The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

Last Sunday we commissioned our preschool teachers for another year of service. On Wednesday, the new school year started with lots of new faces, and even a few tears from some of our new students at being dropped off at preschool for the first time.

Last Sunday I also mentioned we’ll be doing the Adopt-a-Teacher program once again. I’ll have a sign-up sheet in the breezeway between the sanctuary and the education room for people to sign up if they are interested.

The Adopt-a-teacher program has three expectations:

  1. Buy small gifts for your assigned teacher for Christmas, their birthday, and teacher appreciation week (May 4-May 8, 2020).
  2. Send notes of encouragement and/or thank you cards regularly (once a month is a good frequency).
  3. Pray for your teacher and get to know them if possible.

There is no need for this to be secret. The goal is to build relationships between the church and the preschool. You’ll get a sheet with some basic information about your assigned teacher in the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone who helped launch this program last year, and thanks in advance for supporting it this year.

God’s richest blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

I’m on vacation this week back in my home state of Minnesota. Even though Stephanie and I haven’t lived in Minnesota for a decade, I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking of myself as a Minnesotan. I grew upon a farm in the south-central part of the state, eight miles from the nearest town. I knew from a very early age that farming wasn’t going to be my chosen vocation. I didn’t mind the hard work, but I just wasn’t mechanically minded. And if you didn’t know, more than half of a farmer’s time is spent fixing things that are broken be it tractors, trucks, or some specialized piece of equipment that most people don’t know exists.

Despite not wanting to be a farmer and not being gifted with the skills to be a farmer, such an upbringing has been incredibly useful in ministry. As a farmer, you have to learn to go with the flow. Sometimes it rains and you can’t do the work you had planned on. Sometimes something breaks and you have to take the time to fix it. Sometimes prices are good and you have to sell the corn and the beans that are in the bin. Sometimes prices are terrible and you have to tighten your belt and wait. Farming is a life of patience, a life of persistence in the face of uncontrollable factors.

The same is true as a pastor. Sometimes a member is hospitalized and the things I had planned have to wait. Sometimes people are broken spiritually, and they need healing. Sometimes attendance and giving are up and things look really encouraging. Sometimes they are down and things look a bit bleak and desperate. In each circumstance, pastors simply have to keep moving forward, doing the work that is given to them, serving the people they have been called to serve.

My farm upbringing has taught me many valuable things including the need for flexibility, patience, and hard work in the face of things beyond my control. This is a reality for both farmers and pastors. Such lessons promote a dependence upon God to provide the growth, both in the field, and in the church.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy 

Last Sunday, I mentioned our Sunday School switch and our desire for more Sunday School teachers. As the number of children in our congregation grows, the need for more teachers is evident. In the fall of 2020 we will have a group of young people starting confirmation. These are good challenges to be facing, but we have to prepare for them.

If you’re anything like I was the year before I started teaching Sunday School, back in 1999, you probably had no inkling it was something you’d be asked to do. Perhaps at the thought of yourself teaching Sunday School you say to yourself, “I don’t know enough,” or “I’m not good with kids,” or “I’m too old,” or “I’m too young,” or some other negative thing about yourself. I know I’ve done that about myself. In 1999 I had to be the youngest Sunday School teacher St. Paul Lutheran Church had ever seen in its 100+ year history, but God shaped me through that experience, and he shaped my four kindergarteners.

In 2003, in my first year of college, I started having unwanted, unbidden thoughts that maybe I should become a pastor. I tried to repress them, hide them, explain them away with how I wasn’t enough. Despite my best efforts, God had other plans. People I barely knew started coming up to me and asking if I’d ever thought about being a pastor. No joke: there was one week where at least a dozen people had this conversation with me. Some of them were strangers at a church I had never even attended before.

Sometimes God does that. Sometimes God works through other people to nudge us in the direction that He wants us to go. I didn’t listen very well. It took 10 years before I actually stepped foot on the seminary campus for my first day of classes, but I don’t know that I would have kept thinking about it if it hadn’t been for the encouragement of others.

