The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

In last week’s First Notes, I mentioned the proposed change to move Sunday School after the worship service, during the Bible study hour. This week, I’d like to share one reason I think this is important related to worship.

What is worship?

You may find different dictionaries use different phrasing, but in essence, worship is an individual or community showing adoration, praise, reverence, love to something or someone.

For Christians, worship is God’s people gathering together to adore, praise, revere, and love our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In worship services at First Lutheran, we show our love and praise of God with hymns and prayers and a confession of our common faith in God. We also offer back to God from the abundance of the financial blessings He has poured upon us.

In worship, we are also blessed by God’s good gifts coming down to us as God comes among His people in His Word and Sacraments. We receive God’s Word of forgiveness in the Absolution. We receive God’s Word of instruction and salvation in the three Bible readings and in the sermon. We receive the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.

In our current format, you will see that our children are missing out on some of these opportunities to love and praise God. Our Sunday School students and teachers miss the confession of faith in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. They miss the prayers of the church. They often miss the offering.

Our Sunday School students and teachers also miss some of the opportunities to receive God’s good gifts since they do not hear the Bible readings or the sermon.

The reason why I think it is wise for us to move Sunday School outside the worship time is simple: our children are God’s people. There is no age limit on worship. There is no age limit on receiving God’s good gifts nor on being able to love and praise God.

Sunday School itself is a great time to teach our children about the faith, to share the stories of God’s action in the world most especially through Jesus. But worship, worship is the time when we teach children and all new believers how to be God’s people, how to love and praise God in songs and prayers. Worship is where we teach each new generation how God comes down to us with His good gifts of forgiveness and life.

Our children belong in worship because they are God’s people. 

God’s blessings on your week.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. You may not know it, but this is one of the most challenging days in the year for a pastor. I posted this on Facebook two years ago:

“Sometimes we like to joke about Christmas and Easter Christians, but there are a lot of people who only attend worship once a year and it is neither of those days. It is today: Mother's Day.

Likewise, I know there are numerous people who regularly attend worship who refuse to do so today.

It's difficult to keep both of these in mind along with the mothers in the congregation. Take it easy on your pastors if they don't do things the way you would have. It's actually a really challenging day.”

You probably have some family traditions for Mother’s Day, perhaps brunch, perhaps mom’s favorite restaurant for dinner. These are wonderful things that I hope you will continue to do in order to show your mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers that you care about them.

But lest we forget, this day can be challenging for some. Some people do not have a great relationship with their mothers. Some people’s mothers have passed away and they don’t get to celebrate those family traditions anymore. Some people desperately wish they could have a family and be mothers but are unable to for one reason or another.

With all this in mind, I ask for your patience and tact this Mother’s Day. Be careful with your words. My sermon will not be about mothers. My sermon will be about Jesus, drawing from the Old Testament reading from Psalm 23. I will pray for mothers, but I will also pray for those who cannot be mothers, for single people, for those who have struggled as parents, those who have lost children to tragedy.

I ask that you would keep these people in your prayers as well throughout the week.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

On Sunday at the voters meeting after church, the council introduced a change that we’ve been discussing for a few months now.

The proposed change involves the way we teach Sunday School to our children. Currently, the children leave the worship service after the children’s chat and come back into the worship service at some point during or after the offering. Starting in September, we’ll be trying a test run of having the kids remain in the worship service and holding Sunday School for the children at the same time as Bible study for the adults after worship.

The current plan is to try this from September through December, assessing if we should continue the practice into 2020 and beyond.

I know that this is a big ask. It is a lot to ask of parents, Sunday School teachers, and probably most especially of our Sunday School kids.

There are pros and cons to the current way we handle Sunday School. There are pros and cons to the change we will be making. I know I’ve spoken with several of you about this, but I haven’t reached everybody one-on-one, so I wanted to speak to this change here in the First Notes. Over the next few weeks I plan to lay out some of the reasoning behind the change and how the congregational leadership hopes it will better form and instruct the congregation’s children as we all seek to follow Christ together.

As Ellen noted in the meeting on Sunday, this began with a simple question from me wanting to know the history of how we came to have the current policy for Sunday School. Discussions with the council, the elders, other congregation members, and nearby pastors have led me to support the change as the best course of action at this time for First Lutheran Church and Preschool.

