Tag Archives: sermon

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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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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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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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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

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. . . Helper, Counselor, Advocate, and Guide.

John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
This Sunday is Pentecost! Such an amazing day when we celebrate the Holy Spirit and reflect on the leadership, guidance, and power that the Spirit continuously bestows upon us and the church. During worship, we talk a lot about Jesus and God the Father, but we spend just a small amount of time talking about the Spirit. This lack of time devoted to the Spirit has left many people confused about the who the Spirit is and what the activity of the Spirit includes.

I found Professor Jones’ words (Wartburg College) to be very helpful, “In John, Jesus’ preferred term for the Spirit is the Paraclete. The Greek noun Paraclete is related to a verb that means “I call alongside.” The Paraclete, then, is the Spirit of Truth whom Jesus calls to accompany his followers as helper, counselor, advocate, and guide. Jesus promises to send the Paraclete as a replacement for his own presence among his disciples.” Jones further writes, “Jesus describes the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth who will expose sin, righteousness, and judgment and who will lead Jesus’ followers into all truth. It is vitally important that readers understand what Jesus means here by truth.

The Spirit of truth is not focused on propositional, dogmatic truth. Jesus does not send the Spirit to ensure that the community makes no errors in its theological descriptions of the Trinity or of the precise nature of Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine. No, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to help his followers live in the Way of Jesus.”

I hope to see all people at worship on Sunday. It will be an amazing day. Celebrating an amazing promise. A promise given to an amazing group of people.

God’s Peace~ Pastor Erik

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I’m Glad to Know. . .

Mark 3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

                When I was a kid I remember being outside during Thanksgiving break putting up Christmas lights and decorations with my Dad. Several other people on my street were also out putting up lights because it was a beautiful day, and the weather forecast said starting that evening it would snow and be cold. While we were out, my next-door neighbor was climbing up an extension ladder to put lights on some high windows when he accidently fell. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but he fell hard, and his ladder also broke his window. He was mad, really mad.  He yelled a series of creative profanities and swear words. I thought to myself, “Oh no, Mr. B. just blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. That’s the worst thing he could’ve said.”
Unfortunately, I never asked my parents, pastors or any adult what it means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. I thought it was simply swearing at God. The Gospel of Mark teaches us that it is not about swearing. Instead, Mark says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is when someone sees and experiences the Good-Work of God firsthand and attributes that action to the devil. It means that someone is so-far-gone- that evil has completely permeated their life, character and the way they interact with the world and their neighbors.
I am glad to know that my neighbor, Mr. B, is ok and going to be ok. I want you to know that you are also ok. God loves you and so do I.

 

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

Shovel in the ground, close-up.

God is calling you for something special. . .

Acts 2:17 “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.”

Last Sunday was Pentecost! It was a day of celebration for our congregation. We celebrated Peyton and Madison as they look towards college. We also celebrated the New Testament reading from Acts which described the coming of the Holy Spirit and how people from the early Christian church were given profound abilities to communicate with the people from the whole world about the good news of Christ.

Sometimes I hear from people that they can’t fully participate in the life of the congregation because they are… too old, too young, too new, too busy, too… These verses from Pentecost teach us that we are all worthy and equipped to participate in God’s Kingdom. Nobody is too old or too young. Men, women, rich and poor- all people have something to contribute to God’s mission. Regardless of your status in life, God is calling you for something special.  What is God calling you to?

Keep up the Good Work you do. Your fellow servant of Christ~ Pastor Erik

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Bless this Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik

bless this mess 2

Bless This Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik