Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thankful for the SURE Foundation of Jesus in the Up's and Down's of Life


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Last Sunday felt like a great day to be pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer.  Worship uplifted me as we commissioned our new DCE Intern, and as we installed officers and board members at St. John for 2018.  The afternoon Dave Ramsey Class was full of people wanting to follow God’s wisdom for personal finances.  And the Sunday night All Board Meeting was not only very well attended, but showed the willingness and the desire of God’s people at St. John to step forward and work together to accomplish our Lord’s work.  As I left on a trip to Florida to spend a week helping my dad move, I was greatly encouraged to see God working in our midst!  But, all it takes is a Sunday of low attendance, or a church member who is hurt or angry, and those feelings or encouragement can instead become feelings of discouragement.

 

Likewise, the life of a Christian can be one of up’s and down’s.  God’s children rejoice when we see our Lord’s gracious answer to our prayers.  But, when families struggle, when illness threatens, when our country is in turmoil, when troubles linger, or when we know the guilt of our sin, we call out to God and we can even wonder where He is.

 

In my daily devotions I am currently reading through Isaiah.  It is eye-opening for me to see experiences in the lives of God’s people 2700 years ago that are similar to what we face today.  On Monday I read Isaiah 26 and 27.  As I read I could see how good news or bad news from God affected the lives of people in Isaiah’s time, as our lives and our hearts are moved today.

 

Isaiah 26, verses 1 and 2 proclaims, In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.”  What a great reason to sing praise!  God protects His people! His salvation and eternal life are a wall against the evil of life.  God welcomes people of faith into that city that knows and lives in His eternal love.  Praise the Lord!

 

But, in spite of God’s goodness, His grace is still rejected by many.  In Isaiah 26, verses 9 and 10 we hear bad news. 10 Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high, but they do not see it.”  Doesn’t that sound like our world today?  God offered grace but many of the people in Isaiah’s time turned their backs on His love.  Why do people in our world today turn away from God’s wise guidance and His loving grace? 

 

The up’s and down’s of faith and life can be discouraging.  We would like for our lives to constantly experience the success of God’s blessings.  But we have all had times of failure in serving our Creator.  Even when we want to follow our Lord, we can still act selfishly and sin against Him.  So, it is not surprising that in this world we experience good times and bad times. We experience bad times and good times.

 

However, there is One on Whom we can depend in the constant changes of life.  Isaiah 26:4 calls us, 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”  When our joys are overcome by illness, family trials, political unrest, natural disaster, personal failures, and more, we still have a rock.  In fact, we have THE Rock.  We can always trust in the Lord.

 

As I have been reading in Isaiah, I also hear my Lord telling us more about why we can count on Him.  God explains more in chapter 28.  "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”  The rock, The stone, which is our “sure foundation” is Jesus.  (See Psalm 118:22-23 and 1 Peter 2:6-8)

 

Life as a child of God is encouraging, and it is discouraging.  But there is a rock that is sure in the uncertainty of our lives.  Our Lord’s love is sure.  In fact, in Jesus, God’s love overcomes our sin and our failure to follow Him.  In Jesus, the Lord loves us and forgives us.  In Jesus, we have that “sure foundation.”  Jesus, “the precious cornerstone” gives God’s love eternally because He died to forgive our sin and because He rose to build a wall of salvation.  In this world of good news and bad news, we can build our lives on this foundation of God’s precious cornerstone, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

A Sunday like last week at St. John is a reason for rejoicing as we see God work in our midst.  But, times of discouragement still happen.  Wednesday, January 17, is seven years since my mom passed away.  I spent much of the day with my dad.  We visited my mom’s grave. Then we ate lunch at the restaurant where our family dined after my mom passed on that evening.  But, just as in Isaiah’s time, in the ups and downs of life, the love of God is ours because of His “sure foundation,” Jesus.  God’s sure love is a constant encouragement!

 

A Child of God, Thankful for the Sure Foundation of Jesus in the Up’s and Down’s of Life,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  I am in FL for a week.  Here are some pictures of my trip and time with my dad.  Here are some pictures.  I will keep adding pictures as the week goes on.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/dRcgjaKNBLmGwWvy1

 

 

******

 

ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.

