A description from Voyageur’s Lutheran Ministry: Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion offer traditional summer camp experiences, programmed day or weekend events, and comfortable spaces for your next retreat or family/friend gathering. Looking for more adventure? We also offer guided trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We provide the ideal combination of place and program for Christian community and personal renewal. We look forward to seeing you in God’s great northwoods!
Family Overnight– Friday,May 5th-Saturday, May 6th
Spring Work Day– Saturday, May 6th. Reserve the date – we would like to bring a team from OSLC to Camp!
Mother’s Day Brunch– Camp Hiawatha, May 14th 11:30am -1pm
Summer Camp registration is open online. Let them know you are with Our Savior’s for a 50% campership
Call 800-331-5148 for any of the above events, they fill up fast!
VLM is also looking for counselors- and a Building & Grounds Staff person on a permanent basis. Give them a call if interested.
Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry:
To find the latest news on summer sessions at Camp Vermilion or Camp Hiawatha, please visit their site at vlmcamps.org. We offer “Camperships” which are scholarships for your child to attend a camp session. You do not need to do anything to get this help to pay for the camp session, just be a member or ongoing attendee who wants to have their child try attending camp during the summer. Call the church office for more information. VLM also has financial assistance in addition to the campership, and it can be found on their website under Summer Camps-Sessions and Fees. Or simply call them at (800)331-5148.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ…HE HAS RISEN!!!! Have you ever stopped to think of how much joy is in that phrase? Joy…it can be holy at times.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Phil. 4:4
Reinhold Niebuhr once said….“Humor is the prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”
Many American churches are resurrecting an old Easter custom begun by the Greeks in the early centuries of Christianity- “Holy Humor Sunday” which is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday after Easter.
For centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, including “Bright Sunday” (the Sunday after Easter), was observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
Churchgoers and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, told jokes, sang, and danced.
The custom was rooted in the musings of early church theologians like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom…that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead, or as some early theologians called it… “The Easter Laugh.”
So, my friends…let us be a little bold… and tell a few good jokes this month joining our brothers and sisters in the joy of the resurrection. And perhaps as we do, we will not only grow in our Easter faith, but experience the resurrected Jesus among us in ways we never have before.
A prayer as your Easter celebration continues…
“Come and help us, Lord Jesus. A vision of your face will brighten us; but to feel your Spirit touching us will make us vigorous. Oh! For the leaping and walking of the man born lame. May we this month dance with holy joy like David before the ark of God. May a holy exhilaration take possession of every part of us; may we be glad in the Lord; may our mouth be filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing, ‘for the Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.’”
The JOY of the RISEN LORD be with you and your family now and always.
Interim Pastor Tim
Our Savior’s Lutheran- March 2023
To the holy ones of God, Saints and Sinners that you are:
I really like the season of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. It is my favorite season of the church year. Here is why…
Lent is the 40 days before Easter. It is a time of prayer and repentance…turning our lives back to God from where they have belonged from the very beginning. The word Lent is from the Anglo- Saxon word meaning “Springtime”, and therefore is to be understood as the holy springtime of our soul, a time of preparation, planting, and growth. Long ago in the church converts seeking to become Christian, who at that time were mostly adults, spent several years in study and preparation. Under the threat of Roman persecution, becoming a Christian was serious business, so their process of preparation was intensive! Then they went through a final period of “purification and enlightenment” for the 40 days before their baptism on the Easter Vigil…the oldest worship service of the church. The rest of the Church began to observe the season of Lent in solidarity with these newest Christians. It became an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their baptism.
Many times, people give up things during Lent: chocolate, eating snacks, soda pop, watching TV, smoking, or some other thing in their life that they crave, and that is not good for them. It is really a form fasting to give up something and can have deep spiritual significance for someone. The intension is to become a part of the Lenten season as Christ did in his passion on the cross… to feel the pain that Christ felt …his sacrifice. But often all of that is forgotten. People work really hard at not doing something that they really would rather be doing, and suffering with Christ is never even a thought.
So, I have been doing Lent a little differently instead of giving up something…I challenge myself to do something more, rather than give something up. Sometimes I pray, other times I read the bible, or work on a project and think of being in the presence of God while I am doing it. As I have added things into my life for the season of Lent…I have found it much more “faith” growing and spiritual than giving things up.
Whatever your practice is, adding or subtracting, I encourage you to try something different during Lent that grows you in faith and life. Blessings on your journey, may it be filled with surprises and life-giving opportunities.
Interim Pastor Tim
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Loren Mead in his book, “The Once and Future Church,” makes the point that God is always calling us to be more than what we have been. As I reflect on this phrase I think of Our Savior’s Lutheran. Some of you who read this article go to church regularly, others from time to time, and still others not at all. This is not to say that those who do not go to church do not believe in God. Rather, people do believe in God, or a higher power, but for whatever reason do not believe in the church. Note: Do not stop reading!!!
This is not a newsletter to make you feel guilty for not going to church. It is my prayer that together we think and reflect on God’s work in our lives. That is what this newsletter is about. God’s work in our lives. How is God calling you to be more than what you have been?
Marvin was a good person. He’d give you the shirt off his back if you were down and out. Once when the neighbors barn caught on fire Marvin showed up out of the blue to help salvage what was left. He even borrowed out his combine during harvest to help out. When the local food pantry had its annual drive against hunger, Marvin made sure that the community remembered families in the area who were struggling to make ends meet. Whenever people needed help there was Marvin lending a hand. But what no one knew about Marvin was that he was dying. He made a promise to himself that while he was alive he would give as he had been given.
There were days when Marvin gave so much that he thought he had nothing left to give. But then, when he least expected it he found himself giving even more. There were even times when his giving seemed to come from beyond himself. As if someone were giving through him. One Sunday in church Marvin understood why when he heard these words: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another….and my Spirit will be with you forever.” For Marin, the church was a place for him to be filled again and again with God’s Word of assurance and blessing. The Word of God gave him the strength and the courage to give as he had been so graciously given until the day he died.
May you too find the strength in God’s Word to be more than what you have been for Christ’s sake…the name that we bear at all times of our lives.
The Peace of the Lord be with you always…
Interim Pastor Tim
To those who can feel the coldness of winter coming and don’t enjoy it as much as I do:
There are seasons in our church life too. Remember, God is still about to do+ something brand new among us.
Do you not yet perceive it? Or maybe you do… and it still worries you.
Don’t forget what the writer of Matthew reminds us…
“Do not worry about your life…can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?… therefore do not worry…your heavenly Father knows all that you need.” Matthew 6: 25-33
I am still not sure how God is going to take care of us and the communities we live in, or what opportun- ities we will find to work together as a community of many different beliefs, but I do know my worrying about it won’t make any difference at all. I am pretty sure God is going to do what God always does…. connect us more deeply to each other…. and in that connection, we will find strength and hope that we never even knew was there. And, if God is still about something brand new among us…then God is going to make sure it happens in exactly the way God wants it to. You need not worry…we are in God’s hands… as we have always been.
God’s peace and strong presence be with you and your family now as always.
Interim Pastor Tim Ehling
Our Savior’s Lutheran
Dear Disciples of Christ at Our Savior’s Lutheran:
With the jump start of our Faith Formation Fall activities beginning last month it reminded me that there is probably nothing more important to a parent than their children. Most parents would even jeopardize their own health and life for their children. But even though so many parents would die for their children, I wonder how many would “Live” for their children. How many parents live their life the way they want their children to live? Do you?
Some interesting statistics for you to know and think about:
If your parents worshiped with you regularly while you were growing up, chances are 80% that you will worship regularly, too.
If only your mother worshiped regularly with you, chances are only 30% that you will worship regularly.
But, if your father worshiped with you regularly, chances are still 70% that you will worship regularly as an adult.
It seems obvious from these statistics that dads have a large role in the faith formation of their children. Our children want to know what is important in their parents’ lives and they look at the way life is lived to prove what is important. If you stay home from worship to watch a football game, or go hunting, or work on your race car, or just sleep in there is nothing wrong or ungodly about that. But your children will see what is really important to you even if you tell them faith is.
Jake learned how to be a man from his father. He learned how to work hard. He learned how to fix cars. He learned how to hold a solid job and make money. But his dad never came to worship. Church was NOT important to his dad, and church was NOT important to Jake either. So….when Jake was confirmed in 8th grade it was the last time I saw him in church. Jake had learned at an early age that worshiping the one you believe in was not something that mattered in your life. There were other life activities that were more important.
Is worship important to you? What is it you are teaching your children and grandchildren by example? Maybe it is time that we parents sit down and take an inventory of what is truly important in our lives. Then we need to live out those values, if not for ourselves, we need to do so for our children.
God’s peace and strong presence be with you and your family.
Interim Pastor Tim Ehling
A STORY TO CATCH YOUR ATTENTION:
A lake, a boat, a net, but NO fish…the perfect ingredients for a whale of a tale of a story. You know those stories that all true fisher-persons tell, about the big one that got away. So the story is told from Luke the 5th chapter….
Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret,teaching the people as they crowded around him to hear God’s message. 2Near the shore he saw two boats left there by some fishermen who had gone to wash their nets. 3Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and asked him to row it out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down in the boat to teach the crowd. 4When Jesus had finished speaking, he told Simon, “Row the boat out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish.” 5“Master,” Simon answered, “we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down.” 6They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. 7Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.
This story has always sounded a little fishy…don’t you think? I mean we don’t even hear what Jesus was talking to the crowds about. The point of the story is what happened after the sermon. They had been out fishing all night long…right…but caught nothing…not a single fish. They knew what they were doing. This wasn’t their first time…it was their job. And they were good at it. They knew the best spots, how deep to lower their nets, just the right speed to pull them up. They even knew when to call it quits…for it was a hopeless night. Along comes this teacher and tells them to try again…and they do.
Like the fishermen, the crowd of people closing in on Jesus, were also fishing for something. They hungered for their lives to be made well. Everywhere they tried casting their nets of wholeness and peace for themselves… they came up empty. They heard that Jesus was near, so they came hoping that he could change things in their lives. And he must have. For we are told they were so eager to get close to him that he had to get into the water. The more they heard from Jesus the closer they wanted to be. To hear every word he said and not miss anything. So full of hope were they.
