Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Walking in the Light of Jesus - The Morning Star

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


So, do you fellow Alaskans roll out of bed as easily in January as you do in June?  Maybe I’m getting older.  Maybe I’m getting lazier. (I hope not!)  But, I think that this year especially I have found it a little easier to open my eyes in the morning, and to see the dark, and to then stay in bed “just for a few more minutes.”  That is not my normal reaction to morning.  I have often fled sleeping so that I would not miss some opportunity to work or play.  My mother used to say that I “fought sleep.”  My wife, Kathy, says that I get along on much less sleep than she does, and she sometimes worries that I don’t get enough sleep to be healthy.  But, this year I’ve just found it a little easier to “hibernate.”


I am convinced that light plays a big difference in our energy level and activity level.  Alaskans know that light also affects our mood.  In the summer, when the sunlight hits my closed eyelids very early in the morning, I often get up before any alarm.  But, in the winter, when it’s time to get up, but there are still stars in the dark sky, it always seems easier to sleep. This year just more so. 


Actually, the effect of light and darkness has been one of the reasons I like to get outdoors in the winter.  If you can rise and go to work in the dark, and if you can then leave work and come home in the dark, those hours of light can be a precious, energy-giving time.  So, on my days off I make sure I go fishing, or skiing, or simply get outside.  Light gives energy and life, perhaps even more so when the world around us is dark.


Do you know that one of the names given to Jesus is “Morning Star?”  The light of that star which shines in darkness has perhaps more meaning to Alaskans who understand times of physical darkness.


In Peter's second epistle, as Peter is sharing his experience at the Transfiguration and re-affirming that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah, promised in the Old Testament, he writes to his congregation, And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) Jesus is The Morning Star.


In the last chapter of the Bible, as Jesus appears to John in a Revelation, promising that He is indeed coming again, Jesus assures John, "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."  Jesus calls himself, “The Morning Star.”


But, it is not just a lack of sunlight that brings darkness to our world.  The sinful nature which lurks within each of us brings disappointment, sorrow, pain and death.  The inability of our elected officials to be able to act in a way that is good for all people brings darkness.  The scourge of substance abuse that ruins lives and families, and which often causes death, brings darkness.  The forces within that tear apart families and households, bring darkness.  The emptiness and grief of missing a loved one who has died, bring darkness.


But, in the dark sky of a sinful world we have the “Morning Star.”  We have the promise of God’s love and favor, even when our world is full of hatred and fighting.  We have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, even when we have failed to live in obedience and love.  We have the sure hope of eternal life for all who believe in Jesus, because the Morning Star died and rose.  Jesus is that Morning Star whose light even shines through the darkness of deepest night.


There are many hymns which offer prayers, and praise God, because Jesus brings the light of the righteousness and love of God into our dark world.  Perhaps you know the traditional hymn “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” (Lutheran Service Book 395)  or the Epiphany hymn, “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning” (Lutheran Service Book 400)  But, I believe that a new hymn best speaks a prayer that is on my heart.  Perhaps your heart echos the words of the hymn, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light.” (Lutheran Service Book 411)


I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.

God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus.



In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the Light of the city of God. I want to follow Jesus.


Yes, in our dark world of sin, this hymn speaks well the prayer of my heart. “I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.” 


A Child of God, Desiring to Walk in the Light of Jesus, the Morning Star,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S. I went ice fishing for the first time in 2019 this past Monday.  I went to a favorite, non-stocked lake, but did not even have a bite.  Yet, the sun was out.  Temperatures were in the high 20’s.  There was no wind.  It was peaceful to sit on the ice and consider the love of God in my life.  Here is a photo of my companions.


P.P.S.  My wife is a GREAT cook.  After a meal of salmon on  Friday evening, Kathy made quiche for Monday evening with the leftover salmon.  Take a look!






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.







BIM’S BIRTHDAY PARTY – St. John member, James “Bim” Hoylman will celebrate his 69th birthday on Saturday, January 19, at Pizza Ria Delphi in Palmer at noon.  Bim is asking everyone to come and join him.   If you want to send Bim a card you can send it to:

            Bim Hoylman

            190 Edinborough Drive

            Palmer, AK  99645


NEWSIES – Fellowship Trip to see the Disney Play, “The Newsies”  - 

FOUR people from the St. John family are participating in the local musical play, Newsies.  That includes Collin Christiansen, Kyndle Kirby, Gaelen Swigart, and Sara Guhl.  The Fellowship Board is planning a trip to this play on Saturday afternoon, January 26, for the 2:00 p.m. show.  There will be a soup and salad bar at church at noon, and then we’ll leave for the play. 