 

 

******

 

IN THE NEW YEAR . . .

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL

·       Sunday School Classes for children started up again in the New Year JANUARY 7. 

 

·       Wooly Lambs began January 14

 

ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES!

·       Ephesians – This study of the book of Ephesians is led by Hunter Richards in the Fellowship Hall each Sunday.  This is a continuation of a class begun at the first of November. 

 

·       Jonah – Jim Summers is teaching a class on Jonah.  This class began on Sunday morning, January 7, and meets in the South Fellowship Hall outside the kitchen.

 

NEW PRAYER GROUP OPPORTUNITY

As children of God we seek to put our faith in action through regular prayer.  A NEW PRAYER OPPORTUNITY began at St. John on Sunday, January 7, at 9:30 a.m.  Two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.

            Please feel free to join Donita and Jackie in prayer, or to share your requests with them.

 

DAVE RAMSEY FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY AT ST. JOHN – Started Sunday Afternoon, January 14 at 1:00 p.m.

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University will begin classes at St. John on Sunday, January 14, at 1:00 p.m.  St. John member, Sarah Brettrager Downing, will lead these sessions.  Sarah has been to the class and used the guidance from this Christian financial stewardship plan.

The sixteen families who have signed up have received a phone call or e-mail reminding them of this class.  For those who have not signed up, please talk to Sarah, or Stewardship Board member, Josh Nance, to discuss possibly attending.  You can still attend!

 

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES

 

HOME SCHOOL ICE FISHING OUTING – The St. John Home School Group meets this Saturday at Finger Lake at 10:00 a.m. for an ice-fishing outing.

 

KOINONIA  -  The St. John seniors’ group, Koinonia, meets at St. John on Friday evening, January 26, at 6:00 p.m. anyone over 55 is welcome to attend!  This is a pot luck meal and time of sharing.

 

CHRISTIAN COUPLES  - A group for Christian couples tries to meet often.  They will meet at St. John on Saturday evening, January 27 at 6:00 p.m.  This is a pot luck meal and time of sharing.

 

 

OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

 

DO YOU HAVE A PLOW YOU CAN USE TO PLOW AT CHURCH?

We need people who can plow the parking lot at church.  At the current time we have one member who is plowing.  If you can help please contact Peter Probasco, 351-0085, Judy in the church office 745-3338, or Pastor Rockey 841-4066 so we can grow our list of those who can plow as winter arrives.

 

Summer Housing/Vehicle Needed - AMC - The Servant Event Coordinator for Alaska Mission for Christ, Jan Bruick, is seeking housing and a vehicle for June, July and August 2018. Jan Bruick will be assisting AMC teams with mission and service deployment throughout the state this coming summer. She is seeking a 1- or 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchen for rent, as well as a vehicle. Please contact her directly at: janbruick@amclcms.org or 402-641-9691.

 

 

 

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DID YOU KNOW THAT MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT ST. JOHN is available on our church website?  On our web page you can find sermons, newsletters, and these weekly devotions.  The link is:  http://www.stjohnpalmer.org/

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at judy@stjohnpalmer.org. If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!!

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Seeking God's Life Goals Instead of Setting Yearly Resolutions"


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Have you taken down your Christmas decorations yet?  Or are your decorations and lights still up, still decorating your home in the New Year?  Is the job of taking down these decorations also a somewhat dreaded task you face in the future?  I know that on Monday, when Kathy and I were taking down our decorations, the ladies of St. John and their helpers were also “de-decorating”. 

 

However, this year when we took down our decorations at the Rockey house, we also made another, rather large, decision.  We donated at least some of our excess Christmas regalia to Bishops Attic so they could sell it.  That was a large donation including 6 boxes loaded with Christmas decorations collected over the years. We donated a Santa collection, Christmas towels, runners, and table cloths.  There was a box of garlands and lights, an unopened package of angels, and a trash bag full of Christmas boxes.  (Kathy looked for the snowman collection, but she now thinks we gave that away a few years ago.)  This year’s donation did not include the collection of angels we set aside for our daughter, nor the collection of nutcrackers set aside for one of our sons.  And, since I have bought Kathy a Christmas ornament for our tree with the date on it for each of the 41 Christmases of our married life, we still have more than enough decorations for our tree, along with our still growing collection of manger scenes.

