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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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Rooted in Faith

Growing in Christ

Reaching to Serve