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Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

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

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

Every Sunday, the first words I greet the congregation are these: “This is the day that the Lord has made.” And the congregation responds: “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

You may not realize it, but this is a quote from the Bible, from Psalm 118:24. People have often used this quote to remind them that every new day is a day that the Lord has made, that every day is a day in which we should rejoice, because God has made it. God still rules and reigns and provides for His creation. This is good news. It is a good thing to remember.

And yet, if we look at the context of this verse, we find an ever deeper meaning. In Psalm 118:22, the Psalmist (probably David), writes another familiar verse, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus quotes this in Mark 12:10-11, on the Tuesday of Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Jesus includes Psalm 118:23 as well, “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

So when we take these three verses together, we get the following:

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

And we begin to see a different picture. “This is the day” is referring to something specific. It is not referring to any day or every day. It is referring to a singular day. It is referring to Easter Sunday. Though Israel and the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus, God laid the foundation for the church, God laid the cornerstone—Jesus—by raising Him from the dead.

Easter is truly marvelous in our eyes. The very reason we gather on Sundays for worship is because Jesus was raised from the dead on a Sunday. Every Sunday, we celebrate a little Easter. Every Sunday we remember that Easter is the day the Lord has made, an eighth day of creation. A new beginning to a new creation that sees Jesus risen from the dead and reveals our future hope of the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns.

We rejoice and are glad in the truth that even though Jesus was rejected, despised, stricken, smitten, and afflicted—God made Jesus the cornerstone. God made Jesus’ death and resurrection the cornerstone of our faith. We build and rebuild upon Him week after week, day after day.  So this Easter Sunday as we gather for worship, we will again speak those words and they will be profound. This, this Easter Day, is the Day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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

Palm Sunday is one of the few Sundays during the year where there isn’t a sermon. In part this is so that we take the time to listen to the entire narrative of Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, so that we reflect upon Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane, His arrest, His trial, His suffering, His time on the cross, and His death.

This is certainly important, but it’s at the expense of not spending much time focused on the events of Palm Sunday itself. There are very few events recorded by all four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Mark doesn’t cover Christmas. John doesn’t cover Jesus’ temptation, Jesus’ Transfiguration, or the Last Supper. Only one miracle is covered by all four (the feeding of the 5,000). Jesus’ suffering and death are recorded by all four, but even Jesus’ resurrection is only pronounced by Mark. Jesus doesn’t actually appear risen from the dead in Mark’s Gospel.

But each writer covers Palm Sunday and Jesus procession into Jerusalem as He rides on a donkey. Each author tells the story a little bit differently, but we see a crowd gathered that shouts “Hosanna!” which means “save us now.”

What the people shouting “Hosanna!” wanted was an earthly salvation, a deliverance from a political occupation that left the Jewish nation as second-class citizens in their own land. Jesus did not deliver what they expected or wanted. Jesus delivered what they needed: salvation from sin and death.

This is often true in our lives. We shout “Hosanna!” to Jesus hoping to be saved from one thing or another. And Jesus always delivers. He always saves us, but sometimes we don’t realize exactly what we need to be saved from. Sometimes we don’t realize that God is constantly working to save us from all sorts of evils.

It is at this point that the Lord’s Prayer becomes so important, as we pray both “Thy will be done,” and “Deliver us from evil.”

As we enter Holy Week, we pray Thy will be done, Lord. Thy will be done to save us from the evils that we don’t even realize are at our doorstep. Hosanna! Save us now.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy  

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