 

Forty-one Christmases is a long time!  But, after a while these decorations, which are intended to help celebrate the birth of our Savior, can and do get in the way of that celebration.

 

Life can be like that.  For example, after being pastor in one location for almost 27 years, I have said “Yes” to a lot of servant roles and volunteer causes.  But, I seldom say “No.”  After a while the activities and responsibilities add up and can overwhelm a person.

 

All of that is why, a number of years ago, I gave up making “New Year’s resolutions.”  But, I became serious about life values and goals.  Resolutions can be a similar kind of trap.  I can work on them for a while, and maybe fail.  Or, I can decide what is really important and keep working on these goals from year to year. Ultimately, having life goals can also help me set priorities for making decisions about where I spend my time.

 

Christians have an advantage, I believe, when it comes to setting life goals.  First we can look to God to tell us what is really important.  This week our Confirmation Class will learn Mark 12:30-31.  You get the whole context if you also read verses 28-29.  28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

 

So, loving God and loving others are our Lord’s priorities for our life.  Over 20 years ago, in a time of learning and introspection, I realized that I am first of all a child of God, and need to focus on that identity.  So, I begin each day in devotional Bible reading and prayer.  I take God’s church seriously.  I work on my relationship with my Lord and loving Him.  Secondly, I am a husband, a father, and a son.  I am not perfect at these jobs, but I seek to do my best to love my family, and then others as God has taught me.  Finally, I know if I am not healthy, in spirit and body and mind, I cannot love God and others as I should.  So, I seek to take care of myself.  It has been a struggle.  But these are life goals I have for myself, because I believe they are God’s goals for my life.

 

There is also another way that Christians have an advantage in setting life goals.  When we fail, and as weak sinful people we will fail, we don’t have to give up.  Because of the forgiveness God gives in Jesus, if that goal was worthwhile, we can re-start our efforts in the grace and forgiveness of our Lord.  Because of God’s love and forgiveness we can admit our weaknesses and failures to ourselves and to others.  We can ask forgiveness and forgive, and start again to live as the child of God we are made to be.

 

On Monday, as we were “de-cluttering”, we got rid of table decorations and garlands, we got rid of Santas and angels and nutcrackers.  But, you may have noticed we kept the mangers to help us celebrate the reason for the Christmas season.  I am sure, some day we will get rid of many of those too.  After all, we have a Savior, Jesus.  What is really important in life is that we want to love God and love other, because in Jesus God has loved us and saved us.

 

A Child of God, Seeking God’s Life Goals Instead of Making Yearly Resolutions,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  We are still basking in the joy the wedding of our daughter Mary to Aaron Smith at St. John on December 30!!  In addition to the pictures we took ourselves, we received an early group of pictures from the photographer.

Here are some new wedding pictures you might enjoy seeing (along with those shared last week). - https://photos.app.goo.gl/bX2g4HFaRHxyxJAk2

 

P.P.S.  I intended to go fishing on Monday but, taking down the decorations TOOK A LONG TIME!

 

P.P.P.S.  My 90 year old dad has sold his home and is moving into a senior living complex a mile from his old home.  I will be in FL next week trying to help with the move.  Kathy will be in AK working. Hunter will lead worship on January 21.

 

******

 

ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.

 

 

******

 

NEW DCE INTERN ARRIVED LAST FRIDAY!– Ethan Mirly, new DCE intern for St. John, arrived in Alaska on Friday, January 5, and was in worship Sunday, January 7.  His first official day in the office was Tuesday, January 9.  We pray God blesses Ethan through his time at St. John, and that God works through Ethan to bring God’s love to His family in this place.

 

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL

·       Sunday School Classes for children started up again in the New Year LAST Sunday JANUARY 7. 

 

·       HOWEVER, Wooly Lambs will begin again THIS SUNDAY, January 14

 

ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES!

·       Ephesians – This study of the book of Ephesians is led by Hunter Richards in the Fellowship Hall each Sunday.  This is a continuation of a class begun at the first of November. 

