Dear Friends at First Lutheran—BL:
WOW! What an awesome & busy month of July. The spirit is indeed alive and present within our church family.
Being part of First Lutheran Church is not just about the warmth and fellowship inside the church doors, but it is also being lead outside where the real church work can be discovered. The Holy Spirit is not always as dramatic as the story recorded in Acts of the Apostles chapter 2, yet God’s spirit is extending God’s reach far beyond our church walls.
Together we can do more for the glory of God. Peace!
Pastor Rob Nelson
“What happens at
stay at church.”
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
“…how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”-Acts 2:8
Pentecost is upon us! We hear, each year, about the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church in Jerusalem as the Apostles speak the Good News to all nations. Imagine, if you will, visiting the capital city in a country where you do not know the language. The street signs, shop marquees, newspapers, and spoken word are all unreadable and unfamiliar. You are gathered with thousands of people from all over the world, each speaking a language different from yours. You see a group of people come into the town square who begin to speak in languages understood by everyone around you – including you! The message they are speaking is not only comforting because you can actually understand what they are saying, it is also comforting because it is a message of love, grace, and acceptance. This is the tone and setting of the birth of the church – a message intended for all people, of all nations and languages for all time. It is a tone and setting we are still called to extend in our day. The Church is alive very close to us; the Church is alive very far away. May you know and feel the acceptance and welcome the Holy Spirit intends for you, just as it is meant for neighbors near and far, regardless of language or race.
Pastor Bradley Skogen
"Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others"
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Happy Easter and Happy Spring! The long, dark and SNOWY winter months are behind us – along with the “preparation season” of Lent leading up to Easter. I asked Pr. Rob about ideas for a theme for these weeks of the Easter season and he had a great response:
Jesus is risen and we’ve already heard the Good News – What’s next? Now what? We have been given a gift of salvation and faith – what comes next is our action as we live out our faith in service to our neighbor. (We can’t, Lutherans believe, do good deeds to earn salvation or favor with God – Jesus already took care of that for us at Easter!) We are now free from worrying about our own salvation and eternal life – the good we do is for others, just as the other (Jesus) did good for you and me. How are some ways that you can live and act for a neighbor? “Neighbors” can range from the people in our own home, to the house next door, to the people on the other side of town, to the people on the other side of the county, state, nation, and world. How can you and I set aside some time or goods or money to share with some of these neighbors, so they can, in some way, see or experience the activity of God in the world around them? The Food Shelf will always have needs; our elders appreciate visits; the Habitat for Humanity house needs work; the homeless need shelter and food and attention; …there are many other people and places you and I could act to show the grace and love of God Jesus Christ. How might you find a response to the question:
Pastor Bradley Skogen
"Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
“Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain, Love lives again, that with the dead has been; Love is come again like wheat arising green…” (ELW 379, v.1)
“NOW THE GREEN BLADE RISES” is one of my favorite hymns for the Easter Season. It reminds us of the “paschal mystery” – the cycle of dying and rising we see fully in Jesus and seasonally in our lives as fall and winter are transformed in the green, verdant spring and summer. We have been journeying together through this Lenten season, reminded of our mortality, and this month will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. We can, at the same time, see this outside of our homes and along the roadways as our brown lawns, barren trees and dark farm fields take on a light green haze as seeds sprout or buds pop and become ever more green and alive through the growing season. Our hearts and lives of faith work this way, too. We live with a cycle of renewal inside of us, just as the world changes seasons outside of us. May you find renewal and a “greening” of your heart, as Hildegard of Bingen called it, as we celebrate Easter and the spring season of growth and new life.
“When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, Your touch can call us back to life again, Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been, Love is come again like wheat arising green.” (ELW 379, v.4)
Pastor Bradley Skogen
“Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent”
Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are upon us once again. We are reminded that we came from dust and shall return to dust – our mortality, impermanence, and imperfection are laid bare. This is a time for reflection, repentance, and returning to God – who promises mercy!
This time of year can be a call to renew or develop new practices of faith. When I was young and taking music lessons, I often heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect”. I understand the sentiment behind the saying, but it was not all that helpful, because I cannot attain perfection – playing the saxophone, singing, in my relationships, or in any other way. No one can! Perfectionism can lead us down a path of frustration, obsession, and shame. This is not what we are called to do or be – in fact, scripture reminds us again and again that no one is perfect apart from God.
