The October, November, December Christ in our homes devotional booklets are now available. They are in the container outside the front door.
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
Message from Pastor Tom
Summer has always provided me with a time for reflection and renewal. This year is no different. There’s been a lot happening – celebrating Cindy’s and my 43rd Wedding Anniversary; enjoying our children, their spouses and the four grand-daughters now in July and laughing a lot; and then the tragic death of one of my closest friends in school growing up from COVID-19 complications at a Fargo hospital and the death of a former parishioner and confirmand who died at the age of 48 last month from COVID-19 complications in the Twin Cities, leaving behind two teenage sons. All his mother, in the memorial, could say was a pleading for people, young and old to choose to get vaccinated. The sadness I feel cannot be put in words. Life is quite an engaging journey with many twists and turns – and we “keep on keeping on,” offering our encouragement and being involved and filled with hope – laughing and crying and appreciating the opportunities for fellowship with family, friends and others we meet on the way. Just recently I ran across some notes I had made for a sermon upon my ten-year anniversary of ordination back in 1992. It was a walk down memory lane. That first decade helped me get some perspective not just on pastoring skills but, more importantly, on living out one’s faith in the arena of everyday life. I find myself still trying to hold true to the thoughts I wrote down back then and I hope you don’t mind me sharing a small portion of the notes. “…We think that giving our all to the Lord is like taking a thousand-dollar bill and laying it on the table. “Here’s my life, my all; take it, Lord. I’m giving it to you.” The reality of the situation is that the Lord gives it back to us, sends us to the bank and has us cash in the thousand-dollar bill for nickels and dimes and quarters and a few crisp bills. Then he sends us to go through life putting out a dime here, a nickel or quarter there (and every once in a while to have a “twenty-dollar bill” opportunity to serve). “We are called to live a nickel-dime-quarter existence. It is in the “nickel and dime and quarter” events that are our best opportunities of influencing others for Christ and increasing our own faith. It is all the little opportunities of life that really make the difference. It is the many small acts of love – a little here, a little there that really show what we are made of. Not the big, dramatic blazes of glory, but the many small camp fires. William Wordsworth once said that “the best portion of a good person’s life is their little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” “That is an odd statement in light of the “bigger than life” kind of mentality we have today. I have needed to learn more about humility because in the midst of a dark and foggy world that is impressed with blazes of glory and “thousand dollar bills,” one voice cries in the night and shines in the dark. Sometimes it seems like an absurd voice and sometimes it seems to be a light that is flickering, but that voice is “the Light of the World.” I want to hear God’s Word in my life and learn something from my Lord’s life and ministry… Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious but yet it’s so meaningful and it makes a difference. It’s likely to be meant to be offered “a nickel/dime/quarter-at-a-time.” Have a great rest of the summer. Blessings. Pastor Tom
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
THANK YOU BETH!
We live out the mission of our congregation in many ways: gathering for worship, supporting our food shelf, reaching out to those who are lonely or ill, sending people and resources to global missions, forming the faith of our children and youth, and so much more. Each of us are called to serve using the gifts we have been given in our own ways.
One of the ways we seek to further our mission – to do more of “Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others” – is through the effectiveness and faithful service of our staff. We pause this month to give thanks for the 5 years of service our Secretary, Beth Davis, has provided our congregation. Beth is “really retiring” later this month and her last day is July 15th. I am grateful for Beth’s time with us as she welcomed me when I became your pastor in 2017 and has faithfully served you and God in her role these 5 years, often going above and beyond the call of her job description. This last year during the pandemic, in particular, Beth faithfully and flexibly adapted to continuing her work, in many unforeseen and unseen ways.
Please join me during Coffee Fellowship time on Sunday 7/11 as we wish Beth well, recognize her time with us, and bid her Godspeed in her retirement.
Worship and Congregational Life
Our life as a congregation seems to be returning to a greater sense of “normal” as we return to having Coffee Fellowship on Sunday mornings before worship, resume our Wednesday evening “Holden Evening Prayer” worship service, and prepare for Vacation Bible School in August, among many other activities.
Thank you for your continued faithfulness and patience as our “new normal” emerges. It is exciting and energizing to see and hear how people are returning to activities in our building and reaching out in mission to our neighbors – while we continue to offer accessibility through Zoom or YouTube for folks who wish to join us remotely.
Thank you, especially, for your continued financial stewardship. Your financial giving ensures a stable place from which our many mission and ministry opportunities can emerge. Keep your eyes and ears open for upcoming events like worship led by the Holy Hootenanners and the Community Worship services planned for later this month.
Summer Blessings! Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.” Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Psalm 98:4 June is upon us and joyful noises abound! I heard an Oriole yesterday afternoon for the first time this year and the Robins have been singing regularly as the sun rises. I’ve been hearing school bells and buses make their last noises of the school year and the school children are squealing with excitement as WAFL finishes its shortened schedule and summer approaches with opportunities to play outside with friends, go to camp, and play or watch ball games. There are even noises I hear that may not be joyful to me, but are, perhaps, joyful to someone else – the neighbor mowing his lawn at the crack of dawn or the buzzing mosquito, who perhaps delights in her own version of song as I cringe or swat the air. The church, too, is full of joyful noise as pandemic restrictions continue to ease and we continue to gather for worship on Sundays – the pews are a bit fuller with summer-time guests and friends of our congregation. We celebrate hearing the quilters laugh and visit as they work on Monday mornings, the squeals, hoots and shouts as WAFL has met on Wednesdays, as well as other joyful noises as we bless our graduating seniors, host Red Cross blood drives, Bible Study, meetings and activities inside the building and outside around our grounds. There are extraordinary ways we are living out our mission together that are quieter, too, but have been recognized in a significant way. First Lutheran was just awarded the “2021 Servant of Christ Award” by LSS of MN for the many ways we serve our neighbors while we “Bring the Hope We Share in Christ to Others”. The mission and ministry of our congregation has continued all through the pandemic, even if you might not have heard about it amidst the loudness of conflict about pandemic restrictions, racial tension, and political rancor all around us. This congregation has continued to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, comfort the bereaved, visit the sick, preach the Gospel, and administer the sacraments, even as we were unable to gather in person on Sunday mornings for an extended time. Thank you for your continued generosity that has extended out into the lives of our neighbors near and far! The daylight is approaching its peak, the forests and fields are bursting with growth and life, and our part of the world is lively with our seasonal guests and neighbors. Make a joyful noise! Celebrate God’s mercy and blessings, and share the good news with everyone who can hear!