 

·       Jonah – Jim Summers is teaching a class on Jonah.  This class began on Sunday morning, January 7, and meets in the South Fellowship Hall outside the kitchen.

 

 

NEW PRAYER GROUP OPPORTUNITY

As children of God we seek to put our faith in action through regular prayer.  A NEW PRAYER OPPORTUNITY began at St. John on Sunday, January 7, at 9:30 a.m.  Two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.

            Please feel free to join Donita and Jackie in prayer, or to share your requests with them.

 

COMMISSIONING AND INSTALLATION OF OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS will take place in worship on Sunday, January 14! 

Officers and Board Members of St. John are asked to please be in worship that day for this Installation and Commissioning.  This gives leaders a chance to commit themselves to serving the Lord in the strength of His help.  It also gives the congregation a chance to support its leaders in prayer as they serve.

 

DAVE RAMSEY FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY AT ST. JOHN – Starting Sunday Afternoon, January 14 at 1:00 p.m.

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University will begin classes at St. John on Sunday, January 14, at 1:00 p.m.  St. John member, Sarah Brettrager Downing, will lead these sessions.  Sarah has been to the class and used the guidance from this Christian financial stewardship plan.

The sixteen families who have signed up have received a phone call or e-mail reminding them of this class.  For those who have not signed up, please talk to Sarah, or Stewardship Board member, Josh Nance, to discuss possibly attending.

 

THE JANUARY ALL-BOARD MEETING will be held on Sunday, January 14 at 6:00 p.m.

Twice a year St. John holds an ‘All Board Meeting’ in place of a regular Church Council meeting.  Instead of just the chair people of each board attending the council meeting, ALL officers AND all board members of each board attend this working meeting.  There is time allotted so that each board gets to meet and discuss their responsibilities at St. John, and to discuss their plans and opportunities for serving our Lord in the coming year.  This January meeting is usually a low-key time for new Board members to understand what we are doing to serve the Lord, and a time to begin making plans for the coming year.    

IF YOU ARE AN OFFICER OR SERVE ON A BOARD AT ST. JOHN, please plan now to attend this important meeting.  This really helps us to start the New Year right.  We want to do a good job serving our Lord!

 

 

OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

 

DO YOU HAVE A PLOW YOU CAN USE TO PLOW AT CHURCH?

We need people who can plow the parking lot at church.  At the current time we have one member who is plowing.  If you can help please contact Peter Probasco, 351-0085, Judy in the church office 745-3338, or Pastor Rockey 841-4066 so we can grow our list of those who can plow as winter arrives.

 

Summer Housing/Vehicle Needed - AMC - The Servant Event Coordinator for Alaska Mission for Christ, Jan Bruick, is seeking housing and a vehicle for June, July and August 2018. Jan Bruick will be assisting AMC teams with mission and service deployment throughout the state this coming summer. She is seeking a 1- or 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchen for rent, as well as a vehicle. Please contact her directly at: janbruick@amclcms.org or 402-641-9691.

 

 

 

++++++

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT ST. JOHN is available on our church website?  On our web page you can find sermons, newsletters, and these weekly devotions.  The link is:  http://www.stjohnpalmer.org/

In fact, IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE YOUR MONTHLY CHURCH NEWSLETTER BY E-MAIL please e-mail Judy Stahancyk and let her know.  You can call at 745-3338, or e-mail Judy at judy@stjohnpalmer.org. If you receive the newsletter by e-mail it saves printing, postage, and time compiling the newsletter.  Also, you receive the monthly newsletter more quickly!!

 

 

 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Resolving to Grow in Regular, Fervent Prayer in 2018


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

Perhaps you know the new mission statement that St. John adopted in 2016.  As Children of the Everlasting God, we are called to PRAY for everyone, to SERVE our community, and to ENCOURAGE the knowledge of Christ’s unfailing love.

 

The first verb that, after studying Scripture, we have chosen to describe how we live as children of God is, “Pray for everyone.”  But, it is one thing to say we pray. It is another thing to actually pray as a church. 

 

Jesus taught about prayer many times during His life.  One of the best lessons from our Lord about prayer is from Matthew 7:7-11 where Jesus tells us, 7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

 

God’s children pray because God calls us to pray.  We pray because God promises to answer our prayers.  We pray because we believe God keeps his promise and does answer our faithful prayers.