…So Jesus told the professional fishermen…go out and try it again. “BUT Jesus…we were just out there. The fish aren’t biting today. But if that is what you want us to do, we will.” Maybe they too had some hope after hearing Jesus. Hope not yet realized. They went out and pulled in so many fish that their nets begin to break and their boats begin to sink. It was the catch of a life time. What a fish story to tell their children.
That day the crowd received more then they had ever expected. They were not only healed, but they were filled with a Word of hope from heaven.
That day the disciples received more then they had ever expected. Despite the magnitude of all the fish it was not the catch of the day…what they caught was a glimpse of the power of God among them, and the possibility that Jesus could change things in their lives as well. Hope had begun. And they would not be disappointed.
A lake, a boat, a net, but NO fish…the perfect ingredients for a whale of a tale of a story….A story of God’s presence in our lives….A Story of the everyday, ordinary ways that God enters our lives…opens our eyes…gives us something to hope in, and we are changed. You know… those stories that all true followers of Jesus tell, about the big, and the small ways God is at work in your life. Tell your stories beloved people of God. Tell of the amazing things God is doing at Our Savior’s Lutheran in Virginia Minnesota. Tell your tales for the world to hear.
God’s peace and strong presence be with you and your family. Interim Pastor Tim
JULY 2022:Happy 125th Anniversary To Our Savior’s Lutheran Church!
“The church I grew up in, Our Savior’s Lutheran in Virginia, MN…it was my second home.”
I don’t know how many times and places I’ve said these words throughout my life, but I do know that each time I have I’ve felt an accompanying flood of sweet, fun and warm memories. OSLC has always been my spiritual home–both literally and figuratively. My experiences here were significant contributors to my sense of call into the ordained ministry in what now seems like eons ago–and just yesterday.
Why do I feel this way? The reasons are many! From earliest memories of VBS while we were still at the old location, to singing in the children’s choir with Mrs. Bjornsted (whom I was in love with), to playing hide and seek with my young cohorts down the long hall of the new church while Mom and Dad rehearsed with the choir in the beautiful and resonant sanctuary, to a myriad of Luther League gatherings and goings on, to fun and faith-expanding times at Camp Vermillion, to the opportunities for me to sing in the All State Lutheran Choir and attend Church Leadership Training Camp, to…the list goes on and on.
One moment stands out as exemplary of them all. Some of you may remember that in 1972 our home burned down. The moment news of it spread, the congregation shifted into high gear with a huge outpouring of gifts of every kind. We LiaBraatens were so moved by your generosity! Mom cried…and cried. Even Dad cried. You know, I think we all cried! (The guitar I play to this day was a gift from five of my best Luther League buds at that time.)
In those days OSLC was filled with models and mentors of the godly life…Pastor Dale, “PJ” Johnson, Intern John Andreason, Mirna Kirkman, Harold Olson, Bud Simberg, and Connie Holkko (my fave confirmation teacher whom you likely know later married my brother Jack)…to name just a few. I’m sure there are just as many today.
What did OSLC give me? You gave me the nurturing soil of well-lived faithfulness to God, each other and the world. You gave me a safe place to struggle with my own faith even when I, like the prodigal son, found myself in the far country of doubt and despair. Finally, you gave me a sense of personal purpose that has filled and sustained me with joy and thanksgiving throughout these many years.
“THANK YOU!” I shout out from across the years. “Thank you!” Not just for what you’ve given to me, but also to each other and to the thousands of others who over the long haul of OSLC’s ministry have been equipped, empowered and sent out day after day to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. With them, I pray God’s continuing blessings upon your future for clarity, compassion, and courage.
Happy 125th anniversary! I’m so glad we remain together–in the life-transforming Spirit of Christ,
Pastor Jerry LiaBraaten
Our Savior’s Lutheran, May 2022
We’ll leave the light on for you!
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119: 105
Whenever I would come for a visit from college, my grandparents left the porch light on for me. That light on the old farmhouse let me know that they were waiting and that I was welcome. On those days when I would arrive at their home, no other light looked as good, or as warm, or as bright as that single, shining porch light. No other light had the same power to give such joy.
When my grandparents died not only did the light on their porch go out, but it seemed like every light in my life went out too. Death has a strange way of stealing away our hope, our joy, and our light. My grandparents had been a light in my life as long as I could remember, and now they weren’t there anymore. And it was dark, and I was sad. It seemed like that darkness and the sadness would last forever.
But what I found was that the faith that my grandparents so humbly lived all their life had become a light to me. It didn’t replace them, but it gave me hope to cling to when all hope seemed lost. It gave me a light to follow. Psalm 119 tells us that God’s Word is called a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Like the porch light my grandparents kept on for me…God’s Word guided me through the darkness and overwhelmed me with great joy again. For God’s Word glows with the message of a Savior. It is God’s Word that tells us that God so loved us that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish when they die but have eternal life. It is God’s Word that tells us do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name you are mine, and I am your Savior.
Jesus is the light of the world, the light that no darkness can overcome. And it is Jesus who longs to walk with us in the darkest times of our lives reminding us of God’s promise and deep love that will never let us go…to be a light when we most need it.
When my girls were younger we would leave a nightlight on in their room, and in the hall, so that they could find their way through the darkness. May God’s Word and the joy of Easter be such a light in your life…that through the darkness you may find your way to the light that guides your way and gives you peace. Christ has risen…he has risen indeed! He is the light no darkness can overcome.
God’s peace and light be with you and your family in this time of Spring and New Life now and always.
Interim Pastor Tim
“Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16: 1-2)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Sometimes I forget how blessed I am. I tend to get busy with everyday things. I tend to think that if I am careful and wise, and make good choices I won’t get stuck in a mess that I cannot handle. I tend to think all I have to be is strong and brave and troubles will bounce off me like a protective shield.
And I forget.
….I forget until I hear stories and see pictures of people like me, people like you… but, unlike us, they seem so lost and afraid, suffering and dying. People like those in Ukraine who are trying to stay alive during a war they didn’t ask for. Trying to keep their family safe by becoming refugees, and leaving their homeland they love, just to survive. The truth is, there was nothing they could do to stop what is happening to them. Nothing. Not one thing! When I think of them, their hope fading with each new explosion around them… bringing no good news… as days stretch out to weeks and basic needs of food, clothing, and a place to live remain unsure… I begin to remember. I remember that in the midst of being busy, wise, and strong, it doesn’t take much or even a war in our backyard to change everything in our lives. The Psalmist was right in praying… “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” For where else will we find refuge?
So… what are we to do, you and I? We who sit back and watch… giving thanks that it wasn’t us this time. What are we to do?
Maybe just this… Pray! Pray to the one we know is Lord and in which we have no good apart from. Pray to the one who has promised to be with us always, to be with them… the people of Ukraine. Please join me in praying this month for our suffering brothers and sisters:
In the communion of Christ, we are joined with the trials and sufferings of all. Be with those who endure the effects of war in Ukraine. Protect those in the path of danger. Open the pathways of evacuation and provide a sanctuary where it is most needed. Help loved ones find one another in the chaos. Provide assistance to those who need help. Ease the fears of all, and make your presence known in the stillness of your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Your word of peace stills the storms that rage in our world. Bring hope to places that know devastation in these days of uncertainty. Bring comfort to those who grieve the loss of loved ones and property. Let your love be known through those who work to bring order in the chaos. Help us to shoulder the burden of suffering and make us bearers of the hope that can be found in you through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
We really are very blessed… don’t forget that my friends. And don’t forget the people of Ukraine.
Interim Pastor Tim
Our Savior’s Lutheran
Hello Our Savior’s Lutheran and Friends. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tim Ehling. I am your new interim pastor. I feel very honored and blessed to walk this path with you over the next several months as God prepares you for your next pastor. There are 3 things you need to know about me:
I love being a pastor, talking and thinking about how amazing our God is and finding the best ways to share that.
I believe that Jesus is God’s son, he died on a cross and rose to life again. He is the fullest expression of the love of God that we know.
I am convinced that God has brought us together to grow in faith and life as we discern what direction God is leading next. I think that is going to be fun, exciting and a great adventure.
If you are wondering. I live in Duluth with my wife Becky. We have been married for 35 years. She is the love and joy of my life. I adore her. We have 3 children. Molly, who is married to our wonderful son-in-law Ted. They have blessed us with two beautiful grandchildren. Emerson who is 2 ½ and August who is 9 months. Our middle daughter Abbey and her friend Andrew live in Hangzhou China. Our youngest is Hannah and her friend Tom. They all bring a spark of joy, laughter and love to our lives.
I am so excited over the next few months to get to know you, and your beautiful church and community. Thank you for the privilege and opportunity to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sweet thing that God is doing in our lives in this time and place.
Pastor Tim Ehling
Our Savior’s Lutheran Interim Pastor
Stop in to visit with Pastor Tim – call beforehand for availability 320- 226-7074. His day off is Monday!
You can also visit with him Sundays after worship.
Below is a link for God Pause, a Devotional from Luther Seminary.
Augsburg Fortress Devotional for the week of January 23-30, 2022
All sorts of social cues tell us that “justice” requires vengeance, punishment, pain for pain, or even death, in the case of violent crime. This is what we call “retributive justice.” In our reading today Jesus claims fulfillment of God’s promise as proclaimed by Isaiah; Jesus has come “to bring good news to the poor” and “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). This is not a kind of justice that promises peace at the expense of others. Rather, the justice to which Jesus alludes is restorative.
Our culture encourages a retributive mindset. We want offenders to suffer, thinking that it will deter them and others from such actions. It seldom does. The thinking is that retributive violence is required in response to wrongdoing. But this dynamic only reinforces the spiral of violence. Restorative justice, in contrast, is the turning around offered by Jesus when he states that Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled.
Restorative justice is the foundation of salvation. By his coming into the world, Jesus brings with him the salvation that will proclaim liberty to all of us who are captive to something, whether we deserve that liberty in the eyes of society or not. Restorative justice reminds us that love is not about deserving, and that God’s will for you and for me is to be so filled with God’s grace that we are once again made complete, made whole, and restored. Jesus is sending a signal that his coming into the world is an invitation to look at everything we think we know from a different perspective. Everything that Jesus says has been fulfilled is something that restores righteousness to the universe and heals and builds relationship.