Teaching Sunday School might not be your gift or your calling. That’s okay. You may be called to some other form of service in the church and community, but you also might be surprised by how well you take to the task and how much God blesses you as you pass on the faith to His children. Think about it. Pray about it.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy  

This past week we celebrated VBS Sunday. The kids and adult servants led us in a service of worship and praise that reminded us to remember that God is good in every circumstance.

Since we deviated from our regular scheduled programming of Sunday mornings, we missed out on one of the most familiar stories in the New Testament: The Good Samaritan. Since the Scripture reading system we use for worship continues on with new readings for this week, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on that Good Samaritan story.

The story Jesus tells in Luke 10 is in answer to a lawyer’s question – “And who is my neighbor?”

A man falls among robbers, is beaten, and left for dead. Three people come upon the man. Two of these, a priest and a Levite, pass by on the other side and do not help the beaten man. A third person stops and cares for the beaten man, showing him mercy. The one who shows mercy is a foreigner, an outsider, a Samaritan.

Have you ever wondered why the priest and the Levite didn’t help the beaten man? I don’t think they are acting from indifference or hatred. Their actions stem from an ideology that says upholding the law is more important than helping a neighbor. You see, if the beaten man had died and the priest and Levite touched the corpse, they would have been unclean. They would have broken their religious law. The priest and Levite are doing everything they can to uphold the law, but they do so at the expense of this beaten man, even at the expense of his life.

Two thousand years after this story, we are still asking the question – “And who is my neighbor?” Oftentimes, we ask it for the same reason as the lawyer in the story. We are seeking to justify ourselves. We are seeking to call our current behavior right and good and in no need of changing.

But Jesus tells us the same story. Jesus tells us exactly what He tells the lawyer: You go and likewise show mercy. You go and have compassion for those who need it. You go and be a neighbor.

Though we live in a different time and place, we can still hurt our neighbors by our inactivity, by passing by on the other side. We can still get ourselves into trouble by trying to hold to an ideology rather than showing mercy.

Your neighbor is anyone in need of mercy, regardless of race, ethnicity, legality, language, clothing, or religious belief. I hope we can prove to be neighbors like the Good Samaritan.

This Monday will mark the one-year anniversary of my ordination. In that first year, I preached 57 sermons. You may or may not have noticed, but I am a big proponent of variety when it comes to preaching. The Gospel has many facets and far more depth than I will ever uncover. In each sermon I preach, my introduction typically starts with these words – “Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord, Savior, and (fill in the blank), Jesus Christ. That fill in the blank spot is the Gospel metaphor I’ll be working with in the sermon. In the 57 sermons I delivered in my first year, there were 41 different words that filled in that blank. There were 41 different Gospel metaphors that came to light in just one year of preaching.

Each of these speaks to who Jesus is. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Savior. We see that every week. But we also see over time that Jesus is our leader, our shepherd, our refuge, our strength, our peace, our reconciliation, our joy, and so much more.

As I enter into my second year here at First Lutheran Church and Preschool, I hope that you will continue to see that I have not exhausted the Gospel. I hope you will see that the variety and depth of what Jesus does for us is expansive. I hope you will find that Jesus’ incarnation, life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and return are applicable to your life and your walk with God.

God’s richest blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

One of the projects I have begun working on is a way to highlight the dozens of ministries that are happening at First Lutheran Church and Preschool. I’m calling this “Ministry Spotlight.” The idea is to create an article in the First Notes (and on our website) that introduces each of the ministries happening at First Lutheran. There are way more than you realize, so this is going to take a while.

You saw the first appearance of such an article a couple of weeks ago that highlighted Vacation Bible School. This week, there is an article highlighting the prayer chain.

If you are involved in the leadership of one of our many ministries, expect a call or email from me in the coming months asking you either to write an article about the ministry, or to sit down with me (or others willing to write such articles) to answer a few questions.

The reason for this project is pretty straightforward. The First Lutheran family is involved in tons of events, ministries, and service to the community. I’m still learning all of the different ways people can serve God and their neighbors at First Lutheran. I’m hoping this project will provide information for current and new members to better inform you about service opportunities. I hope this project can also encourage people in our community toward service with us.

I hope you’ll help me in this endeavor.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

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LCMS logoFirst Evangelical Lutheran Church is a member of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a family of congregations focused on bringing Christ to the nations and sharing His unconditional saving Love within our community.

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