 

Some of my most fervent prayers over the years have been for my children.  I can show you my prayer lists for the last 10 or more years.  You would see the names of my family members, and little notes about items for which I was praying at the time.  You might also see some warped paper from a tear or two, which would show my concern for my children.  Sometimes I wondered if, or when, or how God might answer those prayers.

 

On December 30 I saw an answer to some of my prayers for my daughter Mary.  She was married to a young Christian man, Aaron Smith, whom we have grown to love.  There are many stories behind my prayers.  But, I am sure that in this marriage God acted in love and faithfulness, answering my prayers and those of others.

 

If you make New Year’s resolutions for 2018, a good plan for living one’s faith is regular, fervent prayer.  God wants us to go to Him as our loving heavenly Father.  God, wants us to see His love as He answers those prayers.  God shapes and strengthens our faith as we experience His wisdom and love in the answers He gives.

 

There is also a new opportunity in 2018 to pray with God’s Christian family at St. John.  Beginning on Sunday, January 7, at 9:30 a.m., two of our Elders, Donita Odland and Jackie Kolberg, will be in Pastor Allen’s former office to spend time in prayer.  Anyone who wants to join them is invited to do so.  Anyone who wants to leave a prayer request may do so verbally, or in writing (There is a “prayer request box” hanging on the wall outside this office.)  The plan is for this time of prayer to begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday and continue until prayer is finished.  And, we trust God to answer these prayers as He promises, in wisdom, in power, and in love.

 

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:8.  “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

A Blessed New Year to Each of You!

 

A Child of God, Resolving to Grow in Regular, Fervent prayer in 2018,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  THANK YOU, from Kathy and from me, to all who attended and helped with the wedding of our daughter Mary to Aaron Smith at St. John on December 30!!  Thanks also to all who have prayed for Mary over the years.  We are truly thankful for that special day of joy and celebration with the Rockey and Smith families, and with our church family.

Here are some wedding pictures you might enjoy seeing. - https://photos.app.goo.gl/bX2g4HFaRHxyxJAk2

 

******

 

ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.

 

 

******

 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pondering and Treasuring Christmas 2017


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

That very first Christmas, after the angels appeared to the shepherds, those shepherds went to Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph, and to find Jesus.  God tells us in Luke 2 that the shepherds shared with Mary and Joseph what they themselves had been told.  Then, after the shepherds left Jesus and his family, there is an interesting sentence about what Mary did with this information from the shepherds.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)  Mary thought about the things that had happened. Mary purposely stored these thoughts in her memory.  So, let’s ponder and treasure this past Christmas ourselves. 

 

What was your favorite Christmas present you received this year?  My wife and I did not buy presents for each other this year, again – sort of.  I did buy Kathy a dated Christmas ornament again, for the 41st year in a row.  But that ornament is not a large gift, and after 40 years she knows that this gift is coming.  Kathy also says I have purchased her Christmas gift earlier this year in a number of ways.  However, I don’t like to count those other gifts of love for Christmas.  Anyway, Kathy and I planned to put our resources into giving gifts to others this Christmas.

 

I do have 4 grown children with 2 (almost) spouses.  Each one of them did give both Kathy and me a nice personal gift, which I can tell they thought about before giving.  In fact we have already used most of these gifts in one way or another.  Truthfully, however, I believe I am even more thankful for the gift of family.  On Sunday night we were blessed to worship together at the Children’s Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.  (There is a picture link below from that service.)  Then, on Monday night, after picking up my sister Martha and her husband Mark from the airport, we had a family Christmas gathering at our home with 16 people, including 6 grandchildren.  We were able to catch up and visit and just enjoy one another’s company while watching the children open their gifts.  When Kathy and I buy gifts for our grandchildren we often stay away from giving toys.  We try to buy gifts that will last, gifts that have faith or educational value.  We gave Josh’s children and Andy’s children each a telescope this year.  One of my favorite moments at our family Christmas was when we asked the grandchildren to pull the blankets off the telescopes as a way of unwrapping these gifts.  There was a group reaction from the grandchildren.  “Woooo!”  I enjoyed their excitement.  But, again, even more than the gifts, the greater blessing was just the time to be family.