       Cost of tickets is $25.00 a person.  Sign up on the counter in the narthex THIS WEEK if you wish to join in this fellowship opportunity THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY.










WOOLY LAMBS – Age birth to 3 years old – 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Sundays




Jim Summers will teach a class on the Old Testament books of Esther, January 6  through February 3.


Dave Nufer will teach a class on The Holy Spirit, entitled “Spiritual Simplicity – Doing Less, Loving More.”  This class will start January 13 when Sunday School for all ages starts up again.


Pastor Rockey will start another Basic Teachings of the Bible / Adult Member Class.  This is not only a basic class for those who might want to join St. John, but also a good refresher for long time members.  This class will start January 13 when Sunday School for all ages starts up again. 


PRAYER MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY!! – There are Elders in Pastor Allen’s former office between worship who are available for prayer each Sunday between services.  Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God gives His people.  Come bring your prayer requests.  Come join in praying for God’s work, and for others.


WEDNESDAY WORSHIP - Wednesday Worship services are offered each week at 6:30 p.m. at St. John.  These services are offered as an alternative opportunity for worship.  If someone cannot make worship on Sunday, Wednesday worship is an option.  If someone wishes to worship our Lord in addition to Sunday, Wednesday worship is an option. 

            These Wednesday services primarily use the same readings as will be read on the following Sunday, but the sermon is different on Wednesday than the sermon on Sunday. 

            During Advent and Lent, Wednesday worship includes a meal and sermons with a theme appropriate to the season.

            Come and join us in growing closer to our Lord and closer to our fellow Christians.






SHUT IN VISITATIONS – If you would like to reach out to one of our elderly members there is a list on the counter in the narthex of the 24 shut ins that pastor visits, mostly monthly.  If you would like to make monthly contact with one of these folks, please sign up and then talk with Pastor Rockey.



AMC VBS IN EEK - Members of St. John are planning again to go to the village of Eek, AK, to conduct VBS for the children there.  If you are interested please speak to Rod or Temple Christiansen, Marilee Nufer, Sara Guhl, or Pastor Rockey.


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.




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:

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 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!!






Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Senior Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church

907-745-3338 - church

907-746-6117 - fax


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Blessed by the Faith of Children

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


This past Advent God warmed my heart through some children at St. John.


For a number of years now our Advent and Lenten sermons in our mid-week worship services have been a short meditation surrounded by skits.  If you have attended these services you know that the beginning skit raises a problem that God’s people face.  The pastor shares a meditation on this problem based on that night’s Scripture reading.  Then the concluding skit shows God’s help and grace to help us with the temptations and struggles of life.  The people of St. John seem to appreciate and enjoy these short sermons.


Also, for a number of years Carl Jacobson, Scott Manke, and Ann Marie Svedin have acted out these skits.  They receive the skits ahead of time by e-mail, and then arrive early and practice their parts so that they are ready for worship.  However, this Advent, Ann Marie suggested that others might also want to participate.  It was somewhat late to make many changes for Advent 2018, but after mid-week Advent worship on December 12 I announced that if anyone else was interested in helping they should let me, or one of our actors know.  Maybe they could help with Lenten skits in 2019.


However, after worship on that evening, third grade student, Avery Martin came up to me and asked me with a smile on her face, “Can I help with the sermon next week?”  To say I was surprised is putting it mildly.  However, I talked with Ann Marie, and with Avery’s parents.  Ann said she would help Avery.  Avery’s parents would get her to church to practice.  So, I wrote Avery into the skits for the meditation on December 19.  As she helped with the skit for the sermon, Avery spoke up, she read well, and she did a good job of acting her part.  I believe that the congregation and Avery were blessed by her participation.


Then after worship on that December 19 evening, fourth grade student, Gaelen Swigart, and fifth grade student, Adeline Martin (Avery’s sister), also came to me and asked if they could help with future skits.  Well, that was already the end of our mid-week Advent worship for 2018.  But, Lent is on the horizon. 


