An excerpt from one of my favorite books by Brennan Manning:
"It was early on a Sunday morning as the sun began to streak across the eastern sky. Jesus’ body still lay stiff, when all at once, his chest began to heave. Then, his hand slowly reached up and removed the covering from his face. His eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness. He stood on shaky legs and walked slowly out of the tomb. Once outside he breathed in fresh air, thrilled at this new experience. And then, he turned, and looked up to the hilltop where he saw three empty crosses. He smiled and winked – and walked away." - Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus: On the Pages of Our Lives (Portland, Or.: Multnomah, 1992), 232-233.
This is the promise of, and the hope we have, in Jesus' resurrection, which we gather across the world this Sunday to celebrate. Jesus defeated death. Jesus arose victorious. Life, not death, had the last word. However, this day, being Good Friday, is a day we must acknowledge Jesus' brutal death and seemingly, defeat, on the cross, in addition to our own role (our sinfulness) in it. While difficult to acknowledge this and even consider, it's necessary, if we are to fully understand, embrace, and experience the depth of the joy and forgiveness that comes with resurrection in only three short days.
On this somber day and night, I remind you of Paul's bold and confident proclamation he made in the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Church at Corinth. They are also words that I share boldly at every graveside internment service before laying the deceased to rest.
“Death has been swallowed up by Life! Who got the last word, oh Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? In a single, victorious stroke of Life – sin, guilt, shame, bitterness, rejection, and death – are all gone! A gift to us
from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
-1 Corinthians 15:51-57
This Easter Sunday, invite a friend, coworker, neighbor or family member to join you at worship at Saint Paul Lutheran, as together we "smile and wink at the empty cross." And be sure to bring enough lawn or camping chairs for everyone!!
On another note, we will also celebrate with two of our young men this Sunday. Samuel Tyler Kroschel and Adam John Stoyke will be receiving their First Communion! Please join me in praying for and celebrating with these families on this special day.
See you in church!
You’ve heard the saying, “It has to get worse before it can get better." Here's another one, “All sunshine and no rain makes a desert.” Both of these sayings help us understand the Lenten season and particularly, Holy Week, a little better.
Lent is traditionally a time of repentance, recognizing and turning from our sins, remembering and reflecting on the passion of our Lord, and searching within ourselves for a renewed faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Lenten season in general, but specifically, Holy Week (which begins this Sunday), is often a somber, reflective, and perhaps even a depressing time for us. That’s intentional. The Lenten season, and the Passion of our Lord, calls us to realize that as it happened for Jesus, it happens for us. Meaning, that life will at times, have to get worse before it gets better. In fact, we have the promise and the assurance in our creeds, of “on the third day He rose again.” We know it gets better.
This upcoming Holy Week is an opportunity for you to trust in that promise. As you walk those last days and hours with Christ, open your hearts to experience again the pain and suffering He endured as he was led up that mountain to the cross. We can do this. We must do this. We know the end of the story. We know that the journey did not end at the cross. We know it gets better.
So, I encourage you, in that confidence, to participate in our Holy Week services - Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. By fully participating in these services you will appreciate and experience more fully, the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday Morning. The Arab proverb is true, isn’t it? “All sunshine and no rain, makes a desert.” We've had a lot of rain this week. We appreciate the rain when comes - especially this time of year.
The passion of Christ this coming Holy Week, is rain that we can appreciate. Rain brings new life and growth. So as we journey this Holy Week together, I pray you can trust that this long, dark, rainy, and sometimes difficult walk, will indeed, get better - on the third day.
See you in church!
"Practice a mindset of love for God and our church, before ourselves." -From our Loving Behavior Covenant (based on Philippians 2:1-5)
There are so many great things about Saint Paul Lutheran Church that I am daily, continuing to learn.