 

A 2017 Christmas blessing for which I am thankful is the worship we experienced on Sunday and Monday at St. John.  Including Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening Christmas Eve services, and Christmas morning worship, the family of St. John gathered in one way or another 5 different times.  Some expressed concern for me as pastor because I led all those worship services.  But, I have developed a philosophy over the years.  I try not to wish Christmas celebrations to be done and over because of busy schedules.  I work to enjoy the worship and to receive the blessings of the reason for the celebration.  Each worship service this Christmas had a different group of people.  In each service someone attended who did not attend the other services.  For me, Christmas worship was not a chore, but a gift from God, another gift for which I am thankful. 

 

Part of the gift of Christmas worship is also the opportunity to spend time with our church family.  Over the years we have worshiped and served our Lord with some truly special children of God.  In many ways, especially here in Alaska, God’s people have become our extended family.  When we get to enjoy the gift of God’s Son together, and when we encourage one another through worship and through the encouragement of just catching up, I receive the relationship of family with my fellow Christians as another wonderful Christmas gift.

 

As Kathy and I grow “more mature” I also become more thankful for our relatively good health.  When I attended my 45th high school re-union in the summer of 2016 there was a list of over 80 classmates who are no longer with us. (Of course, my high school class numbered almost 1000 people.)   Some of my classmates died by accident.  But many of my classmates, including some good friends, were called home by cancer or other illnesses.  Yes, Kathy and I have both spent time with doctors this past year. Thankfully, God has blessed the doctors in caring for us.  A real gift we received this Christmas is the gift of health.

 

As I personally ponder and treasure this past Christmas, I feel guilty, in a way, to be so blessed.  I know that some people, perhaps many people, have none of these blessings.  But, there is one blessing or present that each of us have received, a blessing I haven’t mentioned yet.  The angel told the shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11) God has given the gift of His Son as our Savior.  Actually, all the Christmas gifts I mentioned above, the family gatherings, the worship services, even our health, can be traced to God’s love for us in Jesus.  I am truly most thankful for the gift of my Savior, Jesus! 

 

And, as the angel said, this good news of a Savior from sin and death, this gift of a Savior who brings us back to our Heavenly Father, is a gift to “all the people.”  Receiving the gift of Jesus helps us to see all the other blessings which God gives! I am thankful that even those who did not receive a present or have family, are part of the “all people” to whom God gave His Son! 

 

When all the parties are done, when the worship services are completed, and when the presents are unwrapped, the greatest gift this Christmas and every Christmas is Jesus.  So, where do your ponderings and treasurings take your mind and your heart this Christmas?

 

A Child of God, Thankful for all the Blessings Surrounding Jesus’ Birth,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  I was tempted to write this week about the upcoming wedding of my daughter, Mary, to our new son-in-law, Aaron Smith, this coming Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at St. John.  I’ve been told, however, that sometimes my family stories may embarrass.  So not today, maybe next week.

 

P.P.S.  Here is a picture taken at Christmas Eve worship of our Alaskan Rockey family.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/4wNzubLNi3lqezQR2

 

P.P.P.S.  Here is a picture taken last Thursday morning of the sunrise as seen from my front porch.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Dsg4bghyj4azFdP93

 

P.P.P.P.S. It seems a long time ago, but last Wednesday was our last Advent Fellowship Meal.  Here are some pictures  https://photos.app.goo.gl/h6fDJQlYwcQWnkmh1

 

 

 

 

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ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.

 

 

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wishing Jesus to You This Christmas


Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

I was personally convicted recently as I read a devotion from my friend, Pastor Dale Meyer of Concordia Seminary.  In his devotion he has stated what we all know about the traps of the Christmas season.  The busy-ness of these days before Christmas easily frays our nerves and we pop off against one another.”  Yup, he’s right,” I thought to myself, realizing I had just been short with my wife and my daughter.  It wasn’t a big thing.  I’m not even sure they knew I had “popped off” at them.  I was wondering to myself, “What’s making me irritable?”  I decided there was no one irritant.  I suspected I was reacting to the accumulated busy-ness of church, of family, and Christmas expectations.  But, I sensed an impatience in myself that caused me to treat those I loved with less patience and love than I desired.