This is not the first time that children or youth of St. John have helped lead worship.  In 2014 the 8th grade confirmation class acted out the skits as we considered Ephesians 6 and “The Armor of God.”  Some youth who have been through Lay Ministry training have led worship and even preached, at St. John and at other locations that needed help.  And, each Advent we have children help with the reading and prayer as we light the Advent wreath. But, I do not ever remember children this young being this excited about serving our Lord by helping with worship!


As we begin a new year many have made resolutions hoping for a better 2019.  Resolutions to change our lives for the better can be a challenge.  However, resolutions where God’s people seek to make the world a better place can be a bigger challenge.  In Promise Keepers’ men’s Bible Study on Tuesday, January 8, one of the areas of need that we identified as needing help was that of children in our community.  We saw the need of help for families, and we prayed for God’s help in that area.


I can think of few areas that deserve the effort and attention more than that of raising children to know their Lord, to know their their Creator, and to know their their Savior.   God calls families, and His family - the Church, to train children in the knowledge of the Lord.  Consider the words of Proverbs 22:6.  Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.  One of the most important jobs of God’s people is to provide life training to children.  Or, consider God’s words through Paul in Ephesians 6: 4. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.Parents are to instruct about the Lord, and about His plan for our lives!


The ultimate goal of teaching children about the Lord is that they grow in trusting Jesus as their Savior, and that they live in His grace now and eternally.  As you know, often the teacher learns more by teaching, than the student learns in class.  It is a blessing to see children who want so much to learn and who are growing in their faith. 


It is not often that the preacher is blessed by His sermon in the same way that the congregation is blessed.  On December 19, I was not only blessed by the words of Avery, but by the attitude of faith and a desire to learn that I saw in Avery, and in Gaelen, and in Adeline. 


May God bless the efforts of all God’s churches so that the words of Jesus come true, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  (Mark 13:15)  What a great goal for the beginning of 2019, and for years to come!


A Child of God, Blessed by the Faith of Children,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020?  You may know that I am using the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House for my personal devotions in 2019 and 2020.  I have encouraged others to join me.  After the Palmer Kiwanis meeting on Tuesday, January 8, Paul Scott came up to me and talked about his use of this devotional bible, saying that he enjoys the short focus and devotional sections as well.  I encourage you to read through God’s Word with us as you are able.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures of a beautiful day of skiing at Alyeska on January 3 with my daughter, Mary.  (No fishing this week.)  This was a great Father – Daughter time.  J




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, January 2, 2019

Planning to Let the Lord be my Strength and My Song in 2019

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


The calendar has turned from 2018 to 2019.  Many of us attended parties on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the passing of one year into the promise of another.  You know the stated reasons for these celebrations.  People hope to say good-bye to the problems and disappointments of the past and hope to welcome new opportunities and blessings of the future.  But think about this. Will there be parties next year on New Year’s Eve?  Why do we expect more New Year’s Eve celebrations next year on December 31?  Doesn’t that expectation just say that we are also expecting more struggles and problems in the coming year of 2019?


So, how do you face the expected trials of the future?  Do you have an inner strength that gets you through life’s difficulties?  Are you young, or just naturally full of energy and optimism, so that problems roll off your back?  Or, do you get weary and weighed down?  Do you wonder how you will take one more step in a positive direction?


Personally, after over 65 years of life, I know many, if not all, of my weaknesses and struggles.  I know that I can and do grow weary.  I can feel downcast when the disappointments and trials of life come.  I don’t always make the best choices or act in the healthiest ways.  In other words, I am a sinful person whose sin affects my life.  Ultimately, I know that I need help to live with the joy and peace and strength that God intends for His children.


Others in Scripture faced moments of truth and self-realization where they too admitted their need for help, specifically help from the Almighty and Merciful Lord of all.  When the children of Israel had escaped Pharoah and Egypt and had been saved by their miraculous passing through the Red Sea, as they stood safely on the other shore they sang praise and truth.  The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15: 2)  The Israelites recognized the Lord as their strength.  God is the one who had miraculously saved them. God is the One who gave them joy and the reason to sing.


In the Psalms, as David ponders the question and the scourge of evil in the world, he admits his own weakness, and looks to our Creator for strength.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73: 26)


In the gospels of the New Testament Jesus invites those who are wearied by life to come to Him for rest and renewal.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28)  We may find weariness in life’s problems, so Jesus call us to rest in HIM.


And, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul admits that one of his weaknesses may be pride.  But, Paul has learned of his on-going weakness and has also learned his need for the strength and power of Christ.  7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)


It is delightful to consider the new opportunities and blessings of a coming year.  But, we know that trials, failures, disappointments, and losses will also tax our strength and our ability to continue.  Therefore, my practice has been to daily tap into the strength and the grace that God gives.  Each day my goal is to begin by letting God speak to me in His word, and then sharing with Him the concerns and the joys, the praise and the confessions of my heart through prayer.


If you know that you need strength each day, I again suggest that you let the Lord come to you with His love in Jesus. In the midst of your weakness, the Creator of the world is almighty.  In your times of failure, God is faithful to forgive because of Jesus’ death on the cross.  In your doubt and your times of depression, God’s love in Christ is a rock which cannot be taken away.  When you face loss, or illness, or death, God offers you eternal life through Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life. 


Since I know I will need help each day, I go to the Lord who is my constant strength.  Since this world can steal my joy, I go to the Lord who is my delight.  I let the Lord share His plan, His direction, His love, and His life for me in His Word.  I pour out my heart in prayer. 


For me, regular worship with God’s people is also a vital part of a healthy life.  Personal devotional time is private.  Worship allows me to receive and share God’s love through other children of God as we listen and meditate, as we pray and praise.


Do you need God’s strength and joy in 2019?  Would regular time in God’s Word and worship with His people be a blessing to you?  Will you join me in regular use of God’s word and time in prayer in the coming year?


A Child of God, Planning to Let the Lord be My Strength and My Song,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020? I plan to use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House in 2019 and 2020.  .  If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.

o   From CPH (Our Church’s publishing house) for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping -

You could also use for your devotions,

·       Portals of Prayer – Daily devotionals printed quarterly by our denomination.  They are available in the entry ways to the church.

·       “Jesus Calling” – This is a devotional given to me by Donita Odland.  I used it when I finished my two year Bible and found the devotional thoughts helpful.

·       Other Devotional books found in Christian book stores.


P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from another busy week

·       Here are pictures from last Sunday’s baptism for Keeper Austin Manelick -

·       Ethan’s Commissioning and Installation on Sunday night, December 31.

·       Here are pictures from the College Student Luncheon on January 2 -


P.P.P.S.  Ice Fishing trips

·       Here are pictures from a fishing trip with Nufer / Helberg clan, visiting Alaska for the wedding of Taylor Nufer and Ellen Carlson-


·       Here are pictures from a fishing trip on Monday, December 31, 2018, with some folks you’ll recognize.




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 26, 2018

Surprised AGAIN By God's Christmas Love

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


So Christmas Day has passed (at least for those of the Western Christian traditions).  If you celebrated Christmas with worship, or with family gatherings, or with the giving of gifts, or by observing all of these forms of celebration . . . What Now?  Christians have again gathered to see God humbly come to us in flesh as the baby in the manger.  We have listened as the angel proclaimed “good news of great joy which shall be to all the people.”  (Luke 2:10)  We have heard an army of angels praise God for “peace on earth, goodwill to men” (Luke 2:14 KJV)  We may have even experienced the joy and peace and goodwill of the season as we celebrated the gift of God’s Son.  But, are these blessings just part of this year’s celebration with no continuing benefits?


Please consider what we are told about those who were perhaps most surprised by the birth of Jesus, the shepherds.  We read about what the Christmas shepherds did, after finding Jesus, in Luke 2:17-20. 

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


We can safely say that the shepherds continued sharing joy and peace even after they had seen the infant, Jesus.  They shared with others the messages of the angels (v. 17).  They “glorified and praised God” for all they had experienced. (v. 20)  The birth of Jesus wasn’t just some nice event of the past to be remembered once in a while, or forgotten all together.  The lives of these shepherds were changed forever by the gift of God’s Son, Jesus.


