Friday, February 28, 2014

God Searches for Us!

Dear Fellow Children of God,


I was reading an e-mail from Dale Meyer last week.  Dale is president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and he told the story about a husband and wife who were driving in their car when the wife lamented that their marriage didn’t feel as close as it used to feel.  “We used to sit right next to each other when we rode in the car,” she said.  “Now look how far apart we sit.”  The husband was quiet for a second and then said to the wife, “Well, I haven’t moved.”


Dale’s point is that we sometimes feel separated from God, but God has not moved away from us.  You and I know, however, that we do move away from God.  Sometimes we don’t think we have time for Him, for devotions, for prayers, for worship.  Not having time for God we have moved away.  Sometimes we may feel drawn to the riches and possessions of this world instead seeking of the treasures of heaven, treasures of faith and hope and love.  Reaching for this life’s treasures we move away from God.  Sometimes we may feel drawn to a behavior or a desire that we know is disobedient or not serving God.  Whenever we choose these other directions for life we move away from God.


This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.  Lent is a season that reminds us of our separation from God.  But, Lent also reminds us that when we were lost, God came searching for us.


The Gospel of Luke emphasizes God’s search for people who have gotten lost because of their wayward wanderings.  Luke 15 tells about the shepherd who goes searching for the lost sheep.  Jesus is that shepherd and we are the lost lamb.  Luke 15 tells about the woman who cleans and cleans her house searching for a lost coin.  Again, Jesus is the one who does the searching and we are the ones who are lost.  Luke 15 also tells about the lost Son and the loving father who receives his son back home into forgiving arms.  God is that loving Father.


But, perhaps the best statement about how God searches for us is found in Luke 19.  After Jesus’ interaction with the outcast tax collector, Zacchaeus, Jesus told a group gathered at Zacchaeus’ house, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."  God Himself searches out wayward sinners to restore them in forgiveness and love.


When I was seven years old I ran away, not from my heavenly father, but from my earthly father and mother.  I had pushed my younger brother into a mud puddle and I was fearing the consequences of my actions, so I ran away.  My uncle heard that I had run away and knew where I might be.  He looked and found me and brought me back home, where I was received with love and forgiveness.  You know, if I had known my parents would be forgiving, I might not have run away.


During Lent we remember that it is our sin that sent Jesus to the cross, but we also remember that in love God seeks us to forgive us and restore us in our relationship with Him as His beloved child. 


So, this week as you receive the ashes of repentance on Ash Wednesday, remember, God knows our sin and He still loves us.  In fact, in Jesus God comes searching for us.  Doesn’t that make us want to move closer to Him on the front seat of the car of our life?


A Child of God, Thankful that God comes searching for me, and for you,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Here are some pictures from last weekend’s Confirmation Retreat at Victory Bible Camp.






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 always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Let the Children and Youth Come to Jesus

Dear Fellow Children of God,


This weekend I will be at Victory Bible Camp for our yearly confirmation retreat with 20 or more middle school confirmation students and a number of other adult helpers.  This year’s retreat theme is “Growing in Maturity as a Child of God.”  I am sensitive to the fact that I was gone for the first two Sundays of February on vacation and am now gone again the last week of February on this retreat.  I wondered about sending someone else on this retreat, but I also considered how important it is that God’s Church work to encourage and nurture faith in our young people.  Then experiences and requests quickly taught me again about many of our young people who are doing special work to serve God and the members of St. John.


·         Last week I had a request from a lady in California to write a recommendation for a Lutheran scholarship for Quillan Jacobson.  Do you know that for three and a half years now Quillan has served as a Lay Minister in early worship?  Quillan leads many of our different liturgies.  In fact, while I don’t personally chant when leading Divine Service setting 2, Quillan does.  Our early service people are really appreciative of Quillan’s service in our worship.

·         Last week I also visited one of our members who was home recovering from a serious automobile accident.  Denise Larsen is home from the hospital in a special body cast that supports her broken back.  She is doing better but still needs folks there to help her get around safely.  When I visited, do you know who I found spending time with Denise to help her out?  Kaycee Nufer was at home with Denise.  You may know that Kaycee is a high school senior.  Kaycee not only helped Denise, she runs our sound board and video screen at times in late worship.  What a blessing to have Kaycee as part of our congregation!

·         Hunter Richards is a little older, but has now been going to school for almost 7 years in his studies to be a pastor.  He is currently serving an internship or vicarage in North Canton, OH, and will graduate from Concordia Seminary in May, 2015!  During his time at home here in Palmer Hunter also served as a Lay Minister leading worship.  He has also taught Sunday School and Confirmation Classes, and Hunter has visited home bound members of our church and preached in worship.  What a blessing this young man of God is in Jesus’ Church!

·         Brittany Arlow is in her fourth year of college education as she studies to be a Director of Christian Education.  She is currently serving her internship in Plant City, FL.  I hear she is doing such a good job the church there would like her to stay!!  In her years at St. John, Brittany was in the Bell Choir and also helped lead worship as a song leader.

·         Last week Kathy and I were working on taxes and looking at expenses for us and for our children.  We figured out that our son, Tim, had driven to Cooper Landing and Sterling 12 times in the last year to lead worship in those small congregations without a pastor.  Of course, Tim also served as a Lay Minister at St. John.  He sang as a late service song leader, and Tim helped in many skits over the years during Lent and Advent.


These are only some of the young people at St. John who are not just attending worship but putting their faith into practice and blessing the members of our congregation.  This doesn’t even include the other 15 young men who have served as Lay Ministers.  It doesn’t include our acolytes, other high school youth who help lead singing on the second Sunday of each month, or our high school youth who have led the Good Friday service for many years,   Many others have helped present skits over the years, and this year our 8th Grade Confirmation Class will help share God’s Word through skits about the catechism in our mid-week Lenten services.


