having a nice life.  I think the original meaning meant more along the understanding of being satisfied, unburdened, dignified, and/or at peace.

I resonate a lot with the understanding of being unburdened and at peace. I feel most unburdened and at peace after a significant project or goal has been completed. I absolutely love worship, but I am always nervous before/during worship. I want worship to be smooth and meaningful. I want my sermon to be a good sermon. I don’t want to forget anything. I worry, that through my actions, worship will fall short for some. Despite my worries, worship always happens and the Holy Spirit guides people to where the Spirit desires them to be. Even when I make mistakes or forget something, the worship service still resonates with people. I always feel great after worship during coffee hour. I feel at peace. I feel blessed. I have the same feeling every year on the Monday after Holy Week/ Easter and after Advent/Christmas is complete. In my sense, the feeling we get when we have goals, work toward them, and achieve them is what blessing means. When do you feel blessed?

For people who are poor, hungry and sad, to be declared “blessed” by Jesus is a big deal. I think it means that God has a goal of elevating the lowly and discarded. And he is currently working towards accomplishing this goal – and God will complete this goal.

You are a blessing to God. You are a blessing to God’s church. You are a blessing to others. You are a blessing to me.

Your co-worker in Christ- Pr. Erik

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For the Joy of the Lord is our Strength

 

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1 all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I love, love, love Nehemiah 8! Nehemiah 8 plainly, completely, and joyfully describes my professional and Spiritual life. It basically says what happens when a community gathers together to hear God’s word (scripture) preached. Several things happen.

  • The Ezra blesses the Lord and the blessing is then reaffirmed by the community. God is honored and worshipped. The people bow their heads and claim through their actions of putting themselves low to the ground that only God has the ability and power to lift them up.
  • God’s word is communally interpreted. To interpret means to make sense of something. On a typical Sunday I feel a lot of anxiety when I preach because I often feel like it is my sole role to tell people what the scripture means (afterall, I did spend the better part of my 20’s in seminary writing theological papers etc and now I have a fancy a shirt with an bright white collar). But no- sole interpretation is not the responsibility of an appointed authority. It is a communal activity where everyone is invited to help the group simply “make sense of the words.” Pretty cool.
  • Next- people weep. Don’t get me wrong, I am not motivated in my call by the sight of tears. However, Nehemiah wants us all to understand that we are all guilty of violating the law (being sinful) and that we are truly in need of a loving and forgiving God. This leads to the Good News!  The good news is that we indeed have a loving and forgiving God and the preacher gets to tell the people that they need not cry.
  • Great joy! God is joyful because God’s people have been drawn near to God. The people’s relationship with God is renewed, repaired, reaffirmed and celebrated. The people also experience Joy because through their relationship with God. This joy extends beyond their hearts and minds to the physical life. Feasting and enjoying the good things of creation occur for all. God’s love and the fruitfulness of God’s creation are distributed equally and shared with all people.

This will happen Sunday and every Sunday.  This is why we go to church.

Joyfully yours~ Pastor Erik

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A New Year. . .

Jeremiah 29:11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me.

Happy New Year! I hope this newsletter finds you all well. I hope everyone had a Christmas filled with wonder, peace and cheer. Last month, the church was busy and full of activity. I want to send a special thank you to all of you for your prayers, participation, generosity and faithfulness during the Christmas season. The things you do and the love you share are very much appreciated.

Even though I am a bit melancholy because I must wait and entire 11 months until Advent/Christmas comes again, I am excited about events that are coming up this next year. Specially, welcoming new members on Jan. 20 and making congregation plans at the annual meeting on Jan 27th. Also in January, we are going to start fund raising for a renovation project in the West Wing Conference Room. Currently, there are over a dozen groups that meet in the west wing during the week. All these groups are focused on helping others flourish in life and making the world a better place. I counted all the people who participate in these groups and I found that the West Wing Conference Room is the most used room in our building (including the sanctuary on Sunday morning). Given the high use of the room and the positive impact of the groups who use the room, the church council and I thought it would be an effective use of God’s resources to show the individuals who use the room how much they are cared for by making it more functional and intentional. Specifically, we plan on putting in new upper and lower cabinets and a countertop. There has already been some needed and appreciated plumbing work done.  Please consider making a donation to help with this project. Designate your giving, “West Wing Conference Room Renovation.” Thank you.

This January I am also celebrating our amazing confirmation program. OSLC is hosting confirmation for the month. If you would like to help prepare the Wednesday evening meal for the kids, your participation is welcome and needed. There is so much positivity, learning, and relationship building happening with our young people.

On January 10th at 2 PM there will be a meeting in the fireside room for anyone interested in joining the next Honduras trip. The trip will be a week after Easter for 8 days. I am really looking forward to the next trip, we are going to be focused on visiting as many of the worshiping communities in Honduras (and eating lots of tamales). I am very proud that OSLC reflects in our church constitution our passion and commitment in supporting local, state, national, and global ministries.

I also want to update everyone about what the OMG (Our Saviors, Messiah, Gethsemane) committee has been discussing lately. Now, we are just looking at our calendars to find times and ways to worship and enjoy fellowship with each other. We anticipate a shared mid-week Lent and Holy Week (week before Easter) worship.

Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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