I know there are a lot of questions and a lot of logistical challenges to work through before we launch in September. I want to be as transparent about this change as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk with me about them. Let’s do our best to refrain from gossip. Let’s walk forward together into this change with hopefulness that this is where the Lord is leading our community.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

Something new we’ve been trying this past year is a way of showing appreciation for our preschool teachers called “Adopt-a-Teacher.” The idea is that members from the congregation are assigned teachers and aides in the preschool to give small gifts to, thank you cards, that sort of thing. Not only does this help show appreciation for our excellent preschool staff, but it also helps build relationships between the preschool and the church.

This coming week, May 6-10 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. It would be wonderful if everyone who adopted a teacher for this school year could show their appreciation for their teacher during this wonderful week. And even if you didn’t adopt a teacher, you are more than welcome to show your appreciation with cards, candy, cookies, cake, and other things (whether or not they start with C).

If you need a reminder about which teacher you’ve adopted, let me know! I’ve got a list in my office.

And thank you to our preschool director, Mari, and everyone in the preschool for being so amazing and passionate. They truly embody our mission statement as they are making many friends for Jesus.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

One of the most interesting books I have in my office is a copy of the Greek New Testament. (That’s the language the New Testament was originally written in.) It was owned by a professor at the seminary that had been retired for many years before I started named Louis Brighton. When Dr. Brighton no longer kept on office at the seminary, he graciously gave away much of his library to the students. That’s how I came to own this book.

Dr. Brighton’s book of expertise was Revelation. I have his commentary on my shelf as well, but you can tell that Revelation was his book of expertise by looking at the New Testament I inherited. The first 26 New Testament books look barely touched, but the final book, Revelation, looks like it has been read more than a thousand times. The pages are falling out. They are crinkled and bent. There are notes of Old Testament references and underlines and double underlines and references to apocryphal books (books not in the Bible, but that the Apostle John still would have known).

Whenever I preach on a text from the book of Revelation, I pull this volume down from the shelf and see what Dr. Brighton thought was important.

The Epistle reading for this Sunday is Revelation 21:1-7. In verse 6, Dr. Brighton underlined the Greek word gegonan (It has come into being/It is done.) and then wrote, “John 19:30” in the margin. In John 19:30, Jesus is on the cross. Jesus does not use the same word. He uses tetelestai (It is finished/fulfilled/paid).

Notice the similarity to the words. There is an action that has been completed, finished, done. The effect of both actions continues forever. But notice also the difference in the words. When Jesus says tetelstai on the cross, He is referencing an act of fulfillment, an act of payment. When God says gegonan in Revelation 21, He is referencing an act of creation being finished. Indeed, it is God’s final act of creation and re-creation.

As Dr. Brighton says in his commentary, “Thus all things have been made new.” Everything will be restored to a perfect, pristine state unmarred by sin, death, and Satan. As we walk by faith, we look forward to that day, and we praise God for His continued creation and re-creation in our lives.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

When Stephanie and I were living in Germany, we had the opportunity to travel to Paris for our fifth wedding anniversary. Paris is a beautiful city. Iconic sites like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triumphe do not disappoint.

And then of course there is the Cathedral of Notre Dame which was so sadly engulfed in flames last week.

Before the flames had even been put out, while the building was still smoldering, people from France and around the world were dedicating millions of dollars to rebuilding this beloved building so rich in history and beauty.

Yet the dedication of so much money to such a landmark was criticized by some who would rather see such donations go to food, clean water, and medicine to those who lack such things.

The whole situation got me thinking about a lot of things. But we all face such decisions and criticism related to our stewardship, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s not always money that is the concern. Sometimes it is our energy, sometimes our skills, sometimes our time.

I face this dilemma as a pastor with some frequency. I don’t have an infinite amount of energy and time, so how do I spend the 50 or so hours I work in a week? How much do I dedicate to preparing for Sunday morning? How much to time with the preschool? How much to visiting shut-ins? How much to outreach and being in the community? How much to serving the church at large, the circuit, the district, the synod? If you all got to choose what my time allotment would be, I doubt any two people would choose the same schedule for me.

All of this leads me to appreciate the importance of two things: grace and trust.

We all make different choices with our lives, with our time, with our money. We should have enough grace with our fellow human beings to let them focus where they feel led to focus, and we should focus where we feel led to focus. Complaining that a billionaire doesn’t give money to the poor is ironic and hypocritical if I am not giving any money to the poor. As Jesus says in Luke 16:10, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Let’s be gracious and faithful with whatever we have.

Finally, thank you for your trust. You have entrusted me with the spiritual care of this congregation. Such care is something I do not take lightly. As I continue to learn how to be your pastor, I hope you will continue to grace me with your trust as we continue to follow where the Lord leads, together.

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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