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Pastor Devotionals

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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

REFORMATION SUNDAY

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

Philippians 4:1-9

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

September Devotional

Greetings,

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

AUGUST :

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

Psalm 138:1-8 DEVOTIONAL

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.

                So, as 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.

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

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 be still.

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

Isaiah 40:31  

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 Lord.

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 church.

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

Psalm 119:129-136

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.

                As I 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- Pastor Erik

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

Dear OSLC,

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

Thank You!

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

Leviticus 25:1-5 

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]


[i] Martin Luther, “Sermon on Monday after Invocavit” (March 10, 1522), in Luther’s Works 51:77.EDITSUSTAIN THE WEARY WITH A WORD.

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.

Your co-worker in Christ, Pastor Erik

Devotional Resources for you to enjoy at home :

Call us at 218-741-6207 if you would like us to send you a CHRIST IN OUR HOME DEVOTIONAL, or an AUGSBURG FORTRESS ADVENT DEVOTIONAL.

https://go.augsburgfortress.org/christ-in-our-home-email-subscription
(Christ in Our Homes online – same as the booklet devotionals we have at Church)

https://www.luthersem.edu/godpause/
(Devotion on the lectionary Gospel reading for that week)

https://www.elca.org/Faith/DailyBible  
(Daily Bible passages & schedule)

https://www.womenoftheelca.org/blog/category/daily-grace
(Daily Grace Devotion)

https://www.gathermagazine.org/
(a WELCA Publication)

CALL US IF YOU WOULD LIKE A CHRIST IN OUR HOME DEVOTIONAL MAILED TO YOU AND/OR THE WEEKLY BULLETIN! WE ARE HAPPY TO ACCOMMODATE YOU~

Blessed are you. . .

Luke 6:20-23
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets
.


We use the word “bless” often. I know I do, both at church and at home. Upon self-reflection, whenever something kind, helpful, or pleasant occurs, I say, “I’m blessed.” For most of us, we use the word “bless” to simply mean “happy” or “nice,” but the a closer examination of the word blessed teaches us that that word has a deeper and richer meaning. In the New Testament, the Greek word for bless is Makarios. Instead of translating Makarios as “happy,” a better translation is “unburdened” or “satisfied.” 

At the moment, I’ve been inspired to listen to some classic Rolling Stones while I write.  As we ponder the meaning of unburden and satisfaction along with Mick Jagger, here are some questions to consider… Do my actions and behaviors unburden my loved ones? Do my actions unburden strangers? Do my generous words and actions satisfy the needs of others?  What burdens hold me back in life? Are you satisfied with your life?

Know that OSLC is a place where you can unburden yourself. Bring your burdens, lift them off your shoulders and set them in front of the cross. Also know that Jesus, as the bread of life, is the only one who can offer complete satisfaction to you.

Blessings~Pr. Erik

Let Us Prepare for this Race Together

Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,

and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1b

Wonderous October everyone,

What a wonderful month to live in God’s beautiful creation!  October certainly is one of my favorite months. Highlighting the month, we have Reformation Day and Confirmation Day.  October is the first full month that all our ministries and youth programs are back in full operation after summer break.  As an extra October bonus – there is pumpkin flavored coffee available now, which I love. The other aspect of October that is both overwhelming and exhilarating is that I feel it is the beginning of a long-distance race. A super long-distance race that we will run until next April when we celebrate Easter. Here is my reasoning – we have Reformation Day, then All Saints Day, then Thanksgiving, then Advent and Christmas. I feel like most years, Ash Wednesday/Lent begins before we can even catch our breath from all the excitement of Christmas. Then, before you know it, we have Wednesday evening meals/worship in Lent before the Holy Week and Easter. Wow!!! (three exclamation marks is not too much of an exaggeration). So, lets prepare for this race together. Let’s encourage each other. Pray for each other. Make sure our brothers and sisters in Christ have the physical and spiritual nourishment they need to sustain themselves.

