What's on my mind lately? Baptisms and Funerals!
My two favorite parts of being a pastor.
In a period of four weeks I will have officiated at three baptisms and three funerals.
The baptisms will be for Brooks Allan Buccanero, Elizabeth Mae Brainard, and James Greyson Scheuerell. The funerals will be for Marilyn Louise Buck, Steven Charles Graves, and Janet Mae Brainard.
Though each has been given a beautiful earthly name, each are also named and claimed at baptism as a Child of God, and ultimately each is received as a Child of God into that eternal home that the Lord has gone ahead to prepare for them. (John 14) I love reminding families of these promises.
We are so blessed to have the gifts of, and assurance of, forgiveness and resurrection as we journey through this often difficult and treacherous wilderness of faith. There is always hope and love within the united Body of Christ.
I will say, also, that I am continually honored when invited to participate in these sacred and holy times of family's lives. It will never cease to amaze me. It is such a privilege. Please join me in your own personal prayer time, in lifting the families of these saints - these Children of God, up in prayer.
God's good work is being done all around us, all we need to do is stop for a moment, be reminded, take notice, and live life as the Child of God we are.
We'll see you in church!
It seems we're turning the corner.
This is how I feel every year at this time as Winter turns to Spring. There is new pep in our step as we begin to transition with the season.
This year, however, it seems we are turning the corner in multiple, and more significant, ways.
First, and most notably, when on Tuesday this week, former Mpls police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty on all three charges brought against him for the death of George Floyd. There was a communal and palpable feeling of relief and burden lifted that I could feel as I wept alone in my office upon hearing the verdict read. I could not ignore or discount this feeling, nor did I wish to.
The words to a favorite Irish hymn of mine, Canticle of the Turning (ELW 723), immediately popped into my mind as they became real to me like never before. I encourage you to click here to listen to the hymn and the lyrics closely. The words to the chorus say, "My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn."
God's burning justice, peace, and mercy, at the moment at least, feel within reach. Today, and every day, is a new dawn as the world continues to turn. Hold on to that hope as our own tears, and the tears of our communities, state, nation, and world are wiped away, and all begin to heal.
On another significant level, COVID-19 is still very present in our local and global communities. However, with the vaccination rollout increasing, it seems that with the pandemic too, a new dawn draws near. We continue to do our part, be smart, care for one another, and hold onto hope for a semblance of life as we knew it pre-Covid. We'll get there, together.
On a smaller, but no less significant, scale, it feels we are turning a corner at Saint Paul Lutheran, as well. A new dawn has come and our congregation has begun to turn the page into a new chapter. Plans by our Church Council and Covid Response Team have been made for the re-opening of our church building and sanctuary. You can read all about them here.
Weekly worship continues to be exciting and inspiring with many reasons to rejoice, give thanks, and celebrate, seemingly on a weekly basis. Recent weeks have included Easter Sunday, a Hymnsing, and the Church Council's and my official installation. Looking ahead to this Sunday and beyond we have two baptisms, the Rite of Confirmation, Janet Brainard's Celebration of Life, Graduate Recognition, Volunteer Recognition, New Member reception, and the kick-off of an eight-week intergenerational preaching, teaching, and service oriented series, entitled, "Journey Together" beginning on Sunday, July 11.
So you can see why this year, especially, there is new pep in our step. You can see why the words to this favorite hymn of mine have struck a new chord within me. A chord, which on many levels, hasn't been struck in awhile. For that, I am grateful. I pray a similar chord has been struck within you, and within our congregation, as well.
We'll see you in church!
I am so grateful to be your new pastor and am so looking forward to my official installation this Sunday, April 18. I know you will warmly welcome Pr. Justin Grimm from the St. Paul Area Synod as he officiates my installation and preaches the sermon.
I am also grateful for the positive energy and enthusiasm I have witnessed and felt among many of you throughout this new beginning and fresh start at Saint Paul Lutheran. I commit to doing all I can to keep that positive energy and enthusiasm front and center as we continue to move into our future together. I invite you to make that same commitment. Thank you.
Yet while my heart is full of joy and anticipation of and for what God has in store for us at SPLC, this week it has also been filled with pain and despair over what we have witnessed again in our state that has caused such civil and racial unrest. The death of Daunte Wright as a result of a routine traffic stop in nearby Brooklyn Center has shined a light once again on how far we have to go to achieve the unity Jesus prays for in the Gospel of John's seventeenth chapter. This is a lengthy prayer (the entire chapter) of Jesus', often referred to as his high priestly prayer.
As you and I are so readily willing and able to commit to continuing positive energy and enthusiasm at church, I pray that we can each also commit to such positive energy and enthusiasm within our broader communities, nation, and world. It's our calling and responsibility as disciples of Christ Jesus.
I'll remind you, as I have reminded our ninth graders recently, who will be affirming their own baptismal promises in two weeks, of the vows we've made at our own confirmations. A portion of our confirmation promises say this:
"Do you intend to continue your baptismal promises by living among God’s faithful people, reading and listening to the Word of God, taking part in Holy Communion, proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ through word and deed, serving all people and striving for justice and peace in our world?"
I again, invite you to please join with me, and our ninth graders, in committing to living out our baptismal promises - especially as we seek to serve all people while striving for justice and peace in our communities, in our nation, and in our world. And please, pray for the community of Brooklyn Center and all affected by this week's tragic and disheartening events.
Yet, I am still grateful, and I still have joy, because I know you'll join me in being the change that needs to happen.
We'll see you in church!
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!