1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Let’s study the book of Acts! Labor Day is behind us and it is time to get into an Autumn routine. You are invited to join OSLC’s weekly bible study. Every Friday from 1-2, we will gather in the fireside room to study this amazing book. Acts was written for Theophilus, which means “friend of God.” You are a friend of God and this book is for you. Whether you have been engaged in bible studies for years or if this is your first time to a bible study, you are welcome to come and learn and grow in faith.
God Bless~Pr. Erik
I’ve been thinking a lot about where we were last August. Where we were as people. Where we were as a congregation. Where we were as a society. Last August, we were staying home as much as possible. We were wondering how schools were going to operate. We were wondering how long the virus would disrupt our personal, professional, and faithful lives. We’ve come a long way since last summer, but it is clear that the pandemic is not over. People are still getting sick or worse, and new variants are on the rise. Church has been monitoring the statistics everyday and I continue to have conversations with other church leaders about safe practices and concerns. I am always available to answer your questions too. As of now, we will continue to stay the course of having in-person worship and ministries. I know I speak for all of us when I say we are so excited to dive into to a faith-filled calendar with Sunday school, youth events, fellowship, concerts, and worship!
Other church leaders and I agree that vaccination is a good thing and reduces risk of sickness or death from the virus. So, if you have not been vaccinated and can be, please go get your vaccine. I see this moment is an opportunity for Christians to lead the way in teaching our world what it looks like to love your neighbor as yourself. In our increasingly secular world so many are drifting further toward sinful individualism where they care only for themselves. Christians know better. Our Lord Jesus repeatedly taught his disciples that we are to serve our neighbor, put others ahead of ourselves, sacrifice for the sake of friend and foe alike. We must continue the long struggle against sinful individualism that says people are only responsible for themselves. As followers of Jesus, we determine how our choices will benefit our neighbor not just ourselves. We use our freedom not for selfish gain, but for the betterment of the whole world. Getting vaccinated is one easy way to follow Jesus’ example of putting others first. If you are unable to get vaccinated because of health reasons or you are too young, please continue to wear masks when you are out and about, and especially when you are at church. This is a tangible way to serve and love your neighbor.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is troubling for our future. Let us pray that God will protect us from the virus and bring an end to the pandemic. Let us continue to pay attention to what God is doing through this pandemic. In past pandemics people came out on the other side with all sorts of regrets and shame about the way they had behaved. Let’s make decisions now that we will be proud of a year or two years from now. I hope the people of OSLC will continue to be a light to the world showing what it looks like to love your neighbor and worship the Lord. I’m very proud of how this congregation has responded thus far. Keep up the good work!
Your Co-Worker in Christ~ Pastor Erik
Every week many people volunteer to serve others through the ministries of OSLC. There are many opportunities for you to serve, especially on Sundays for the worship service! We need people to assist others at the welcome table with name tags. People are also needed to serve as greeters and ushers. Altar guild is looking for more people to set-up communion and other tasks in the sanctuary. Are you interested in signing up to prepare coffee an’ occasionally? Would you like to be a reader or share a children’s message? We are also looking for more people to help count the offering. In addition, there are other opportunities during the week too. Helping with property, newsletters, clothing sale, etc. I’m writing to ask you to consider taking on one of these opportunities. As we continue to get back into normal church operations we need to make sure we provide all those services that our volunteers make possible. I’m an advocate for the phrase, “many hands make light work.” All of us should be doing something to assist, and the more of us that raise our hand the less burden any one of us will have to shoulder. Plus it is fun! Volunteering is fun and a great way to meet more people and get to know others even better.
Thank you to those who filled out our time and talent sheet. If you didn’t get a chance to fill one out, please take some time to stop by the church office so we can chat about how you’d like to participate. And thank you to all our volunteers. Thank you for making it easier for us to worship and fellowship. Thank you for taking some extra time on a Sunday to serve your fellow members and the guests that join us each week. We are so fortunate to have such a great congregation. What makes OSLC great is the people who call this church home. Thank you for doing your part!
I am looking forward to this summer. In case you haven’t heard, we are going to try something new in regards to worship for July and August. A result of the vote at our annual meeting to investigate working more closely with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we have made the plan to worship together for July and August. So, the 1st and 2nd Sunday, worship will be at OSCL 9:00AM and the 3rd and 4th Sunday will be at Messiah 9:00AM . The first step in investigating future collaborations with Messiah is to get to know them better, and the best way to accomplish this goal is to worship together. I’m asking all OSLC folks to make an intentional effort to be gracious hosts on the 1st and 2nd Sundays AND I’m asking that OSLC folks venture past our comfort zones and attend worship at Messiah.
Your Co-Worker in Christ~ Pastor Erik
John 10:10b I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Memorial Day is here again in the United States. It is a day often spent getting together with groups of loved ones. There will be less restrictions for travel and gathering now. However, we can still provide for quiet moments to ponder the somberness of the day and where God fits in with it.
First, some context – Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday in 1971. The practice dated back to shortly after the Civil War. It is meant to be a time to rest from work and routines in order to create intentional time remembering and honoring those who have died in service to the country. Also, it is a time to hear and tell stories about the sacrifices of actual people, which enables the younger generation to attach a face to a name. Importantly, making this day more than just a series of memories will help us all to keep from making war an abstraction. Hopefully, when we hear and tell these important stories we will be inspired to actions of peace, patience, and solidarity so that in the future others will not have to make the same sacrifice.
Memorial Day should not be merely a vacation, in light of this, or just a time to go to the lake, or take a long weekend off, but it should be a time to renew our sense of gratitude for those who have served our country, and for the freedoms we enjoy because of that service and sacrifice. Additionally, it should prompt a renewed sense of devotion to working for a world that is committed to justice and peace.
Sincerely~ Pastor Erik
March 26, Week of Palm Sunday
A WORD FROM PASTOR ERIK
1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,
If you are physically able, I encourage you to come and worship. Especially for the heartfelt Good Friday worship service as well as the glory of Christ’s resurrection on Easter. Mindful of those who are not yet fully vaccinated, we are offering some drive-in worship services as well as in-person worship so everyone can feel safe worshipping in a community setting. Please review the worship schedule in this newsletter or feel free to call if you have any questions. These past 12 months have been a difficult road and I think it will be good for your soul to come and lay eyes on your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We need community and we need to remember who we are as a congregation. After all, we are the body of Christ- one body with many parts. Every single person is appreciated and integral for the congregation to fully engage in God’s mission.
That being said, I recognize that not everyone is ready to come back to church and gather with others on a weekly basis. That is ok. This past year, we learned the value of offering more faithful content online and we are going to continue to offer the worship service electronically. After Easter, even though we are not going to record the worship earlier in the week, every Sunday we are going to stream the worship service live via Facebook and continue offering the worship service on the radio, website, youtube and local TV.
Although the governor has recently lifted or lessened many societal restrictions it is important to remember that we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and we have to be evermore intentional in supporting each other and holding together as we enter new phases of our response to the pandemic. Some of us are now fully vaccinated now while others still aren’t eligible to receive a vaccine yet. Some of us are ready to be in the Sanctuary and put all the online business behind them. Others have found a renewal of faith and are reinvigorated by the opportunity to worship online more regularly and have more flexibility in when they worship. Some of us have floundered during this time and don’t feel as connected as they used to feel. Some of us who don’t live near town or who are not physically able to attend are doubly grateful for the opportunity to join in on the radio and online. We are all OSLC, one congregation committed to a common mission to equip people to be committed followers of Jesus. Let’s give great care in the months ahead to strengthen our unity for the sake of God’s mission.
I pray that this Holy Week will strengthen our commitment to our Lord and Savior, Jesus, and to God’s church. God be with us!
Your co-worker in Christ ~ Pastor Erik
March 21 Devotional
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets,[a] 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound[b] and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
God’s love to you! As we journey through the season of Lent together, let us take a moment to reflect on these words from Paul. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.
As for me, I love to rejoice and I pray very frequently, but Paul’s third piece of advice stopped me in my tracks. Give thanks in all circumstances? What? There are certainly circumstances every week that are good and some that are not very good. It is strange to think that we should give thanks for things are upsetting or painful. But, I’ve been thinking about this all week and perhaps even the things that are upsetting and even painful can bring us closer to God and/or closer to others. Afterall, God works and is present with us at all times, and is able to do good works even in the worst situations. What do you think?
So, this week, I decided that I would try my best to give thanks in all circumstances. Even giving thanks for broken water pipes and burned french toast. I’m interested to see what God will do with those circumstances.
God Bless~Pr. Erik
Ash Wednesday is February 17!
On Ash Wednesday we begin our forty-day journey toward Easter with a day of earnest repentance and honest reflection. Marking our foreheads with ash, we acknowledge that we are mortal and someday we too will return to the earth. At the same time, the ash traces the lifegiving cross indelibly marked on our foreheads at baptism. While we move through Lent to return to God and live our lives more closely devoted to God’s mission, we proclaim that we already have been reconciled to God through Christ. We humbly pray for God to make our hearts clean while we rejoice with the words, “now is the day of salvation.” Embracing our baptismal call, we more intentionally bear the fruits of mercy and justice in the world. Ash Wednesday is a significant opportunity for reflection, devotion, and recommitting ourselves to the disciplines of the Christian faith.
Ash Wednesday and Lent will look a little different than usual this year. There will be two opportunities to receive ashes and a blessing this year. You are welcome to come to OSLC anytime between 12:00-1:00 p.m. or Messiah between 5:00-6:00 p.m. I will come to your car with ashes and a blessing. I ordered special long, disposable q-tips that I will use to administer ashes. Although we will not have an indoor Ash Wednesday Service, there will be a special Ash Wednesday Devotion available online (facebook and oslcmn.com). Reluctantly, after thoughtful consideration, we will not have Wednesday evening soup meals at church. However, I will post weekly devotions online and devote the Weekly Witness Email to Lent. You are welcome to pick up a special edition of Augsburg Lent Devotionals anytime in the narthex, or call us and we can send one to your home.