It is important to practice our faith, however, not matter how imperfect we can be. A number of years ago, I heard a presentation where someone developed the them, “Practice makes permanent”. I have found this phrase and sentiment to be much more gracious and promising. I can practice my faith, through devotions, serving others, attending worship, honoring my relationships, and many other ways to develop habits that bring my actions and beliefs closer together, and ultimately closer to how I want to be in relationship with God.
This Lenten Season, I invite you to join me and others on a journey through
the ways our congregations practices habits of faith and service as we hear and learn more about many of the ministries we live out and support together
“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, that his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. “ Luke 9:29
We are well into the season of Epiphany, a journey from the Baptism of our Lord to the Transfiguration of our Lord. This may feel like an “in between time” or “slowing down time” in our lives, because our part of the world can seem to go dormant between Christmas and the spring thaw with Easter. Our church calendar, however, can prompt us to be active in our faith, no matter how cold or dark or quiet the world around us can seem at this time of year.
With growing concern over the devastation of all forms of addiction, including the ever-increasing opioid crisis, the Fellowship of Recovering Lutheran Clergy (FRLC) in partnership with the Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church (RMEC) present this conference on addiction and faith to raise awareness of the terrible addiction problem we face and how the church and people of faith can help to address it.
Consider attending this conference to learn and network with others who have a common concern.
To learn more about this great conference.
“The day are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
Synonyms for Advent: arrival, appearance, emergence, occurrence, dawn, birth, development.
We are entering the time of year we call “Advent” as we journey toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth. There are many advents within “Advent” – an angel appearing to Mary, an angel appearing to Joseph, their arrival in Bethlehem, the heavenly host appearing to the Shepherd in the fields, to name a few. These advents all point to the arrival of the Messiah – fulfilling God’s promise – born as a child in Bethlehem. We hear the story we know so well again this year and I wonder how it might be new for you? How does God arrive in your life this year? How does Jesus emerge each day for you? How does your faith develop as we travel the familiar path from Nazareth to Bethlehem together?
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
This time of year, we see renewed activity in our congregation in a wonderful, transformational way. The rhythm of our days and weeks shifts to returning to school and starting up our children’s and youth ministries of faith formation: WAFL (Wednesdays at First Lutheran) for kids up to 6th grade; LAFEN (Lakes Area Faith Education Network) for our 7th – 9th grade confirmation age learners; and our 10th graders preparing for their “Affirmation of Baptism” service on October 28th. The excitement and energy of these activities are increased by the addition of our new OTC LYO Youth Ministry Associate, Tyler Wright, who will be starting ministry among us in mid-September AND our new Pastoral Care Associate/Visitation Pastor, Pr. Rob Nelson, who will return to ministry among us in this new role in October.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
We continue to celebrate and live in the season of Easter well into the month of May. The flowers, pastel colors, chocolate treats, and Easter Baskets are several weeks behind us now, but Easter and the resurrection of our Lord remain in the forefront of our worship and hearts.
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them...”
This month we will begin our Lenten journey together, as Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th this year. The season of Lent is a time of repentance, renewal, and rededication as we prepare for Easter. We start by reminding ourselves and one another of our mortality with the imposition of ashes and the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Epiphany and the New Year “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests. They offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and, myrrh.”
The magi, or wise men, travelled from a land far east of Israel; they were “foreigners” culturally, ethnically, and religiously. They made their trek to honor a newborn king who was coming for all people, indeed for the whole world! The “Epiphany of our Lord” was the manifestation of Jesus Christ to Gentiles – ALL people – as represented by the magi.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O
Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Isaiah 40: 9
Mountains and valleys – our lives are full of mountains and valleys. We are approaching a “mountain top” of the church year, the seas on of Christmas. It is a high point for many people, emotionally, as favorite music is played and sung, as families prepare to gather, and as children anticipate the holiday celebration and gifts. It is a high point, spiritually, as we commemorate the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child; the moment when God became flesh to dwell among us – a God willing to be vulnerable and humble, born in a stable, and laid in manger. A God willing to enter the greatest darkness of our human experience and emerge as a light of hope, peace, and everlasting life.