Love in Christ, Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
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. We continue our journey with the risen Lord as he appears to his followers and, in a few weeks, we celebrate his ascension into heaven, rounding out the month of May with Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sunday. So much for the tutorial on the Seasons of the Church Year! What we are celebrating and giving thanks for is, at its heart, our reconciliation with God in Christ Jesus. That reconciliation comes with new life. While we look around our world and see new life emerging in grass, trees, flowers, and warmer days, it is especially delightful to see new life re-emerging in our congregation as our Sunday worship attendance grows and more and more activities resume inside our building. The sights and sounds of WAFL, Quilters, WELCA, and others are so wonderful to experience again. We look forward to high school graduations, family gatherings, and so much more that the summer season has in store for us. Thank you for your faithfulness as we have journeyed through the pandemic together and can be re-energized by this re-emergence of life.
Love in Christ, Pr. Brad
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) Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.” “There is a boy here who had five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sad down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. John 6:9-13 Feeding hungry people is a crucial part of Jesus’ ministry and the mission that is passed along to the church throughout all ages. The passage above records how the meager resources available were shared – with gratitude on Jesus’ part – to feed many thousand people. (The Gospel records there were 5,000 men present, not counting the women and children. There were many more than 5,000 mouths to feed that day!) We continue to live out the mission of feeding hungry people today in the life of our congregation and community. Each year our congregation commits to financially supporting our local Food Shelf, especially during the month of March, because at this time of year gifts are multiplied to feed more people far more than during other months. We have also had the opportunity to feed hungry people in additional ways in the last few years. We’ve supported organizations and efforts like the “Kids Against Hunger” food packing event, our “First Cares” program for families in need in 2020, and Churches United that provides housing and food support in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Our Men’s Fellowship group assembles and delivers holiday food boxes or gift cards in our area every year. We support the Friends of Friends Against Hunger program each year to provide resources for the backpack food program and area food shelves. Our Lenten series and emphasis revolves around the Hymn, “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart”, lifting up the dual importance of providing food for peoples’ stomachs and for their hearts. We will hear about Mission connections locally and globally, with an emphasis in our daily and weekly Bible study and devotions on the ELCA World Hunger appeal, “40 Days of Giving”. We also welcome our new Visitation Pastor, Pr. Tom, as he joins our mission of satisfying hungry hearts while we ‘Bring the Hope We Share in Christ to Others.’ Thanks be to God for Pr. Tom’s coming ministry among us. THANK YOU! Just as the boy’s loaves and fishes were shared and multiplied with thanks to feed many more than thought possible, we receive your gifts say thanks as Jesus did, and share them to feed MANY thousands of people. Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.” Great News! You may have seen and heard already – and will read more about it in this newsletter: We return to in-person worship this month on Sunday, February 7th . This has been a long and difficult number of months as we have sought to continue being the Church when we have been worshiping online or at a distance in our parking lot due to the conditions of the pandemic. Thank you for your patience and support during this time. I look forward to seeing you again in-person when you are able to join us. This time of the church year is when we begin our Lenten journey once again. We are tentatively planning an in-person Ash Wednesday service on February 17th. We will have an adapted method for receiving ashes as well as at-home kits for you if you are not able to worship in-person with us that evening. Our Lenten series will focus on hunger and food security. You will see daily and weekly devotions, studies, and resources related to the ELCA World Hunger initiative. Our Wednesday services after Ash Wednesday will be an online only worship, in collaboration with Zion-Amor. We will use Holden Evening Prayer and the message each week will focus on a local, regional, or global hunger relief story or program. I give thanks for you and lift you up in prayer daily. Love in Christ, Pr. Brad
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.” 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.” Matthew 2:11 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. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to have my DNA analyzed as part of one of the popular genealogical sites you can find on the internet. I am amazed at the precision with which showed not just the general part of the world (northern Europe) and country (Norway), but event down to the region of Norway most of my ancestors came from when they emigrated to this country. Most of you reading this, like me, come from families of foreigners who traveled to where we live now. The great diversity and specificity of our ancestry shows up in our hair color, skin color, family names – even the food we may eat at holidays like Christmas. However foreign and different we are from each other and however that shows up in our lives today, our source and commonality goes back further than the few generations we can recall in family stories or even measure in genetic testing. It goes back to the manger, where the baby Jesus was born for all nations and peoples, and beyond to the source of all life and creation itself. The magi come to the manger and receive the promise of the Christ child, just as you and I, so different from them and each other, return to the Good News of Jesus’ birth. We’ve done that again in word and song – now what? Now we return to the world around us flawed and broken as it may be, and reveal or manifest the Good News for others. How will you be involved in manifesting Christ to the world as the new year begins? There are many opportunities available for you here. How will our congregation manifest Christ to the world? There are still many needs in storm and fire ravaged communities far from us, as well as needs in our local food shelf and school. Consider these questions and consider how you – and we – can “Be the Church Today” as we “Bring the hope we share in Christ to others” anew in 2021. Pr. Brad