Also, OSLC has postponed our Annual Meeting until Spring. We postponed the meeting because many people communicated they wanted to have an in-person meeting with more conversation. I know some area churches have had their annual meetings, but they mainly gathered simply to pass a budget, whereas we have several matters of business to discuss. A point of discussion will involve how to share God’s financial resources from the sale of church property last fall with our neighbors. We also want to discuss the possibility of changing our church council structure, which would be a constitutional change.
May God continue to bless you and keep you. Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
God certainly is good. It has been a long time, but we are ready to host in-person worship again beginning next week, Feb 7th, 9AM at OSLC or 10:30AM at Messiah. We do have limited seating so it is a good idea to call earlier in the week and let us know you intend to be at church on Sunday. Calling helps us plan and helps the ushers get people seated quicker. Please note that worship will look a bit different; all worshippers must wear masks and/or face shield and respect social distancing. Also, worship will be shorter and we will have recorded music. It will still be a faithful time with prayer, scripture, sermon and communion. I am so excited about seeing people back in the church and celebrating Holy Communion together.
We will still continue to offer a full 1 hour worship services on the radio, online, and TV. Please understand that staying home and worshipping remotely is still the safest thing to do if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, and if you feel ill or have been exposed to someone with covid we ask that you stay home as well.
Blessings, Pastor Erik
A WORD FROM PASTOR ERIK
Merry Christmas (as I write, it is still the season of Christmas) and Happy New Year! I hope you felt God’s spirit move within you as you celebrated the birth of Jesus this year. What a gift we have been given in our Savior. To think that the God who created the universe would enter our fragile life to save us is beyond comprehension. All that’s left is to worship and adore the One who loves us so much.
It’s been a busy time around here. I want to express my gratitude to the staff and lay leaders at OSLC for all their faithful work during the busy Advent and Christmas season. They are an incredible group of people for which I daily give thanks. It’s a joy to do ministry with people who love their work and the people they serve.
The new year brings with it a new opportunity that I am excited to share with you. We are going to read the Bible! I know what you are thinking, “don’t we already read the Bible?” And yes, we read passages from the Bible all the time, but this year we are going to read the Bible together- the whole thing! Each day of the year there is an assigned reading for us to read (the chart for the next two months is printed in the newsletter). This chart is also located on page 2082 of the Lutheran Study Bible. If you don’t have a Lutheran Study Bible, contact me and I will get you one. In my opinion, the best part of this ministry is that church members are also reading and posting the assigned passages before noon on the church’s Facebook page every day, so you can also simply listen to the word of God if you like. You are also invited to be a reader and it is my prayer that many people will sign up to be a reader over the course of the year. Don’t let technology be a deterrent, even if you don’t use Facebook or have a computer, I have everything set up for you to be able to participate. This ministry is not only enjoyable, but it is important because the Word of God is the foundation of our lives. Dwelling in God’s Word from cover to cover will introduce us to stories that are part of the 3-year lectionary cycle, prompting us to think deeply about God’s activity in the world and ultimately grow in faith.
Another important note is that OSCL’s smart team has met and discussed how to prepare for the return of in-person worship in February. We will continue to offer the worship service on the radio, facebook/youtube, and tv broadcast. Please take a moment to review the guidelines for in-person worship located on the next page of this newsletter. I will also be contacting every church member before February to answer questions.
May God continue to bless and guide you in 2021.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
This Christmas is difficult for so many people. I am disappointed that we can’t gather in person this year, but I also recognized how blessed I am that I can gather virtually with my community. I know no matter what, we are always connected in spirit by our shared faith.
In typical years we celebrate Christmas in the fullest joy and excitement, but truth be told, the first Christmas wasn’t joyful or exciting for the majority of God’s people. The first Christmas’ setting was in the midst of anxiety, fear and disappointment due to the harshness of the world. Upon reflecting on society’s difficulties and disappointments, I was moved by this poem by Ann Weems from her book Kneeling in Bethlehem.
The Christmas Spirit Is that hope Which tenaciously clings To the hearts of the faithful And announces In the face Of any Herod the world can produce And all the inn doors slammed in our faces And all the dark nights of our souls That with God All things are possible, That even now Unto us A child is born!
Blessings, Pastor Erik
December 4, 2020
What will the seasons of Advent and Christmas look like and feel like this year? What will happen to our holidays without our traditions? That is the question we’ll all be asking and pondering over this month. Sadly, we are unable to safely gather together because of the pandemic. As individuals, families and as a congregation we struggle with the feeling that it “doesn’t feel like Advent,” if we can’t watch the children’s program or enjoy a crowded sanctuary for Lessons and Carols. People ask either out loud or in their hearts if it’s still Christmas when we can’t sit with family and friends at a Christmas Eve Service or get together for a big family dinner or party.
Rest assured, that even as hard as it will be this year to go without these blessed traditions, Advent and Christmas will come. These celebrations are not dependent on crowds. These sacred times do not derive their meaning from our traditions. The meaning came first, the celebration and tradition later. I’ve been pondering about years past, and I think, perhaps, too often the way we celebrate overshadows why we celebrate. With a critical self-inspection, I acknowledge that too often the celebration itself has meant more than the reason behind it. That being said, I can’t help but wonder if God is using this time to restore our faith. I can’t help but wonder if God feels, “If you can’t sing your favorite hymns in a beautifully decorated church with your loved ones and have the big family meal, will you still celebrate the birth of my son?” Perhaps, this year is an opportunity to remember the foundation of our faith. Can we focus more on the promise of Jesus’ return, this year? Can we humble ourselves before the mystery of the incarnation even more this year? Since the holiday parties and preparations have been cancelled, can we spend the extra time and focus on prayer and worship this year? I hope so.
We have a God who does not shy away from the difficult times we find ourselves in. After all, Christmas is the time we celebrate God who entered fully into our life and community, transformed it, and offered us life with Him. I pray that our celebration of the incarnation will have a new heart to it that deepens our faith in fresh and unpredictable ways. This year we are holding off from some traditions, but, perhaps this time will bring new traditions we can hold for years to come. Traditions of humbleness, mindfulness, patience and hope.
God Bless~ Pr. Erik
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
On this year’s Thanksgiving Day, remember to thank God for all God has done and provided. Although this year’s thanksgiving comes with unique challenges and difficulties, it is important to remember and teach our young people that God is most certainly good. Despite the coronavirus and the heartache resulting from the virus we do proclaim that God cares for us, looks after us and accompanies us in our joy as well as sorrow. Indeed, God has blessed us in many ways. We can reflect on how God has lead us and blessed us in the past, and we confidently dwell in God’s promises to continue to do so in the future.
This year we are missing our faith community and our extended family and friends, but our grief of missing our loved ones and traditions ultimately reminds us of how much God has blessed our lives. We also give thanks to know that all suffering is temporary and our promise of eternal life filled with only good things remains constant. More than anything else, we thank God for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation that is ours because of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am thankful for you and am blessed because you are part of my life.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
NOVEMBER 6, 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
We are entering into a season of hope. As Christians, we know our hope is linked explicitly to the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13), with whom we too will be raised (4:15-17). It is also linked to faith and love (1:3; 5:8): that is, to our trust in God and to our service to one another (4:9-10). It is not really possible, Paul tells us to speak of one without the other. Therefore, practice hope in your home and your social circle. Remind others about God’s actions in your life and theirs that produce faith, inspire hope, and are centered on love. Take care everyone. You are an essential worker for God and our hope is alive and building~ Pr. Erik
The last Sunday in October was the day we commemorate the Reformation of the church led by Martin Luther and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luther never intended to split Christ’s church, but he was compelled to return the church to the truth of Holy Scripture. The resulting disagreements about faith, grace, and church has divided Christians for over 500 years and remains a scar that we hope will one day be healed. But the reasons for the Reformation are worth returning to and remembering. Why are we Lutheran? What does it mean to be a Lutheran? There are many ways to answer this. The place I return to are the five solas (Latin for ‘alone’ or ‘only’) of the Reformation. These five solas set the foundation for the understandings Luther stood for and confidently taught.
• Christ Alone – Salvation is through Jesus’ work on the cross. Salvation is 100 percent God’s work. We don’t add anything to what Jesus did for us on the cross to forgive our sin and assure us eternal life.
• Grace Alone – Salvation is a gift freely given. It is not earned. It cannot be bought. God gives it freely because God loves us.
• Faith Alone – Salvation is received by our believing, not by any works. Faith is simply trusting that what God says is true, that Jesus death and resurrection save us.
• Word Alone – The Bible is true. The Bible is where we go with our questions about our faith and life and what God uses to shape our belief.
• To the Glory of God Alone -Our entire lives, the life of our church and everything we are about is aimed at giving God glory.
Our job is to tell others the truth about God and worship Him with our whole being. I encourage you to take some time this week and think about why you are Lutheran. Reflect on the catechism and the five solas. For me, I dwell in the blessed assurance that God has already done everything for my salvation- and yours too. Jesus died on the cross to save us, and everything that is necessary for eternal salvation has been done. Therefore, we live our lives in response to this wonderful news. I love the scriptures and trust them to challenge me and guide me. I’m grateful for the Reformation and the gifts it has brought. But I also look forward to the day when all the divisions in Christ’s church are healed and Christians unite as one. I am reminded that the Reformation is an ongoing movement, not just a day, and that it encompasses all our voices, not just Martin Luther’s.
God Bless you all.
Your Co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
October 16, 2020
Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.
Here in our home of Northern MN, the peak time for the Autumn leaves has come to an end. There are more trees that are completely bare then trees with leaves on. Yesterday, the street cleaner came down my street to clean up all the leaves that gathered in large piles on the curb, and t is clear that the time for winter is fast approaching. Inspired by verse 12, the beautiful hymn that nature sings to us whenever we open our door and step out into the world, the trees have sung their melodies of joy and peace. We thank the forest for the concert it has put on and praise God we created it all and who rules over all with righteousness.
Everyday is a blessed opportunity to enjoy this amazing world.
