The Church Blog

Here are updates from First Lutheran Church.

There are certain seasons in the life of a pastor that are abundantly busy. We are in one such season now. The time from Thanksgiving to Advent to Christmas is busy for many of us. There is a lot of shopping to do, food to prepare, decorations to see, and so much more. At least here you don’t have to worry about shoveling snow.

For me, there are extra events, extra services, extra sermons, and in this first year of pastoral ministry just so much to learn about your traditions and customs here at First Lutheran. It can all be a bit overwhelming. And yet the very reason for the extra events and services and sermons draws my attention away from my to do list and back to Jesus.

Stanza six of the Advent classic, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel says,

O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

This is what I long for in this season of busyness: that Jesus would cheer us all by drawing near to us. I pray that His Word and His presence would disperse the clouds and shadows that can cause us so much worry and frustration. I pray that His light will shine upon you and through you.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

I haven’t put a lot of photos up in my office yet. My desk is mostly filled with papers and books. I have two framed photos on my desk, though. One is of Stephanie and me in Paris on our fifth wedding anniversary. The other is of my grandpa and grandma. Growing up in Minnesota, my grandparents lived on the same farm place. I spent as much time in their house as I did in my own growing up, and I miss them dearly. I think of them often this time of year.

 This Sunday we celebrate All Saints’ Day. This is a time to remember those who have died in the faith and celebrate God’s grace and mercy in their lives. It’s a time when we look around at life. We look to the past, remembering our family and friends who are no longer with us. We look to the present, at the saints gathered together with us week after week to worship God and receive His grace. We look to the future, knowing that there are those among us who will not be in the pews next year, but will be asleep with Jesus.

All Saints’ Day is a time of grief and joy, a time of sorrow and hope. It’s hard when loved ones die, when they are no longer a part of our routines, when we can no longer visit with them and hear their stories and feel their hugs. We may feel regret for harsh words spoken that cannot be unsaid. We may even feel relief that a loved one is no longer with us because they made our life so challenging. And that feeling of relief can produce guilt and shame in us that we may not know how to handle.

No matter what feelings of struggle come up with the memories of loved ones, we still look forward to the day when Christ returns and raises us all from the dead to live with Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

Until then, don’t be afraid to shed a tear. Don’t be afraid to share a story with someone. Don’t be afraid to listen to someone else’s story.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

The fires blazing around our state have raised quite a bit of fear and anxiety. I know a lot of you have family and friends in the Paradise area that were affected by the fire. Many have lost homes. The latest number I saw was 63 deaths. I pray that number doesn’t go up.

The response to this tragic event has been an emotional one. For some, the fear and anxiety has been turned into compassion. I’ve heard several people asking about how they can send aid and support to those who have been devastated by these fires.

I’ve also heard some people’s fear and anxiety turn into a less helpful direction, one of blame and anger and bitterness. Sometimes politicians get the blame. Sometimes landowners. Sometimes God.

And for some, fear and anxiety has turned into silent hurt and unspoken despair.

Sometimes in such situations it is easy to feel like God is distant, like He is refusing to show up. It’s hard to have hope in a God who is absent, aloof, distant.

But that’s not the God we have. In just a couple of weeks Advent will begin. It’s a time when we look with anticipation and hope for Christ’s coming. We focus both on Christ’s incarnation, when the Son of God was born as a human being, an infant in Bethlehem; and on Christ’s return, when He will come again to raise the dead and recreate the heavens and the earth.

But Jesus comes to us today as well. He is an ever-present help in times of trouble. He is a prayer away. He is listening. He cares for you. Jesus comes to us in His Word and He has provided three main ways in which that Word comes to us. It comes to us in oral, written, and sacramental forms. We hear God’s Word proclaimed in absolution, in sermons, in conversations with our fellow Christians. We read God’s Word from the Scriptures in worship and in our homes. We receive God’s Word in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. His Word is placed on us and in us in tangible, visible ways.

God is not distant. Even though we experience great tragedy and loss, God has not and will not abandon us. Loss of house, loss of family, even loss of life cannot separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. We are loved with a relentless, ever-present love.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

501 years ago, Martin Luther posted 95 points of debate on a church door in Wittenberg. This was not an extraordinary event. People in his position of professor posted such things often and debated colleagues on the points in a public event. If you were to read the famed 95 theses, you would find many of them to be very disagreeable to the Lutheran faith of today. In 1517, Luther had not fully articulated a theology of salvation by grace through faith on account of Christ, but the wheels were in motion for a sweeping reform to the religious landscape of Europe and beyond.