As the shepherds were surprised by the Christmas love of God, the members of St. John likewise received a Christmas surprise on Christmas Eve.  I went to the post office that day saying aloud, “I hope I don’t have one of those yellow slips!”  I didn’t want to stand in the Christmas package line.  I didn’t have one yellow slip; I had 5!  And all the boxes were gifts from God’s people outside to bring God’s love to people in the valley.  But, perhaps most surprising was a small box from former St. John members, David and Cathy Grosz, and the members of their Washington congregation, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Rochester.  Please read with me the letter sent by Cathy Grosz with this box.


December 19, 2018


Dear Pastor Jonathan,

            After hearing about the November 30th earthquake, and the personal stories from you and others, our hearts were stirred to reach out to the members of St. John’s Church.  David and I met with Pastor Lauren Macan-Wightman of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church to determine what our congregation could do to extend Christ-like care to the members of St. John, suffering from the earthquake.

            Pastor Lauren wrote a message in the church’s weekly newsletter, and then made an announcement at Sunday service, inviting folks to respond in two ways.  These were: 1) to write cards of encouragement, and 2) donate $25.00 Fred Meyer gift cards.  We knew most folks of St. John’s could easily access Fred Meyer stores in the valley.

            The response of this small congregation was overwhelming.  It is a rural congregation of mainly older members, many retired.  Their hearts were stirred by the despair experienced by the earthquake.  They reacted with a spirit of generosity.

            Enclosed you will find 36 $25.00 Fred Meyer gift cards ($900 worth) and 54 cards of encouragement.  Pastor Rockey, please disperse these to members of St. John that could use these gifts and cards, especially the elderly folks.  Just tell them that the congregation of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, in Rochester, Washington, cares about them.  They have prayed for your recovery following this disaster.

            The congregation would be pleased to receive any pictures and stories from St. John as an encouragement.

            In Service to God and love for His people,

            David and Cathy Grosz


We can see that the lives of the people of St. Mark Lutheran Church have also been changed forever by the birth, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.  The message of Christmas is a message of sacrificial, giving love.  The people of St. Mark responded to God’s love in Jesus, not because it was Christmas time, but because the earthquake hit Alaska, and because God loved them in the gift of His Son.


I pray that the good news of the Christmas angel, that the joy and the peace, the goodwill and the love of God has changed your life forever.  I pray that you too may respond to God’s gift of Jesus by giving of yourselves for others throughout the year.


A Child of God, Surprised Again by the Gift of God’s Love,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Please remember Ethan’s Commissioning and Installation Service will be held at St. John Sunday night, December 30, at 6:00 p.m.  There will be a “finger food reception” after the service.  (Ethan’s family will also be here for the service.)  Please sign up to indicate you will be attending.


P. P.S.  Here is some information about St. Mark Lutheran

·       I am including a link with 3 pictures.  One of those pictures is of some of the members of St. Mark.  In addition to the Grosz family, some of you may recognize Pastor Elvin Borg and his wife Alice.  Pastor Borg at one time was captain of the LAMP Boat MV Christian and did mission work in Alaska.


·       For those who are wondering and were not in worship, I gave out cards of encouragement and Fred Meyer gift cards in worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I asked everyone 70 years and older to raise their hands, and I had children in grades 4-8 hand out the cards and gifts.  Most in Palmer did not have devastating earthquake damage.  But, it seems everyone had to clean up.  Everyone had some loss.  So at Christmas we shared God’s love from the members of St. Mark with the members of St. John, especially our elderly members.


·       For those who would like to respond with letters of thanks to David and Cathy, or to the people of St. Mark, the addresses are below.

                        David and Cathy Grosz

                        18214 Wild Violet Lane SW

                        Rochester, WA  98579


                        St. Mark Lutheran Church

                        10000 Hwy 12 SW

                        Rochester, WA 98579



P.P.P.S.  MUCH has happened in the past week at St. John as we observed Advent and Christmas.  I’ll again share pictures from some of the many “Christmas Activities” of the past week.

·       Here are a few pictures from the December 19th Advent Meal.  We weren’t sure we would have a main dish.  We ended up with 9 families offering to help with this meal.


·       Here are some pictures from this year’s Confirmation Christmas Stockings Project.  We made stockings December 12 and 19.  They were delivered to My House (homeless teen ministry) on December 21.


P.P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from the Alaska Rockey family Christmas.


P.P.P.P.P.S.  No fishing this past week on Christmas Eve.