Blessings~ Pastor Erik
October 9, 2020
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
The Apostle Paul is an optimist. Metaphorically, Paul’s glass is half full rather than half empty. Today I really heard Paul’s voice focusing me towards verse 8. By saying “whatever” several times, Paul is saying that even the slightest bit of truth, honor, justice, purity, is enough to continue being each other’s brother and sister in Christ. People don’t have to agree 100% of the time or get along wonderfully 100% of the time in order to be community. If there is ever even a shred of excellence, or just one single thing worthy of praise, in essence that is enough not to give up on someone. Remember, that nobody can ever promise that a project, relationship or organization will be perfect, but anybody can promise that they will strive to improve and that they will not give up.
Be gracious and loving to each other- just as Christ is gracious and loving to you.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
October monthly devotional:
Reformation Day is Sunday Oct 25th. I am looking forward to this day for several reasons. As a Lutheran, I love being engaged with the history of the church when Martin Luther courageously confronted the injustices of his time and boldly shared his theological insights with the world. Indeed, our entire lives are shaped by Luther’s teaching of salvation by grace through faith. This is a message that we hear and proclaim on a daily basis, and it is fitting to hold up Reformation Day as a special day to give thanks and praise to God for giving us theologians like Luther who help us articulate our faith. The music is pretty awesome too.
I am also looking forward to Oct 25th because after much discernment we are going to add another opportunity as part of our worship schedule. In addition to radio, tv broadcast, and internet recordings, after much discernment we will resume in-person worship in the sanctuary. Worship will be different in several ways, and I ask that all of us keep in mind that the changes being made are because we prioritize the health and well-being of everyone. Everything has been designed to mitigate the risk of covid 19. (Please familiarize yourself with the guidelines for returning to in-person worship that is printed on page 2 of this newsletter, and know that I am always available for questions). I thank God for the several different ways of worshiping, and I thank you for your discernment on which method is best for you and your family. I am grateful for all the ways we strive to continue to be church together during these difficult and unprecedented times.
Over the past several months, the comment I have heard the most often has been how wonderful it is to worship together with Messiah Lutheran Church. Giving thanks for this relationship, OSLC and MLC has agreed to continue to worship together. So, beginning on Oct 25th, every Sunday we will offer two worship services- 9AM at OSLC and 10:30 at MLC. Both services are co-sponsored by the two congregations and will be co-lead by Deacon Kari and I. All people from OSLC and MLC are invited to attend whichever service best suits them, so OSLC folks can worship at 10:30 and don’t be surprised if some MLC folks who prefer an early service worship at OSLC.
Worship is vital to our spiritual health. Thank you for your generosity, grace, and continued commitment to God’s Kingdom.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
September 10, 2020
Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13 [1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Blessing. Most of us define “blessing” as something good from God that happens to us or given to us. Our family and friends, vocation, health or even nice weather are often referred to as blessing. Interestingly, psalm 103 begins not with the author receiving blessing from God, but by giving blessing to God. The question is posed, “what could any of us do or give to God that God doesn’t already have or can acquire by God’s self? In other words, how can we bless God? I think the answer is found is the later half of verse 2, “do not forget all his benefits.” Remembering who God is and what God has done and continues to do is how we bestow blessing upon God. Simply put, being in genuine relationship with God is how we bless God. With any relationship, blessing goes both ways, and it is the same with God.
Know that you are blessed, as well as the source of blessing to God and all those around you. Your co-worker in Christ- Pr. Erik
The theologian, Jurgen Moltmann wrote,
“the church doesn’t have a mission rather the mission of God has a church. The
idea is that the church is God’s instrument for accomplishing God’s goals for
the world. Moltmann’s work challenges some of our assumptions and
understandings about what the church is and what it is for. One of the
challenges is that lots of people view church to be a safe place where we can
retreat and be protected from the fast-paced and harsh world. Architecturally,
Christians have even built church buildings with this mindset. If you’ve
ever been to Europe, you’ve probably visited huge stone cathedrals with their
super thick walls. These churches are so strong and safe, they have been
standing for hundreds of years. Also, we call the main room of our church a sanctuary.
Sanctuaries are peaceful and protected places where we can retreat to. Of
course, churches should be peaceful places where we feel safe, but a drawback
of this mindset is that it temps us to think the church is removed and separate
from the world.
The thought that the church is an exclusively protected retreat is one of the reasons some of us get upset when anything going on in the world is spoken about in a sermon or lifted up in prayer. When church talks about economic inequalities, racial issues, and justice issues, people get offended. I’ve heard people say that they come to church because they want to feel good and they don’t want to hear about the controversies of the world. They are upset when the sermon or the Bishop or the ELCA or coffee an’ conversation disrupts that. I get this, and I also enjoy feeling good and I too need relief from the harshness of the world. However, we are called to be an authentic church, and an authentic church is one that is rooted and engaged in the world because the church is the instrument in which God uses to do God’s mission. I do think we can have it all. I do think we can engage in the messiness of this world while also feeling good and enjoying sanctuary. Warm feelings, peaceful expressions, and feeling protected come with being part of a community that is compassionate, confident and strong. After all, Jesus is both 100% God and 100% human. As man, Jesus shares with us all the experiences of being flesh and blood living in the messiness and controversies of the world. He saw, felt, and preached about economic inequality, gender inequality, racial conflict, civil unrest, etc. Jesus’ followers didn’t simply want to feel good for an hour, they were there for salvation, salvation that is only available through Jesus Christ. Same for us as for the disciples back then, we are called to live, work, engage and serve in this broken world, not to avoid or escape from it. As well, as God, Jesus gives to us peace, fulfillment, grace, acceptance, love and salvation. These gifts of Christ certainly make everyone feel good.
The truth is that every relationship. Every business. Every political platform, both liberal and conservative. Every organization. Ourselves and everything we are involved in can be sharply criticized by Christian theology and ethics. I don’t want people to feel personally attacked by sermons and prayers, but I do want everyone, including myself, to know that God is calling us to live lives that are more graceful, forgiving, generous, and open-minded, and to advocate for the other, and pursue justice. We are living in a unique time with a contentious political elections, relentless pandemic, destructive hurricanes and fires, and systemic racism. Avoiding these issues only makes them more destructive. We are Christians led by God to participate with God’s mission of salvation, peace, and justice.
Your co-worker in Christ~ Pastor Erik
The theologian, Jurgen Moltmann wrote, “the church doesn’t have a mission rather the mission of God has a church. The idea is that the church is God’s instrument for accomplishing God’s goals for the world. Moltmann’s work challenges some of our assumptions and understandings about what the church is and what it is for. One of the challenges is that lots of people view church to be a safe place where we can retreat and be protected from the fast-paced and harsh world. Architecturally, Christians have even built church buildings with this mindset. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ve probably visited huge stone cathedrals with their super thick walls. These churches are so strong and safe, they have been standing for hundreds of years. Also, we call the main room of our church a sanctuary. Sanctuaries are peaceful and protected places where we can retreat to. Of course, churches should be peaceful places where we feel safe, but a drawback of this mindset is that it temps us to think the church is removed and separate from the world.
The thought that the church is an exclusively protected retreat is one of the reasons some of us get upset when anything going on in the world is spoken about in a sermon or lifted up in prayer. When church talks about economic inequalities, racial issues, and justice issues, people get offended. I’ve heard people say that they come to church because they want to feel good and they don’t want to hear about the controversies of the world. They are upset when the sermon or the Bishop or the ELCA or coffee an conversation disrupts that. I get this, and I also enjoy feeling good and I too need relief from the harshness of the world. However, we are called to be authentic church, and an authentic church is one that is rooted and engaged in the world because the church is the instrument in which God uses to do God’s mission. I do think we can have it all. I do think we can engage in the messiness of this world while also feeling good and enjoying sanctuary. Warm feelings, peaceful expressions, and feeling protected come with being part of a community that is compassionate, confident and strong. Afterall, Jesus is both 100% God and 100% human. As man, Jesus shares with us all the experiences of being flesh and blood living in the messiness and controversies of the world. He saw, felt, and preached about economic inequality, gender inequality, racial conflict, civil unrest, etc. Jesus’ followers didn’t simply want to feel good for an hour, they were there for salvation, salvation that is only available through Jesus Christ. Same for us as for the disciples back then, we are called to live, work, engage and serve in this broken world, not to avoid or escape from it. As well, as God, Jesus gives to us peace, fulfilment, grace, acceptance, love and salvation. These gifts of Christ certainly make everyone feel good.
The truth is that every relationship. Every business. Every political platform, both liberal and conservative. Every organization. Ourselves and everything we are involved in can be sharply criticized by Christian theology and ethics. I don’t want people to feel personally attacked by sermons and prayers, but I do want everyone, including myself, to know that God is calling us live lives that are more graceful, forgiving, generous, and openminded, and to advocate for the other, and pursue justice. We are living in a unique time with a contentious political elections, relentless pandemic, destructive hurricanes and fires, and systemic racism. Avoiding these issues only makes them more destructive. We are Christians led by God to participate with God’s mission of salvation, peace, and justice.
Your co-worker in Christ~ Pastor Erik
1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything. 3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth. 5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
I want to highlight verse 8- “The Lord will fulfill his purpose in me.” Have you thought about your purpose lately? Another way of asking this question is, “have you thought about what God’s purpose for you is?” Afterall, we are all creations of God. God didn’t create us just because. Indeed, God has something in mind, some special purpose for you. I believe that God has specifically brought you to this time and place for a purpose. What is it? It takes a great deal of contemplation, prayer and discernment to confidently answer this question. Perhaps it is to be a voice of wisdom for others. A source of safety and reassurance. A means of grace. An example of love. A vehicle for faith. God has a purpose for all of us. Even for those who can’t leave their homes, or those whom experience physical limits due to age or health. Regardless of any label that society has placed upon you, know this- you are important, and God has a purpose for you. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “ 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life…” Basically, scripture tells us that our purpose is to do good works.
the summer winds down and the beginning of Autumn is in the air, think to
yourself what good works you can do today. Especially good works towards folks
who are not expecting it. When people ask you why you are so kind, generous,
and/or gracious, simply tell them that you are fulfilling your purpose that God
intended to do, and then invite them to live out their purpose too.
