The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

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

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 

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

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

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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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