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 19, 2018

The People Walking in Darkness Have Seen a Great Light

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


We in Alaska are now in the darkest season of the year.  This time, around the winter solstice, a person can leave for work in the dark and return home without sunlight as well.  I find this darkness has an affect on my life.  Physically, I think I understand hibernation; it is easier to pull the covers back when my eyes open and there are still stars in the sky.  Emotionally, there are times of longing for the light.  So, I find it easier to become down or discouraged by little things.  And big problems can just seem bigger.  Personally, that is one of the reasons I spend my days off ice fishing in the winter.  It gets me outside into the light.  (I’m not sure what my excuse is for fishing in the summer when there is so much light.)  Darkness, physical darkness, affects the life of Alaskans and those living in the northern latitudes.


I confess to finding darkness recently in a meeting of local Lutheran pastors.  We meet monthly for communication and support.  When we gathered in December we had a special guest, Rev. Dr. John Nunes, the President of Concordia University, Bronxville, NY.  As we discussed ministry and issues, President Nunes pointed out that, “Our students have never really known a world without terrorism.  The majority of our students have no memory of the 911 events.”  He went on to say how this dark issue of terrorism, and all it implies, is one that affects the lives of students at this Lutheran college. 


Another pastor, younger than I, talked about living with the threat of nuclear war in his days of youth.  He confessed that he firmly expected all out conflict between communist and western powers.  This dark expectation of horrible destruction colored his attitudes about life.


Still another pastor shared experiences he has encountered with young people, specifically high school students.  He said that, for many, their world is dark.  They are angry with the world which they have inherited, and its issues and problems.  Places these students visit on the internet often speak of war, and death, and sex.  He said he has found that death is a common topic of conversation.


As we gathered, these church workers also spoke of issues that our denomination faces, actually issues that all Christian churches face in today’s world.  There are a lot of questions, but there seem to be few answers that give the outcomes we might desire.  And, there were many medical issues of great concern that we discussed and then prayed over.


What a BLESSING that during dark times we have good news that God has acted to bring light and love and life to our world of darkness.  Listen again to the words of Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. 


2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. . . 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.


The people to whom Isaiah was writing faced national conquest, defeat, ill-treatment, and deportation.  The northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the historically cruel forces Assyria.  The southern kingdom of Judah was facing a coming, similar threat from Babylon.  The nations would be torn apart and places of worship destroyed.  Yet, the darkness faced by God’s chosen people was not only because of outside threats.  Their own rebellion against God, an internal, personal failure, was the greater issue that led to their suffering.  Times were dark, and looked to only become darker.


But, for this land of darkness, God sent “a great light.”  Isaiah announces it in this way.  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”  That child promised is the Son of God Himself, born of Mary.  That child is Jesus the Savior of the world.  Jesus did not come because the people of Israel had earned God’s love.  Jesus came because, in their darkness, Israel needed God’s love and forgiveness and life.  Jesus comes into our dark world today as the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Jesus comes to a dark world of destruction and sin, of illness and death and brings light because 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  Jesus brings such light to a dark world when by faith, people receive the love of God, and receive forgiveness of their sins, and receive eternal life in heaven as God’s ultimate reality that obliterates the darkness of this sinful world.


There is a reason that Alaskans shoot off their fireworks in the winter rather than in the summer.  It is hard to see the fireworks in the light of summer, but during this dark time the light of the fireworks really shines.  Similarly, if you travel around to many neighborhoods you will find many displays of Christmas lights.  When the leaves are gone and the sky is dark, these colorful lights bring some beauty and hope to our dark world. 


I pray that in whatever darkness you find in your world, the Great Light, Jesus, God’s Son and the Savior of the world, brings the light of God’s love and life to you and your loved ones this Christmas.


A Child of God, Thankful that, “The People Walking in Darkness have seen a GREAT LIGHT,”

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  I’ll again share pictures from some of the many “Christmas Activities” of the past week.

·       Here are a few pictures from Last Week’s Advent Meal.


·       Here are some pictures from this year’s Confirmation Christmas Stockings Project.


P.P.S.  I did go ice fishing on Monday.  Here are pictures from that trip.


P.P.P.S.  Please remember Ethan’s Commissioning and Installation Service will be held at St. John Sunday night, December 30, at 6:00 p.m.  There will be a “finger food reception” after the service.  (Ethan’s family will also be here for the service.)  Please sign up to indicate you will be attending.




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.