One of the last classes I took in my doctoral studies at Concordia Seminary was on the Gospel of Matthew.  Our professor let us know that in Jesus’ time children were considered unimportant in comparison with adults.  That is why Jesus’ words about reaching out to children were actually quite radical for His time.  Jesus has much to say about how important children are in God’s kingdom.  Just look at Matthew 18 and 19.  Perhaps you know what Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."


Jesus cares about everyone, but it is obvious that He has special care for our youth and children.  I am thankful to be able to spend a weekend with our middle school students learning about “Growing in Maturity as a Child of God.”


A Child of God, Thankful for the youth and children in our congregation,

Pastor Jonathan



P.S.  Quillan Jacobson and C.J. Jeffers are in the Palmer High School play showing this weekend!  I hear it is really worth seeing.





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 always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.




Saturday, February 15, 2014

Seeking to Love Others Like Jesus Did

Dear Fellow Children of God,


Many of you know that Kathy and I just returned from 2 weeks of vacation in Gainesville, FL.  We visited with family; my dad, my brothers, my sister, and other family live in and near Gainesville.  We took it easy.  We worshiped in the congregation where I was formed in faith in my Junior High and High School years, and beyond.  And . . . we saw some old friends. 


In fact, in visiting with a high school classmate I did something I haven’t done since perhaps 1972.  One of my high school classmates invited me and Kathy to a “Winter Party” where he and his band, the Dixie Desperados, were playing.  His band was actually pretty well known in the area in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and they just released a new CD produced by the same man who produced albums for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  (Tom Petty and a number of other musicians graduated from my high school, Gainesville High.)


I actually enjoyed the “cowboy rock” they played, and Kathy and I enjoyed watching the people.  The only one I knew at the party was my friend from high school.  But, there were quite a few folks our age who grew up with this band.  We even enjoyed meeting the drummer’s parents who were my dad’s age, and who did some western dancing.  But, there were also quite a few folks out for a good time, dressed to impress, and enjoying the drinks served by the bar.  At the beginning I told Kathy, “This is not the crowd I am used to being with.” 


Then I got to thinking.  Jesus would have been comfortable in this setting.  The music was fun.  People were enjoying one another’s company.  The setting was such that people shared openly and enjoyed God’s gift of life. 


The story is told in Luke about Jesus spending time with the local crowd.  The first two verses of Luke 15 read, 1 Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”  Jesus was criticized for spending time with the local folks who weren’t the normal crowd of the religious leaders.  But, it was the religious leaders who didn’t listen to Jesus’ teaching on repentance and faith.  That is why Jesus told 3 parables which share God’s joy at the repentance and faith of those who might be considered sinners. 


These common folks loved hearing Jesus’ teaching on God’s love and forgiveness, and they often more quickly responded to Jesus’ teachings on how children of God are to live.


Please don’t get me wrong.  Jesus did not encourage the people of his day to live sinful lives.  But, Jesus came as the Savior, who died to pay for the sins of the whole world, and who rose to win eternal life.  Jesus loves everyone, and often those who most readily respond to Jesus are those who know they need forgiveness.


I thought to myself, “If this was a crowd where Jesus would have been comfortable, how about me?  Am I willing to welcome any and everyone to the love of God?”  That question caused me to stop.  How about you?


A Child of God, Thankful for Jesus’ love for everyone,

Pastor Jonathan


P.S.  I can share a few pictures of our time in FL at this web site.






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 always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.)  However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.




THANK YOU to those who led worship while I was on vacation.  Thank you to

·         Garry Forrester who led worship on Sunday, February 2.

·         Pastor Allen who led worship on Sunday, February 9.

·         John Glaser who led worship on Wednesday, January 29, and

·         Karl Kopperud who led worship on Wednesday, February 5!


CONFIRMATION RETREAT  -  Confirmation students from grades 6 – 8 will be attending our yearly Confirmation retreat at Victory Bible camp, February 21-23.  This year’s theme is “Growing as a Mature Christian in the Midst of This World’s Temptations.  As a theme verse we will use the description of Jesus’ process of maturing.  In Luke 2:52 we are told, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Our young people will consider growing in maturity in mind, in body, in relationship with God and with others.  Please turn in registrations for your children soon!


GOLF GROUP??  The Palmer Golf Course has a deal where 10 people from a local business or group can buy season passes for a group rate.  Last year I believe it was $400 a person.  We would need 10 people to form such a group at St. John.  If you are interested in participating in this opportunity, please call Pastor Rockey at 841-4066.


WEDDING RETREAT – A Marriage Retreat will be held March 28-30 at the Alaska Sunset Lodge on the Northeast side of Big Lake.  Cost is half the normal price for the lodge, $200.00 a couple for the weekend.  We will have time for recreation, couple time, Bible Study and worship.  If you are interested in attending please see Linda Griese, Lara Stanley, or Kathy Rockey.


WEDNESDAY WORSHIP is held each week at 6:30 p.m. 

The goal for Wednesday worship is to provide an alternate opportunity for those who can’t make Sunday worship, and to provide extra opportunities for time with the Lord and His people for people who nevertheless can attend on Sundays.  The Wednesday services are smaller than Sunday services and the sermons are different from the Sunday service and sermon.  So, if a person wanted to attend worship on Sunday and Wednesday it would not be a repeat.  Come and join your brothers and sisters in worship!


STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT “What is my part in the Body of Christ, especially here at St. John?”









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!!