Luther’s contribution of writings is vast and varied. We still use his Small Catechism in Confirmation instruction. I read dozens of his essays, sermons, and books while at seminary. And we sing his hymns with frequency. His most famous hymn is “A Mighty Fortress,” a paraphrase of Psalm 46, which we’ll be studying in Bible class after worship this Sunday.

The most familiar line of Psalm 46 is found at the beginning of verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still. Be calmed. Allow yourself to be taken care of. Allow God to be God.

It’s not easy to be calm and still in today’s world. People have overflowing schedules of work and play so that many of us end up trying to multitask just to fit everything in. There is often little time for rest and reflection.

October is nearly over. November will fly past. Before you know it, Christmas will be upon us with all of its joys and anxieties. I’d invite you to take a deep breath this week. Take a look around at life, view the sunset and the stars, and remember we have a God who is with us and protects us in the midst of uncertainty.

God’s blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

As the holiday season comes nearer, I just wanted to send a few reminders. If you have adopted one of our preschool teachers, start thinking about how you might show your appreciation and thankfulness for them in the coming weeks. Send them a card. Buy them a gift. Perhaps you could invite them to your house for a meal. Perhaps you could take them out for a Caramel Brulée Latte. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting your teacher, find time to introduce yourself. One option would be to join us for preschool chapel which happens every Thursday at 9:30 AM.

Also, Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. If you can find time to invite neighbors who may not have family in the area, they may really appreciate sharing a meal with our community. We will have a worship service at 10:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning in the sanctuary, and the doors open for the meal at 11:30 AM with food service running until 2:00 PM.

Finally, our next congregational meeting will be on Sunday, December 2. At this meeting we will elect the new church council for 2019. I hope you all have considered serving on the church council. If now is not the right time for you, or if you plan to serve and lead in other ways, that is okay. I hope you will pray that God will raise up leaders to fill the roles we need.

Thanks, and God’s richest blessings on your week.

Pastor Andy

In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and Palestine for a seminary class. It was simply amazing to see the Temple walls, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and so many other places.

One day we were near Jerusalem and Bethlehem (they’re only about six miles apart), and it was a dry, rocky, desert-like area. The stones were blindingly white. Pastor Zelt, who preached for my ordination service, told a story about how when he was in that same spot a few years earlier, a shepherd emerged from the hills, leading a flock of sheep and he’d stop every once in a while at random places. Pastor Zelt came to see that he was leading them to small patches of crab grass poking up between the rocks. The shepherd was leading them to the sparse green pastures in this wilderness of rocks.

This Sunday we begin a new Bible study on the book of Psalms. We are starting with the most well-known Psalm, number 23. It’s a Psalm about God’s provision and guidance.

This Sunday is also Pledge Sunday, or Stewardship Sunday. We’ll be taking some time to consider the gifts God has given us and commit to using those gifts for the extension of God’s kingdom.

This Sunday may be challenging for you. You may feel some guilt about your giving practices of the past. You may feel like you haven’t contributed as you would like. Or you may feel some indignation toward others who “aren’t giving their fair share.”

I’d like to offer some words of encouragement and a challenge to both groups. If you haven’t been giving regularly and feel like there is no way you could give a tithe (10% of your income), I understand. I’ve been there. I’d encourage you to start small. Commit to giving 1% of your income in 2019, try for 2% in 2020, increasing the percentage until you can begin tithing. If you don’t like math, start with $10 a week or $50 a month. Establish the habit and discipline of giving, no matter the dollar amount. Your salvation is not in question here. We are simply seeking to follow Jesus and be wise stewards of His gifts.

If you have been a regular tither for your entire life and are frustrated with others, remember that we are the body of Christ which means we bear one-another’s burdens. If our brothers and sisters in Christ cannot give as much as they wish, we help the church bear their struggle by giving more. Some of us have been blessed to bask in God’s green pastures with few financial worries. Others are moving from patch of grass to patch of grass or from paycheck to paycheck. God is providing for us all. If you have been tithing regularly, consider giving 11% or 12.5% in 2019, bearing the burden of your brothers and sisters in Christ who cannot tithe right now. If God has richly blessed you in some way financially, consider giving a one-time gift along with your tithe. Your salvation won’t be made more secure by giving more money, but you will be helping your neighbors who are in need.

If you don’t know how much you can give, go to the Lord in prayer. Seek His wisdom. If you’d like to have a conversation with me about this, my door is open, my phone is working, and I can answer emails.

No matter how much you are able to give, please pray for the future and ministry of First Lutheran Church and Preschool. There is so much we can do to share the love of Christ in our area. Pray that God would bless our giving and open up a door for us to share His Gospel with others.

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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