 

We are near the culmination of our preparation to celebrate the birth of God’s Son.  Unfortunately we all know that sometimes all the preparations can obscure the reason for the season.  The songs about Jesus’ birth can become irritable when we hear them in the stores starting in October.  The buying of gifts can deceive us into forgetting THE Gift.  The busy-ness of the season can lead us to act unlovingly in the season of love.  Our “frayed nerves,” as Dr. Meyer wrote, can steal peace when the angels proclaim “Peace on Earth.”  And the unreasonable expectations from society and the media concerning Christmas can cause us to lose our joy when this is a time of “great joy to all the people.”  Is anyone else needing to confess with me?

 

But, while it is good to prepare to receive our servant-king, our Savior, Jesus, it is not our preparation that makes the season.  Nothing we do, and nothing we fail to do, can take away the fact that Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, was born.  Satan may seek to use the busy-ness of this season to hide the light of the world under a bushel basket, but the light is still there.  The rays of light and love and peace seep through the holes in that basket and still bring life and love to our world, and to us.

 


Nothing can take away the fact that, in Jesus, God Himself came to earth that first Christmas to help us, to love us, to save us. 
 

None of our busyness can make the fact go away that Jesus is Savior of “All People.”  After all, the angels did not sing of his birth to kings and priests, but to shepherds, to common people at work.

 

None of our own irritable, prideful, or sinful behavior can deny the Christmas love of God.  The angel told Joseph, you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Jesus was born knowing our sin, because we need a Savior.

 

When the world seems to fight against us and tell us we are worthless, nothing can take away the fact that the birth of Jesus is a gift of love. 

 

Not the stress I bring on myself, nor the antagonism and distraction of the world, can take away the gift, God’s Son born for us.  So, whether your presents are bought, your house is decorated, or whether you have made amends with those you have wronged, I encourage you to remember that Jesus is God’s gift of love.  We don’t earn a gift, we receive it.  Therefore, there are some simple ways we can all receive the love, and the peace, and the joy with which God gifts us again this year.

·       Take time to attend worship this Christmas with your family, your friends, your neighbors, or by yourself if no one else will go.  When we thank and praise God it opens our hearts to receive this gift of Jesus.

·       When you worship, LISTEN to God’s Christmas good news as the Christmas lessons are read from Scripture.

·       Consider how God’s love is bigger than any disappointment, heart break, or problems you may have today.

·       Then, like the shepherds give joyful thanks and praise to God for this priceless gift that changes our lives for good, not only at Christmas time – but through eternity.

 

The angels told the Shepherds, 10. . . "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11) That is the reason for all the preparation and the celebration.  And this gift is not earned, it is received by faith.

 

May the light of Jesus shine through the darkness of your “frayed nerves” and disappointments this Christmas.  May Jesus light up your home and your life with God’s love and peace and joy.

 

A Child of God Wishing Jesus to you this Christmas

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  Please note the schedule of Advent and Christmas services in the next few days.

·       Mid-Week Advent Worship – Worship is held on Wednesday, December 20, at noon with Hunter Richards, and in the evening at 6:30 p.m. in our final Advent Worship Service for 2017.  A Fellowship Advent Meal is served at 5:30 p.m.

·       There is only one worship service on Sunday morning, December 24 at 11:00 a.m.  (However, adult Bible Classes will be held at 10:45 a.m.)

·       There are 3 Christmas Eve services:

o   Children’s Christmas Candlelight Service – This 6:00 p.m. service is earlier, a little shorter, and has a children’s message to make this a “kid friendly” worship experience.

o   Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship is held at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.  Two soloists and two choir numbers help us thank and praise God in these candlelight worship services.

·       Christmas Day worship with communion is held on Christmas morning at 11:00 a.m.

 

COME AND JOIN US IN WORSHIPING OUR SAVIOR! 

 

There are postcard invitations in the back of the church which you can use to invite others to join in this celebration!

 

P.P.S.  This past week was another busy week of preparation and activities at St. John!  Here are some pictures.