God Bless~ Pastor Erik
7 August 2020
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Do any of you feel stress this week? When I am feeling anxious, I turn to the faithful and wise words of the psalmist. I have a memorized exercise where I speak the words to myself, let them sink in, and then repeat the words with some omission.
still and know that I am God
still and know that I am
still and know
I often practice this exercise before or after I do
something that’s special. Before a car trip, before beginning a project, after
an emotional conversation, etc. This exercise grounds me, gives me peace and
helps me gain perspective of whatever situation, and know God is active. I
smile to myself with a deep breath when I just say the word “Be.” It feels good
to simply “Be.”
Pick a time to do this exercise today. Maybe during lunch
break, between phone calls or meetings, while you prepare a meal. It seems that
people are on edge. The social restrictions weigh heavy on our shoulders, there
is anxiety about schools, jobs, the health of loved ones. These are difficult
times and we need to rely on our faith to help us get through it. It is helpful
to be reminded that we have God to lean on. To be reminded that God is in
charge, and that God watches over and cares for us. Because God is God, we can
I pray for each of you, and I encourage you to pray for others. My prayer centers on you experiencing the peace, security, and reassurance that you can be still and know that God is present.
Your co-worker in Christ~ Pr. Erik
31 July 2020
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The image of a soaring eagle is so powerful and vivid.
Earlier this week I went to Camp Vermillion to hear about how the pandemic has
impacted the camp and as I was driving back home a bald eagle flew across the
road with a fish in its claws. What an amazing sight, the eagle displayed so
much power, grace, and confidence. I was instantly reminded of the beautiful
hymn, On Eagle’s Wings, and gently sang the hymn (I was the only person in the
car thankfully) for the remainder of the drive. I could only remember the words
from the refrain so when I arrived home I turned to hymn #787 and read through
all 4 verses and I sang it all the way through with Nozomi and Ronin.
I love this verse from Isaiah just as much as I love
the hymn it inspired. It speaks so wonderfully about God’s love and God’s
promises. It speaks of patience and persistence. I will confess that I’m not
very good at waiting, and when I run I become weary very quickly. I confess that
there have been long days in this time of pandemic, and times when I am weary,
even exhausted from trying to figure out how to be pastor during a pandemic and
how to be church in a time when so much of what we love to do together is just
not possible right now. I am weary, but I still have unshakable hope in the
Though these are often challenging times, I do believe
in God’s promise to renew my strength, to renew your strength, and to renew the
strength of the church. I have witnessed amazing acts of generosity, the
intense power of kind and affirming words, heartwarming love and care for
neighbors, and the bold imagination of so many of you. Although we have not
been able to gather in person on Sundays, we have never stopped being the
Last month, our gospel readings and reflections were
from Matthew 10, the chapter where Jesus gives his disciples instructions just
before he sends them out. He told them that the “harvest is abundant, but the
laborers are few; pray to the Lord of the harvest, therefore, that he may send
forth laborers into his harvest.” I think the Holy Spirit was at work by
assigning those readings to us at that time. It has prompted many people to
think about our mission during this time of pandemic, of where and how God is
at work and how we might be part of God’s mission. I hope you will join me in
praying for our congregation: in thanksgiving for all the blessings and all the
ways we are doing that mission together, and also that God continues to lead us
and guide us to be faithful laborers for that abundant harvest. It is for that
work that our strength, patience and perseverance is relied upon and we mount
up with wings like eagles.
Your co-worker in Christ~ Pr. Erik
Devotion July 24, 2020
129 Your decrees are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps
them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to
the simple. 131 With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your custom toward those who love
your name. 133 Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let
iniquity have dominion over me. 134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may
keep your precepts. 135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me
your statutes. 136 My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept.
read today’s psalm, I was captivated by the imagery of God’s words unfolding
before my eyes. How do you picture it? One particular aspect of Biblical study
is that scripture always seems to have multiple meanings and
interpretations. Translating from one
language to another and learning about cultural nuances gives a richness and
depth to scripture that leads to a lifetime of learning and imaginative
insight. One verse or even a simple word can have so many different layers,
indeed God’s words unfold before our eyes and bring light to our world.
Earlier this week, after the kids
fell asleep I started in on the seemingly never-ending task of folding laundry.
I began by folding the towels. One particular towel that we have is a brightly
colored beach towel. The edges are bright pink, then a strip of green, blue,
and finally in the center is a big cartoonish sun with a smile on it. I love
this towel; it is big, fun and still relatively new so it is soft and fuzzy. I
can already picture this towel being neatly packed in our beach bag for our
next outing to a lake on a hot and sunny day. The bright pink will shine
brightly from inside the beach canopy while my family and I build sand-castles
and swim. Then, we will take it out, unfold it, revealing the other brilliant
colors and then the happy sun. Several beautiful layers just waiting to be
unfolded and seen.
How has scripture unfolded for over
the years? I think every time we read scripture, even the most famous stories,
we hear something new layered in the words that gives new insights and
directions. Scripture constantly and consistently inspires us and surprises us.
Thanks be to God for that.
God’s Peace to you and yours-
Devotion for July 10, 2020
1 Samuel 24: 1-5When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. 3 He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself.[a] Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 The men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.
I remember first hearing this story when I was a little boy. I felt connected by the imagery of young King David camping out in the wilderness with his friends, hiding in caves, and playing pranks on unsuspecting adversaries. I remember laughing while thinking about Saul’s cloak and how silly he looked when he emerged from the cave with a big piece cut out. But, reading the passage again as an adult conjures other feelings and images. I no longer find it funny, but deeply faithful and dramatic. I’ve labeled the time we currently live as the “messy middle.” It is time where covid-19 is no longer new, but the end of covid-19 is not yet in sight. The messy middle is a frustrating and anxiety filled time. People are anxious about their health and finances and even more anxious about the well-being of their loved ones. We are frustrated because things are not normal, plans have been changed or cancelled, and we can’t worship in person yet together. I chose this story from 1 Samuel because King David is also living during a “messy middle.” David has been anointed King, but he hasn’t yet taken the throne. He is hailed as a national hero after defeating Goliath, admired for his musical talents, and beloved by many, but all these deeds and adventures have made Saul jealous. Saul’s jealousy resulted in having everything taken away from David. David is now homeless and an outlaw. He was forced to flee and abandon everything. As our story picks up today, David is hiding in a cave because he is being hunted by Saul, the most powerful man in the country. We learn a lot about David’s character from this story. We know he is desperate and has suffered a great deal. He is a faithful person. He is well liked. He has tried to help others and do what is right, but now he is struggling by no fault of his own. In fact, the one person who is to blame – The one person who has victimized David – The one person who stands in the way of all that is good for David is Saul. And here he is. Completely vulnerable and open. David could have easily killed him and eliminated the one obstacle in his life. David didn’t. He didn’t give in to the temptation to cheat, cut corners, or lose his integrity. David followed God’s way even though it didn’t serve his own interests and even though God’s way was far more difficult.
I know we are all living in the messy middle. For some, it is extremely messy. My message and prayer is that you don’t give up. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t act out of character and lose integrity. David teaches us that we can also live our lives with patience, humility, and trust God to do God’s work. God’s work is judgement and justice. Our work is to share God’s love. We look to this story of David as inspiration, but above all, we look to Jesus as inspiration, who humbled himself even to the point of death on a cross. Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
Devotion for June 26, 2020
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Thanks be to God and thanks to OSLC for the faithful prayers that you have offered on behalf on my mom for this past year. As many of you know, last summer my mom was diagnosed with a rare form of stage 4 lung cancer. For the past 12 months she has been enduring intensive cancer treatments several times a week. It has been extremely difficult for my parents, who live in Colorado, and I have been sad that I can’t do more to help them. But two weeks ago we received some great news from her team on oncologists! Her treatments have worked well and her doctors updated her diagnosis. Previously, the doctors said she had a couple months to live, but now she may have couple years. To celebrate this joy, I drove to Colorado last and was able to visit for a couple days. It was beyond wonderful to spend time with my mom as well as to see her be able to laugh and spend time together with the kids. For the past year, my earnest prayer has been for the treatments to work and to cherish every occasion I get to see her and chat on the phone. I am so grateful for your prayers too. Scripture is true- God certainly hears us.
God’s Peace and Blessings to you and yours- Pastor Erik
Devotion for June 7, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As a congregation, and as individuals, how do we respond to
the killing of George Floyd? How do we respond to the protests that followed?
How do we respond to the threat of violence is coming from national leadership?
I know we all have our opinions and different life experiences that form them,
but we are a church, we are the body of Christ, we must frame this answer by
asking how our Lord and Savior has taught us to respond. We are called to
follow our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is what we will do.
A focus point is that Chris calls us to live a life of
compassion. Therefore, take a moment of self reflection- Are you being
compassionate? How have you shown compassion to the family of Mr. Floyd and the
far too numerous other families who are grieving the loss of their father, son,
sister, or friend? How have you shown compassion to the protesters? How have
you shown compassion to law enforcement? How have you shown compassion to law
breakers? How have you shown compassion to the African American community? The
pastor from my home congregation pointed out that word compassion means
literally “to suffer with.” As people of God we read and proclaim scripture
passages that tell how God showed compassion to humanity by coming to us in
Jesus and suffering with us. Holy Week depicts God’s compassion fully when
Jesus suffered betrayal, oppression, injustice, violence and murder. Although
scholars have debated aspects and details of scriptures since it was written,
there is one aspect that is not up for debate and everyone agrees. And that is
that Jesus lived a life of compassion. He always responded with courage, care,
mercy, and grace to those who were being oppressed.
He used his power to offer healing and hope. He never backed
away and he never prioritized his own safety. Jesus invites us to follow him
and his way in the world. We must therefore condemn racism in all its forms. We
must listen to the African American community with compassion and the desire to
understand their experience. We must embrace solidarity with others as a way of
life. We must teach our young people the violent, unjust, and evil history of
race relations in this country even if it is painful and shameful. We have voice
and power and we must use our voice and power to serve our neighbors who are
ignored or silenced. And we must confess our own sins, including the sins of
complacency and silence. We ask God to forgive us and we repent. That is what
Jesus taught us and calls us to do.
