The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

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

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

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

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