 

·       Confirmation classes last week made Christmas stockings.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/btT0VFCtT6mt0Zof1

 

·       Here are some pictures from our Advent Meal last Wednesday, https://photos.app.goo.gl/N5Lo2863GtMaxIMH2

 

·       I intended to go ice fishing, but last minute chores before Christmas and before a wedding kept me going till about 7 p.m.  It was too dark then to go fishing, so no fish this week.

 

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ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.

 

 

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thankful for Family Faith in Jesus





Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 

 

This past Sunday late worship was a little different for me.  Yes, as pastor I led parts of the worship at the beginning and at the end of the service.  But, the main portion of the worship was the presentation by the Sunday School children of their Christmas program for this year.  The children read Bible verses, explained symbols, and sang songs.  So, I was not in robes for this service.  Also, I did not sit up front in order to lead worship.  Instead I sat in the back of the church with my family  The back two rows were full of 2 Rockey parents or grandparents, Kathy and myself.  Also three of our four children were in that row (one had taught Sunday School and then went skiing), in addition to 6 Rockey grandchildren.  When you put that many Rockey’s in one place it tends to be noisy, and maybe a little rowdy, even in church.

 

I heard my wife talking after the worship service, maybe complaining a little.  She was in the kitchen with Becky Nance who had commented on the fact that I got to sit with my family.  (Becky was operating the screen for worship, so she had a close-up view.)  Kathy said, “Yes, in fact one of the grandchildren even asked why he was there. . . But, he was the worst of them!  He was picking on them and egging them on – in church!”

 

I confess.  I’m guilty as charged.  My grandson, Jackson, asked me, “Poppy, Why are you here?”  Most of the time I do sit up front and lead worship.  I explained to him, “Today is the children’s program.” And then I poked him.  Well, maybe I poked him a couple of times.

 

I’m not sure there is anything that brings more joy to my heart than worshiping with my family.  Actually, I think Kathy is even more warmed by sitting in the back of the sanctuary and herding her brood.  What a joy to both worship our Lord AND to love our family all at the same time!

 

Once Jesus was asked how best to keep God’s commandments.  His answer is helpful and instructive for our lives as Christians.  In Mark 12 we read about Jesus, 28 One of the teachers of the law came and . . . asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31)  So Jesus is telling us that we live out our calling as God’s children best when we love God and when we love others.  Is there any better way to answer God’s call than by worshiping Him along with our family???

 

When I visit family in Florida I have a similar joy because I get to worship with my dad and with my siblings and extended family.  We all grew up attending First Lutheran Church in Gainesville, FL.  One of my brothers is pastor of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Oxford, FL, south of Ocala.  And my sister is a leader at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Chiefland, FL.  When Kathy and I visit we again get to worship with our family.  What a JOY!!! 

 

God’s Church has traditionally observed the season of Advent before Christmas so that our hearts are ready to receive Jesus.  During this season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of our Savior, is there any better way to prepare for Jesus than by worshiping with family?

 
A Child of God, Thankful for Family Faith in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan

 

P.S.  This past week was a BUSY week of preparation and activities at St. John!  Here are some pictures.

 

·         Confirmation classes last week made signs for the Family Promise Van and went Christmas caroling.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/seo6fxBtTTcTiK5h2

 

·         VPA Play outing – We had 20 tickets for the Valley Performing Arts play, “A Christmas Carol” and 22 people attended.  Here are some pictures of some of the folks eating at Piccolino’s (Marcellos) before the play - https://photos.app.goo.gl/Z2MI46X00QaUrK8y1

 

·         Sunday School Christmas Program – The Sunday School Christmas program was a blessing to all who attended.  Here are some pictures from this year’s program. - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NrvDtXB7LtsVwu1E3

 

·         Jamie Farewell – Last week we had an opportunity to say farewell to Jamie Walters who has served as DCE at St. John for over 13 years.  (She will continue through December.)  Here are a couple of pictures - https://photos.app.goo.gl/VlR6orI0FdiqyB9l2

 

·         Ice fishing 12-11-2017 – And of course, here are some pictures from this past Monday’s ice fishing trip – 3 bites and 2 fish - https://photos.app.goo.gl/CVnj514ABbhPI2zt2

 

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ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ -   I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have.  (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.

 

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