God’s Peace ~ Pr. Erik
Monthly Devotional, June 2020
Now it is June. We’ve been dealing with the pandemic for over two months now. It is no longer new, but still the end is not in sight. We are somewhere in the middle. So far, the middle is not a very nice place to be. Some of our businesses, organizations, and houses of worship are reopening and some are remaining closed. There is disagreement and hostility between levels of government on what is acceptably safe or unsafe. Sadly, people around the country feel compelled to choose one side over the other, and be for something and against something else, even though there truly is only one side that we are all on – humanity. This middle time is proving to be a time of frustration, impatience, anger and division, and I worry that the middle is going to last for a while. The middle is messy.
In times of messiness, we turn to scripture for comfort, perspective, and wisdom. The Bible tells us about times when people experienced hardship and uncertainty. The book of Exodus teaches us about people living through a middle time. We learn that Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. If we look at a modern day map, we can see that they didn’t really have that far to go, but it took them 40 years. For long stretches of time it seemed like they weren’t really going anywhere, or making any progress. Previously, when they were living in slavery, the agenda was clear- escape Egypt and go to the promised land. The beginning was clear and the end was clear, but the middle was uncertain. Once they were freed, things became murky. They only had food for one day at a time, and their only guidance was a cloud by day and fire by night, and neither the cloud nor the fire explained where they were going. They became frustrated and angry. They yelled, grumbled, and were rebellious. Indeed the middle was not a nice place to be. The middle was messy and stressed them out.
But God was with them in the wilderness during the middle time. God guided them. God inspired their leaders. God provided food and water. God healed their sicknesses. God disciplined them and taught them and loved them. God taught them how to be a people, how to be a community, how to treat each other, and God taught them about faith. Just so, God is with us in our middle time. Even when we disagree on what to do next and how to do it. Even when we get frustrated, impatient, or even angry, God will remind us that God is in our midst, continuing to lead and care for us. And God will eventually bring us to where we need to be. Remember – God makes promises and God keeps those promises.
My prayer to God and my request to you is to be abundant in grace. Be generous to each other. Be patient with each other. Listen to each other. We should constantly be asking ourselves, “What does all this mean, and how can we use this time to further our relationship with God and our neighbors?” God does work to bring something good out of the bad times.
As we prepare to emerge from this messy middle time, I am
assembling a new committee of people who will work towards making plans for how
to assemble safely for worship and ministries for the coming months or longer.
This team will also work closely with other churches and leaders to discern
when it safe to gather again for worship. Notably, we will not gather until is
safe to do so.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
Devotional: Memorial Day Weekend
John 10:10b I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
This Monday is Memorial Day here in the United States. It is a day often honored by getting together with groups of loved ones. This year, many people will honor it a bit differently because of restrictions on travel and gathering. Perhaps though, with a bit less noise and busyness, we can ponder more of the somberness of the day and where God fits in with it.
First, some context, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday in 1971, but dating in practice back to shortly after the Civil War. It is a time to rest from work and the routines of our week in order to create an intentional time to remember and honor those who have died in service to their country. Also, it is a time to hear and tell stories about the sacrifices of actual people which enables the younger generation to attach a face to a name. Importantly, making this day more than just a series of memories will help us all to keep from making war an abstraction. Hopefully, when we hear and tell these important stories we will be inspired to actions of peace, patience, and solidarity so that in the future others will not have to make the same sacrifice.
In this sense, Memorial Day should not be merely a vacation, a time to go to the lake, or a long weekend, but a time to renew our sense of gratitude for those who have served their country, and for the freedoms we enjoy because of that service and sacrifice. And it can also renew our own sense of commitment to working for a world that is committed to justice and peace.
Sincerely~ Pastor Erik
Devotional, May 15, 2020
Today’s Devotional is from Pastor Erik ~
Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer let your requests be made known to God. Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray without ceasing. James 1:5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you. James 5:13 Are any among you suffering? they should pray. James 5:16 The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
When we don’t know, pray. Strange times in which we are living. The uncertainty of this time bothers me. It bothers me as a pastor. It bothers me as a father. It bothers me as a son. It bothers me simply as a person who lives and participates in society. This past week, I’ve been speaking with people about church and the question that keeps coming up is, ‘When will we gather again for worship?’ This question is being asked along with several other follow up questions like: “When we will we be able have communion again? What about confirmation this next year and other youth events like the youth gathering next summer. What about the stuff sale and 25 cent clothes sale? When…
Perhaps the hardest thing for me and I think most people is to say the words and admit the fact, “I don’t know.” But that is the truth. I don’t know right now. What I do know is that you are experiencing this too. You are experiencing this uncertainty as a parent, grandparent, friend, businessperson, caregiver, student, and faithful follower of God. We are used to checking our calendars and making plans for the future. We are used to looking forward to events where we see our friends. We are comforted by having a routine in life of work, social and religious activities. But, we’re no longer able to reasonably assume the future and make plans. We don’t have control of the future. We’re living in the present in a way we’re not used to doing. As my kids say, “the virus is ruining everything.”
So what do we do? Give up? Throw our hands up in despair? Wallow in self-pity? No! We are Christians. When we don’t know, we pray. When we’re worried, we pray. When we’re confused, we pray. When we are scared, we pray. When things seems lost, we pray. In all things we turn to the One who does know, the One who is not confused, uncertain, worried, or scared. We turn to God. One way I’ve been turning to God this past week has been to pray Psalm 86 everyday. I read/pray it out loud even though no one else is around. I do this so that not only do I read it, but I can hear it too. Psalm 86 specifically communicates to me God’s power and certainty and it is helpful during times when I am feeling powerless and uncertain. Pray Psalm 86 or any other scripture that speaks to you.
So, fellow co-workers in Christ, keep praying. Pray for your loved ones. Pray for care givers. Pray for me and other pastors and religious leaders as we seek wisdom from God. Pray for all those guiding the lives of this nation. Pray for a vaccine. Pray that we all can become more humble, gentle, patient. I do know that prayer works and prayer is needed, but keep in mind that prayer is the companion of action. For example, Pray for those who are lonely or scared, and then give them a call. Pray for the church and then generously act on behalf of God’s mission. Pray for patience and then watch a beautiful sunset or take a nice walk.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always. ~Pastor Erik
PASTOR’S DEVOTION FOR THE MONTH OF MAY:
I never thought 2020 would be like this. In fact, since 2019 brought challenges to OSLC due to staff changes, I was planning for 2020 would be a year to take a breath and, relax, worship and simply enjoy each other’s presence. Not to make light of the situation, but I I’m reminded of the saying, “when people make plans- God laughs.”
This past week I was following the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA mostly out of curiosity because Rocky Mountain is where I was previously rostered in before moving to Minnesota. They were having their annual assembly and they used internet meetings to conduct their meeting. I mainly wanted to see some familiar faces and I wanted to hear what their guest speakers had to say in this time of the coronavirus. I was especially taken by one speaker who asked, “Is this an interruption or a disruption”? He posed this question to help everyone consider that the impacts of the coronavirus represent a fundamental shift in the way our society and therefore our churches will now operate. The reasoning was, if the coronavirus was just an interruption, then we would be looking forward to getting back to normal. But if this is a disruption, “then we must recognize that our normal is a thing of the past and make room for a new way of operating in this world.”
We’ve all experienced disruptions in our lives, and some are big, some are small. For example, we now stream our videos from Netflix and Amazon instead of renting videos from Blockbuster. This week I had all my dog’s food and chew toys delivered to my house by the UPS man rather than driving to the store, putting the food in the cart, buying it and bringing it home (amazingly, delivery is even cheaper than the old-fashioned way). Another example, after 9/11 people stopped greeting their loved ones at the gate at the airport and instead we all wait patiently in the cell phone lot. Everyone knows we must remove our shoes when we go through airport security and we can’t bring liquids in our bags. Our travel routines were disrupted, and we have now been living in this “new normal” for almost 20 years.
So, church has not simply been interrupted, it has been disrupted. Church is going to change. (Read that last sentence again and think about it for a moment before you continue reading) “Church is going to change,” is not a sentence I like typing. It’s not something I want to say or hear. I want to make plans for going back to normal, but the fact is we’ve been disrupted. Our worship will be different in the locations we can sit, the way we partake in communion, pass the peace, collect offering, and interact with others. As you all know, I love to give hugs, and that can’t happen anymore. But it is not all lament, I think some changes will enhance our ability to participate in God’s mission. I don’t know exactly what all those changes will be, but I’m ready to make the changes rather than get left behind and become ineffective in doing what Jesus has called us to do. One change that is permanently with us, for the good, is online worship. We will continue to have an online worship experience for people. Not just for health reasons, but when people are out enjoying the beauty of Minnesota on the weekends or out of town they can still worship and be connected to the community. I’ve also been humbled to hear from a couple folks who physically haven’t been able to worship in person for a couple years how grateful they are for this ministry. Having virtual meetings is also an opportunity. For example, our Synod’s Global Mission team, which I am part of, will have more frequent meetings over Zoom instead of occasionally having everyone drive to Duluth. This will cut down on travel, time and expense and hopefully bring more people into involvement. The folks from I-Falls have no excuse now. Our own congregation can use this technology to be more efficient and invite more people to participation.
Let us pray: Gracious God, we know that disruptions can be difficult to adjust to, but we also know they can bring new opportunities. Continue to guide us and reveal to us the majesty of your world.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik
May 1, 2020
Psalm 116:1–4, 12–19 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
This psalm really spoke to me this week. During a time of uncertainty and difficulty, I gain confidence and comfort knowing that God is a God who listens and responds to my prayers. God also listens and responds to your prayers too. Lately, several people have asked me to help them or teach them how to pray. It seems like the difficulty in beginning to pray is just figuring out what words to use. It seems strange to talk, especially out loud, if there’s no one else in the room. Laughably, I speak to an empty room all the time- just check out the worship service videos. Remember, there isn’t a wrong way to pray, and if you want to do it silently, it is ok. But even if you don’t mind talking out loud, it can be hard to know what to say, or how to “start the conversation” with God.