The devotion and commitment to this congregation by so many of you is encouraging and promising. As I look ahead to our future together, this kind of devotion and commitment is what will be needed to move from a survive mentality, to a thrive mentality. Or as I said last week, to move from a mentality of scarcity to one of abundance or from failure to flourish. In fact, in addition to the words flourish and abundance, that I mentioned last week you'll hear me use often, I expect you'll also hear me use the word thrive. That is what I see us doing in the months and years to come - thriving and flourishing as a result of God's abundant blessings. Again, however, this only happens with your ongoing devotion, commitment, and I will add - love and prayer.
One of the great things about our church that I have learned, is that we have a Loving Behavior Covenant. In other words, it's an agreed upon promise to love and respect one another, to pray for one another, and to participate fully in the life of our congregation. What a great tool of ministry to have created that will help keep us all accountable to our mission. Thank you for this.
You'll notice in the image above, many words that stand out - particularly the words Love, Respect, Communicate, Pray, Participate, and Forgive. These are such appropriate words and themes necessary for any one, group, family, organization, or congregation to thrive or flourish in abundant ways. In my short time among you, I can say that I have already seen these words and themes lived out among you, in various contexts and settings. Again, thank you for this. I will commit to keeping this Covenant in front of us, along with our mission statement to always "Share Christ's Love With Joy!" so that together, we can flourish and thrive abundantly!
See you in church!
My wife, Carrie, and I have chosen a word for 2021. Our word is "flourish".
This word, as defined in the inserted image, means to, "1.) Grow or develop in a healthy way, especially as the result of a favorable environment. 2.) to thrive. 3.) to cultivate order, beauty, and abundance for the common-good of others."
I had this word and definition framed to display prominently in our home, in order to regularly be reminded of it. We like the word because it speaks to what we hope to accomplish this year - to grow and develop in healthy ways, to thrive, and to cultivate order, beauty, and abundance. Or, in a word, flourish.
I encourage you, you and your spouse, or your entire family, to select a word to reflect on throughout 2021. You can use our word, if you'd like. But as I begin serving as your pastor, I thought it might be good for us a congregation to also have a word. The word I have chosen jumped out at from the definition above. The word is "abundance."
You'll be hearing me use this word often in 2021 as it relates to our mission and ministry at St. Paul's and how we view ourselves as a congregation. There are two common forms of thought among congregations - one of scarcity and one of abundance. Instead of focusing on how little we might have as a congregation, I will be encouraging and challenging you to focus on how much we have as a congregation. I can already seen how much God has blessed our congregation. I have fresh eyes to see it all so clearly. God has abundantly blessed St. Paul's - throughout the years, and still today. Allow me to remind you and help you see the many ways.
So please, choose a word to brings meaning, hope, and/or purpose to your life this year. If you do, I would love to hear what your word is. But as a congregation, our word of meaning, hope, and purpose will be - Abundance. Watch for it. Listen for it. Pay attention to it. Finally, share with me, if you will, how abundantly blessed you see St. Paul Lutheran is, and in what ways. I would love to hear.
Thank you for the warm welcome that I have already received throughout my first full week as your new pastor. I am grateful.
This week I can say I've gotten a few significant "firsts" at St. Paul's under my belt, including: my first Church Council meeting, my first Worship and Music meeting, my first Confirmation class, my first mid-week worship service, and my first hug from Dee! (which I received unexpectedly) If you know her, you know that Dee certainly embodies our mission statement to "Share Christ's Love with Joy!"
As do many of you whom I have enjoyed meeting this week. I will tell you, that mission statement is the best one I have heard of, in any church, as far back as I can remember. It is short, simple, and yet so significant. If you all will commit, with me, to intentionally live that mission statement, within and beyond the walls of our church, I can guarantee you - God will shower us with blessings beyond what we can imagine.
I can't wait to meet you all. In this ongoing time of pandemic, we have to be all the more intentional in finding safe ways to meet. Please reach out if you would like to meet with me on the phone, virtually, or in person.