This past June, both Gethsemane and Messiah celebrated Pentecost by worshipping with us at Our Savior’s. It was a faithful and fun day filled with good friends and good music. Coming up, we are all going to be celebrating Reformation/Confirmation Day at Gethsemane. There will be two worship services at Gethsemane on Sunday, Oct 27th and Bishop Tom Aitkin will preside at both. The earlier service will be at 8:30 and it will be a traditional Reformation worship service. The later service will be at 10:30 and we will celebrate and confirm our young people. I am really looking forward to hearing Bishop Tom preach about how God’s grace reformed and continues to reform the God’s church and God’s people. Please note: There will be no worship service at Our Saviors on Oct 27th.

We will also have a potluck supper at Gethsemane on Wednesday Oct 23rd.  We will be supporting all the confirmands this evening and hear their faith statements. Guides, mentors, family, and anyone who has participated in the faith journey of a confirmand is warmly welcomed to attend.

 

Your Co-Worker in Christ

Pastor Erik

 

Reformation Sunday Oct. 27

REFORMATION SUNDAY:

Shared OMG services will be held @ Gethsemane

  • 8:30am (Reformation Service)
  • 10:30am (Confirmation Service).
  • NO worship service will be held at OSL or Messiah Lutheran Church next Sunday, Oct. 27th!
  • There will be a joined choir at the 8:30 service, you are invited to practice at GELC Wednesdays at 6:oopm for the service.                                

Bishop Tom Atkin will preside both services.

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Ecclesiastes 5:18

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.

Wow, it is August! How did that happen? Is it just me or does it seem like the summer has flown by? Last May I wrote a list of all the things I want to do, places to see and house projects to complete during the summer… I still have a long way to go on my list. In reality, I haven’t achieved much on my list because this summer has been quite busy at church. But, busy is generally a good thing. Busy means that the Spirit is active and energized. My busy life received a wake-up call today when I read a daily devotional that my friend sent me. I read the book of Ecclesiastes. (I encourage you to read this book now before continuing with the newsletter. It is only 11 pages)

Ecclesiastes was written by a wise teacher. A teacher who reflects upon their life shares words of advice. The teacher realizes that many years were spent striving after riches, success, accomplishments, and even wisdom is like chasing after the wind. The teacher says that constant striving doesn’t bring fulfillment or meaning to life, and that life is meant to be enjoyed.

In the devotional, my friend reminded me that when I read Ecclesiastes to read it like it was written to me personally from a friend, from someone who knows me and knows what I need to hear. I suggest you do the same. When you read it, take it as encouragement to occasionally step back from the work of life. To take it as permission to leave your work, even if just for a moment, and to step out under the sun – after all it is August and the days are getting shorter every day. Ecclesiastes reminds us to accept God’s invitation to sabbath, as an invitation to rest.

These Holy words have been a major help to me this week and month. Summer is almost over, and it should be enjoyed and spent surrounded by loved ones. September is going to bring lots of exciting youth ministries and other activities, and we are going to need to be well-rested.

Your co-worker in Christ- Pastor Erik

 

Hope & Expectation

Romans 5:1-5

1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

 

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ. Romans 5:1-5 is one of the readings coming up on Sunday. I find lots of meaning and significance in this reading. One of the things I like is the vocabulary word “hope” that the Apostle Paul uses. Interestingly, another interpretation of the word “hope” from Greek into English is “expectation.” So, we can read verse 2 in a different way, “ we boast in our expectation of sharing the glory of God.” The word “hope” and expectation” can mean the same thing, but I feel as if “expectation” is a bit stronger and more concrete.   It is especially strong in light of the end of verse 4 through verse 5- “character produces expectation and expectation does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. The Apostle Paul states in a factual way that the Holy Spirit has already put God’s love into our hearts, and because this act has already happened, we can expect and plan on participating in and sharing God’s glory.

Often times we think of hope in a passive way. For example, I hope there will be an ice cream sandwich waiting for me in the freezer after the kids are asleep in their bed tonight. There might be ice cream or there might not be. I don’t know. Hope implies some doubt.