Well, the first thing to do is be comforted: you don’t have to perform for God in your prayers with perfect words or long speeches! God much prefers honesty to style. And if you only have enough to say to fill up one minute, that’s ok too. Another source of comfort: you already have a lot of experience praying. You have said and heard many prayers in church. Even if you don’t have them memorized, your brain is used to the language of prayer. Once you start to do it, it will feel perfectly natural. If it helps, you can begin with the Lord’s Prayer. You probably know it by heart, and it will help you relax a bit. You can also find a Psalm, or read another part of Scripture to loosen you up a bit! Another possibility is to start like you would a letter and say, “Dear God…” Whichever way you begin take heart knowing that we all end our prayers in the same way- “AMEN!”
Stay safe and God bless~ Pr. Erik
April 24th, 2020
I invite everyone to open their bibles and read Judges chapters 6-8. It is the story of Gideon. I’ve always liked the story of Gideon, and I’m highlighting this story now because some of the themes and issues that Gideon dealt with seem very pertinent for today’s struggles.
Chapter 6 tells us about a time when the Israelites were experiencing terrible suffering by the Midianites. Everything they valued and everything they worked for was either stolen or destroyed. Our main character in the story is Gideon, and when we are introduced to him he is hiding in a wine press, trying to thresh wheat in order to keep it from the enemy. Basically, he was working from home, and trying his best to preserve a future for himself and his loved ones. (A familiar place where many of us find ourselves these days) Then, an angel of the Lord comes to him and declares, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Notably, Gideon doesn’t boldly stand up and reply “Here, I am.” Instead, his response is something more realistic. Gideon said to the angel, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off and given us into the hand of Midian.” Gideon is honest. He’s fearful and feeling unsafe, and he’s wondering where God is. Where is God while people are suffering? Where is God while he’s trying to thresh wheat in a wine press? Where is God when we’re working from home because it is unsafe to be out? Where is God when the schools are closed? Where is God when jobs are lost and money is tight? Where is God when the church is unable gather to worship? Gideon’s question is, “Why has God allowed this happened?”
Whether it is Covid 19 or any tragic event during the course of our lives, we find ourselves asking the same question as Gideon. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that God invites us to ask and converse with God about our lives, joys and struggles. Another thing that I do know is that no matter what, God is with us. In fact, that was the angel’s greeting to Gideon. The Lord is with you mighty warrior! I doubt Gideon felt mighty and he doesn’t seem like much of a warrior. But God called him to be a leader and do great things. God believed in him and saw in him something he didn’t see in himself. I think the church is a mighty warrior too, and because the church is not a simply a building, but because the church is people, you are also a mighty warrior.
Through the oppression of the Midianites, people experienced fear, despair, anxiety, selfishness, and isolation. But God hears the cries of the people and God gets involved which leads to victory. Similarly, the virus has also caused fear, despair, anxiety, selfishness and isolation. God hears our cries and I am confident God is involved and is present. Gideon trusted God in the midst of hard times, and we can too. No matter what comes, know this: God is with us and is stronger than anything that threatens us.
Your co-worker in Christ. Pastor Erik
April 17, 2020
There are so many people to thank for all the ways people are stepping up during this difficult time and making a difference in the lives of God’s people. We are in ministry to walk with others through their joys as well as struggles and to equip others to fully participate in God’s mission. That mission remains t17 he same even when we can’t physically gather in our Sanctuary. My heart overflows because I see the congregation fully embracing God’s mission. Thank you for continuing to support the mission of our church with your generosity. Thank you for sending in your offerings through the mail or through our online giving. Thank you for sharing our worship service with your friends and family. There are some powerful stories coming to light about how people who hadn’t been in worship for years are engaging their faith through online worship. Thank you for your notes of thanks and encouragement to me during this time. Thank you for making phone calls and checking in with one another and expanding our congregational care. Thank you for being you and not letting the challenges of the world diminish your hope, commitment, and grace.
Above all, my main focus of thankfulness and awe is directed
to God. God is the one who sustains us through this time. God is the one who is
always present and is with those who are alone. God is the one who will guide
us through these confusing and frustrating days and weeks. God is the one who
raised Jesus from the dead so that we are fully redeemed and can live our lives
with complete confidence in God’s grace. Therefore, we can devote ourselves in responding
to this grace with good work to our neighbors. God is the one who gives us life
and purpose and a peace that passes all human understanding. I take heart that
the last thing we said and proclaimed as a physical gathered congregation was
“go in peace, serve the Lord,” “Thanks be to God.” I take heart because we have
done exactly that.
Your co-worker with Christ~ Pastor Erik
GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD
LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.’ ”
The concept of a year of rest for the land is an ancient one for farmers. God commanded the people to give their land a rest every seven years. No plowing or planting, no harvesting. Just let the land be. We know now that this is important to help the land be productive, to allow it time to recover from being farmed. We are in a time of rest now. The difference is we didn’t choose this and we didn’t have much time to prepare; we have to stay home, distance ourselves for the sake of our neighbor. Like the land during the fallow year, many of us simply have to let ourselves be.
After calling many of you to check in and see how things are going, I know most of us are at home now running out of things to do and occupy our time. The weather is still a bit cold and outside is wet and muddy so gardening and yard work are not options yet. We’ve already organized our basements and cleaned out our closets. Now what? I can’t help but wonder what God is planning to do to redeem this slower time for us. Could this turn into a time of rest and renewal? I hope so. I know I am spending more time with my kids now and feeling the bonds of our relationships strengthened. We’ve been reading a lot more kid’s books together and I can tell that my daughter is strengthening her reading skills everyday. I’m also really glad I enjoy the company of my wife, and I feel our relationship flourishing as we work together to meet these challenging times. I think maybe, God is redeeming this time.
As many of you know, I am passionate about the environment and being a good steward of God’s creation. I’ve been interested to see that pollution is way down across the globe. There are some amazing videos on youtube that show dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice and other wildlife coming out of hiding. Maybe God can use this time to teach us about what our planet can be like, again. Please don’t misunderstand me. This virus is real and it is bad. But I think God has a way of revealing God’s self in the midst of bad situations to illuminate God’s love and grace.
I am inspired by hearing stories of brave and talented people who work in essential services like healthcare and knowing that those people are using their God-given talents to do amazing work. These stories prove to me that God is here with us. God is with the nurses and doctors on the front lines. God is with those who are doing their part by staying home. God isn’t just with us; God is working through us and among us. For those of us who find these days to be quiet and still, God may just be doing the work of renewal deep in your soul. What is God reminding you of? How is God giving you new life? Pay attention and embrace God’s work, even when it’s invisible.
Bless you now and evermore~ Pastor Erik
SUSTAIN THE WEARY WITH A WORD.
Isaiah 50:4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
I know I am weary. I am weary of watching the constantly changing news, weary of not being able to do things and go places, weary of missing my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, weary of worrying about loved ones. “Sustain the weary with a word.” Sounds like just the thing for this week.
And not just any word, but the Word. The word of God. In times of weariness and uncertainty, these verses from Philippians are right on. They teach us and remind us of God’s character, who God is, and God’s strength. It shows us Jesus becoming fully human and entering fully into the human experience. Not only is Jesus one of us, but he is the best of us.
Philippians 2:5-11 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let the words from Philippians enter your heart and mind. In a time when we often feel powerless in the word, take comfort in knowing that God is powerful and in charge. When we can’t “do stuff” out in the community, know that the word is can and will “do stuff.” I love this quote by Martin Luther. He fully trusted the Word to go out and do God’s mission. “I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word…did everything.”[i]
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Happy February everyone,
On January 26, we read psalm 27 in worship. It is one of my favorite psalms. Simple, beautiful, uplifting. I have often gained comfort and courage by reading verse 1 and letting the psalmist’s word dwell in my mind.
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Whenever we have scripture that invokes words and images of light and dark I remind myself that in psalmist’s time, and most of human history, people have had two types of light in their daily lives- the sun and the lamp (oil, not electricity lamps) . The sun is so powerful that it can’t be stared at. It gives light, warmth, and enables plants to grow. The sun is certainly a gift from God. In Genesis 1:3 God said, “Let there be light” and it was so. 1 John 1:5 wonderfully tells us, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
In the psalmist’s time, people had small oil filled lamps that they would occasionally light at night. Several examples of these lamps have been discovered by archeologists and can be seen in museums today. I have a replica of the most common lamp on a shelf in my office. It is small and can fit in the palm of your hand. It is filled with oil and has a 2-3 inch wick coming out. I’ve lit my replica lamp a few times in order to see how it works. It works well, but with just a single small wick it casts just enough light for someone to see a few feet in the darkness. I am reminded as well of the words from Psalm 119, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.”
Reflecting upon light, lamps and psalms I feel the wisdom of these words teaches us that we do indeed receive God’s light in our lives and God’s light illuminates our path by our feet, but it doesn’t show us every detail of the path ahead or which direction it is going to go in the next mile or the next year. These thoughts can be applied to our individual lives, or our congregation, or even to the wide universal church. In essence, we learn that we live as people who honor the past, try to discern the future, but ultimately are called to live fully in the present as God’s hands and feet in this beautiful yet broken world.
So, as we prepare for Lent at the end of February, (metaphorically or literally if you like) light your lamps and let your light shine as a beacon of hope to others.
In-person worship is 9:30am Sundays, and if you are at home you may listen to our services on 1340 AM Radio each Sunday at 9:30am. Recordings of our worship services are available to watch on Youtube or Facebook the following Wednesday each week. Also, we are on the cable channel # 5 (the latest Sunday isn’t available until Thursday of that week).
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You are welcome to worship with us 9:30am Sunday mornings. Sunday School will take place 10:30am – 11:15am.
KRBT Radio Station has secured 104.9 FM for broadcasting so now you can listen to either 1340AM, or the new FM channel Sunday mornings at 9:30am (a big thank you to KRBT for this ministry opportunity)!
WELCA Ladies Study is the first and third Tuesday at 1pm, and WELCA Board will meet the second Tuesday at 9:30am.
Prayer Meetings: We meet the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at 10am in the Sanctuary. Join us as we pray corporately and individually for each other, the community, nation and the world.
Quilting is onWednesdays at 9am to approx. 3pm – coffee & lunch served. You don’t have to know how to quilt; you can help finishing tying and packing! Join us for the fellowship-our quilts go all over the world through Lutheran World Relief. We are taking a winter break and will resume mid-January.