The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

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.

On Sunday we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pastor Jim Mueller’s ordination into the pastoral ministry. Many of you know Pastor Jim very well. Perhaps he was the pastor that baptized you, confirmed you, married you and your spouse. Perhaps he visited you in the hospital and was even the pastor who buried your parents.

Others of you, like me, are new to the First Lutheran family. We didn’t have the honor of seeing Pastor Jim as pastor, of hearing him preach and teach, of seeing his ministry with children.

In its nearly 80-year history, First Lutheran Church and preschool has only had five called pastors. Pastor Seyer who planted the church and remained through the 1940s and 1950s. Pastor Behrmann, who passed away earlier this year, served faithfully through the 1960s and 1970s. Then Pastor Jim who claimed the longest tenure from 1981 until his retirement in 2008. Pastor Maschke followed until 2016. And I arrived just last summer.

For more than 1/3 of First’s history, Pastor Jim served this congregation and preschool and school with faithfulness, gentleness, and kindness. I’ve heard dozens of stories about Pastor Jim and his caring heart, his dedication to teaching children about Jesus, his love for God’s people, and so much more.

This is an occasion to celebrate, not only Pastor Jim’s faithfulness, but God’s faithfulness. God has provided for this congregation through challenges and trials of many kinds. God has led us through the wilderness of this era and culture and provided us with daily bread every step of the way.

I hope this week you’ll take some time to consider God’s faithfulness and to thank God for Pastor Jim’s ministry and leadership for he has certainly been a good and faithful servant these 50 years.

God’s 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

Over the past three weeks, I’ve offered some of the reasoning behind our proposed Sunday School change, where we will move Sunday School to after the service, coinciding with the Adult Bible Study. A lot of the questions that I have heard in relation to this change are about logistics. Where are the kids going to meet? How long is Sunday School going to last? What about cake Sundays?

All of these are good questions that we’ll work through together. But I wanted to offer some ways in which I see opportunities in the logistics of our situation.

Currently, I am not able to be involved in Sunday School because I’m leading worship and preaching while the kids are in Sunday School. In our proposed switch, I would be able to take a turn in teaching the Sunday School kids on occasion, leaving opportunity for another leader to facilitate Adult Bible Study.

Currently, the Sunday School teachers rotate from week to week. The Adult Bible Study typically works through a study in a set number of weeks. We may have opportunity to use more of a block schedule. This will allow Sunday School teachers to be present for an entire Bible Study series, instead of missing a week here and a week there.

Also, we have a growing group of Sunday School kids who will enter into Confirmation instruction in the Fall of 2020. Having the Sunday School, Bible Study, and Confirmation classes all at the same time will be far more convenient for families with children of multiple ages than trying to arrange schedules to meet on a weekday evening for Confirmation.

Furthermore, the synchronized timing of our education hour may provide opportunity for us to coordinate what we are studying so that parents, confirmation students, and Sunday School kids can all be looking at similar material that is tailored to their age group.

In my view, God has blessed us with an amazing problem: We have a growing number of children in our congregation. The change in Sunday School timing reflects a positive change in our congregation: we are growing and growing up together. As we follow Jesus, let us do so together, studying God’s Word as one, united church.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

Vacation Bible School is one of the gems of the ministry at First Lutheran Church and Preschool. Make sure you thank Heather, Deb, Shannon, all of our preschool teachers, and anybody else you see that has helped with VBS this past week. Putting together this week of ministry has been a true feat and accomplishment. It takes so much dedication and so many people to do this. Thank you for helping. Thank you for supporting this ministry. Please considering helping, serving, and leading in years to come.

This week 140+ kids, the preschool teachers, and dozens of servants from the congregation have gathered together to learn about how no matter what we face in life, God is good.

This is an important message, not just for kids, but for everyone. When life is a struggle, when life is filled with suffering, when the world is against you, God is good.

In His goodness, God sent Jesus. Because of His goodness and love, Jesus died for us. Jesus rose from the dead and now we are all guaranteed eternal life where God’s goodness will be all that remains. Struggles and suffering, division and death will all be gone. They shall be no more. We will live in paradise forever with Jesus. What a good life that will be.

As we follow Jesus together, no matter what happens, let us remember that God is good.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

In last week’s First Notes, I talked about the importance of worship and that one of the reasons I support the upcoming change in Sunday School timing is because worship is the place where God’s people praise and love of God and receive His good gifts. Our children are indeed God’s people. They belong among us for that entire time.

This week, I’d like to talk about the purpose of Sunday School and Adult Bible Class.

I may have mentioned this before, but Ted Kober, an LCMS layperson who heads up a group called Ambassadors of Reconciliation, did a study recently on congregational conflict. Kober found that the greatest single predictor of the level of conflict a church would experience revolved around one issue: their devotion to God’s Word. The higher the percentage of people studying God’s Word together, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the less chance there was of significant conflict. The reason for this was simple. When conflict arose in the church or in people’s relationships, they dealt with it as God has called us to deal with conflict in the Scriptures.

In our current system, our Sunday School kids might get 10-15 minutes of time studying God’s Word in Sunday School. They are limited by this time frame so that it’s challenging to ask and answer questions. It’s challenging in such a time frame to dig deep, to connect the story of the day to the rest of the Bible, to connect the biblical story to their lives.

Parents and grandparents of Sunday School kids also do not have much of an opportunity to attend Adult Bible Study because we don’t have a system in place for caring for their children in the Bible study hour.

Offering more time for Sunday School will allow our children to learn more, to let the stories of Jesus sink into their lives even deeper. Offering more time for Sunday School will also allow parents to attend Adult Bible Study and continue to grow and learn in their faith, so that they can feel more confident in parenting their child to love Jesus.

An education hour is a time when a congregation can dedicate itself to basking in the joy of God’s story. It is a time when we pass on the joyous news that we are now a part of that story because Jesus has died and is risen for us (adults and children) and our salvation.

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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