Therefore, when it comes to God and our relationship with God – God’s love and sharing in God’s glory is more than simple “hope” it is expectation based on who God is due to the love and grace that God has already poured into us.

Have a wonderful week everyone. It is my expectation that all of you will continue to be lead by the Holy Spirit in new, fulfilling and life-giving ways.

Blessings ~ Pastor Erik

 

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit in Your Life

Acts 2:1-21
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
John 14:8-17, [25-27]
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
[25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.]

This week I would like to try something new with the weekly witness. Instead of simply telling you what I think of the reading, I would like to hear from you. Below are three discussion questions. Please ponder them and tell me what you think. You can email me at [email protected] or even better- stop by the church and we’ll share some coffee and chat about the Holy Spirit.

Discussion Questions for Pentecost
Amazed. Perplexed. Witness to deeds of power. When have you had a Pentecost experience? (Acts 2:1-21)

When have you, like Philip, yearned for a sign so that you can believe with confidence? (John 14:8-12)

How is the spirit being poured out in your own life and in your congregation? (Acts 2:17-19)

(http://www.workingpreacher.org/)

A Challenging Love

John 14:23-29

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

                Last week we focused on the “new commandment” that Jesus spoke of in John 13:34 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” I interpret this weeks Gospel reading from John 14 in light of John 13. Therefore, when Jesus instructs Judas (not Iscariot) that the keeping of Jesus’ word is connected to the love of the Father together with the mutual indwelling of Jesus and the Father with the disciple. So, loving each other just as Jesus modeled his love for people is what we are understanding verse 23 to be about. Again, this love that Jesus is commanding is agape love. It is not romantic (eros) love. It is brotherly/friendship love (philia). It is a self-giving, humbling, servant, promise of unconditional welcoming and acceptance type of love.

For me, this scripture is extremely upsetting and challenging and I worry that I can’t live up to this expectation. In fact, I know I can’t. However, I am greatly relieved and calmed by verse 26 because in it Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to be my guide, teacher and advocate. By naming the Holy Spirit as a teacher, Jesus acknowledges that he knows I still have more to learn and that “I’m not there yet.” So, of course I am upset and challenged, as I suspect most of you are to because at the moment, I am not equipped to fulfill this expectation. But I will be because of the Spirit’s promise. And you will be too.

Your co-worker in Christ~ Pastor Erik

“. . .If You Have Love for One Another”

“. . .If you have love for one another.” 

John 13:31-35 Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,  if you have love for one another.”

This Sunday’s gospel reading is commonly known as the “love commandment.” Interestingly, Jesus declares that he has a “new” commandment for the disciples. However, the commandment “love one another” is not new. It is a solid Old Testament theme that has been a foundation of the faith for many generations. Leviticus 19:18 states, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Also, Leviticus 19:34 “The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”
So, in what sense is this new commandment to love one another new? Identifying the context of John 13 is helpful. John 13:1-21 is the depiction of Jesus portraying servant leadership by washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus is modeling love by humbling himself and serving rather than being served. Therefore, serving others is what love is. Then in John 13: 21-31, Jesus foretells his betrayal by Judas. This betrayal sets in motion the arrest, sentence, humiliation, crucifixion, and ultimately the death of Jesus. Wow. Judas has done immense evil and caused terrible pain. Jesus knew all along what Judas would do, but he still included him in the foot washing. So, Jesus models the act of love to include forgiveness and mercy. As if that is not enough John 13:36-38 is Jesus’ prediction that Peter will deny Jesus three times. So, Jesus’ love is even abundantly given to those who cowardly deny knowing him.
Loving others who are kind, gentle and loyal is easy. Jesus commands his followers to move above and beyond the easy and convenient life. Loving others who have betrayed us, caused pain, abandoned us, and live a life of greed and self-service what we are called to do. No, simple task, and we can’t do it alone. In order to lead a loving life we need to support of each other. We need to worship and be part of a community. We need to hear over and over again that we are loved, blessed and forgiven by God. We need to know that every day, through the gift of baptism, we are born-again and can start fresh.

God’s Love~ Pastor Erik

 

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