Friday, March 31, 2017

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant!

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


People who watch politics will tell you that the political climate in our country is getting much more combative, nasty even!  For example, if you have an 8-year memory, just think how we have been through a pendulum of political blaming.  A little over eight years ago the news media talked about how bad a president George W. Bush was . . . in their opinion.  But, as soon as he took office, Barak Obama became the villain.  Now, Donald Trump seems to be ‘public enemy number one’ for many people.  I’m not saying any of these men were perfect.  Neither am I saying that people cannot have political opinions.  However, no matter what a leader does, there are always people who are willing to complain and criticize. People often criticize in personal ways.  This criticism is becoming more and more harsh in our culture.


I use these obvious political examples to tell you that being a leader has never been easy, but leading seems more difficult today than in previous decades.  Consider the decline in respect for teachers, for doctors, for police and other public officials. 


Perhaps surprisingly, even leading God’s people has always had its trials.  Look at Numbers 16 to see just some of the opposition Moses faced as he personally sacrificed to lead the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.  Ponder on what happened to the prophets.  Most telling, consider our Lord Jesus himself.  Time and again, as Jesus was living and dying for others, those same people opposed Him.  Consider the opposition Jesus faced in recent Gospel Lessons from our worship services.  Jesus received criticism when He healed the blind man in John 9. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11, the religious leaders plotted at the end of the chapter to kill Him.  Jesus was also betrayal by one of His own disciples.  Opponents lied about Jesus in order to convict Him unjustly.  Even on the cross, others taunted Jesus as He hung dying to forgive them.  Jesus taught, He served, and He led.  But being a leader also makes a person a target.  Just look at our Lord!


All these sobering truths, however, also lead to a different thought.  When God’s people receive good and faithful leadership, we should offer thanks for those who are willing to take on the burden of leadership.  Jesus describes his leadership, not so much as a commanding of others.  Jesus led others through His life of service.  Listen to Jesus talk about leadership in Matthew 20:25-28.  25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."


Since we have seen leaders who have acted selfishly rather than serving others, and since we have seen leaders who have been unfaithful, what a blessing to have a leader who gives of themselves with the good of others in mind.  Because leadership is a burden of responsibility for others, it is helpful to realize that good leadership is a gift.


I share these thoughts on leadership so that you can join me in thanking our St. John Director of Christian Education, Jamie Walters, for her faithful, Christian, servant leadership.  Jamie came to St. John in 2004 as a DCE intern and continues serving today.  During that time Jamie has touched the lives of many youth and children and other members of St. John.  In addition, Jamie has not only led and served God’s people at St. John, but she has also served faithfully throughout our region and in our Northwest District.


Because of Jamie’s faithful servant leadership she is being recognized with the Lux Christi (Latin for “Light of Christ”) Award this Sunday, April 2, in worship.  You see, others have also realized that Jamie has taken on the difficult mantel of leading through Christian service, even though such service comes with pitfalls.  Because of Jamie’s service, all of us at St. John have been blessed. 


Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25 about 3 men who were challenged to be good stewards or managers of the gifts of their master.  At the end of the parable, the master’s commendation to the faithful servant was, " . . . Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .” (Matthew 25:23) Please join me this Sunday in thanking Jamie for her faithful service in this difficult task of Christian leadership.  Thank you Jamie for leading by faith and by service, and for bringing God’s blessings to us.


A Child of God, Thankful for the Service of Faithful Christian Leaders,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    The 2017 St. John Shane Woods Ice Fishing Outing was held last Sunday, March 26. Here are some pictures of this outing.


P.P.S  Then, . . on Monday I went fishing again to a more remote, farther away lake.  Here was Monday’s catch.   






Friday, March 24, 2017

Thankful for Blessings I did not Expect

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Last year, in March of 2016, our group of Lutheran pastors, educators, and workers, met at Our Redeemer Lutheran in Chugiak for monthly encouragement and growth.  After the meeting we ate at a restaurant in Chugiak.  Following that meal I stood in the parking lot and shared with a couple of fellow pastors some serious struggles that had recently arisen in my life personally.  First, I had been to the doctor and was surprised to find out I had some medical issues that concerned him.  For years my doctor had told me, “You’re boring.”  In 2016 I was no longer boring.  Second, our family had a concern and heartache because we had just been told of trouble for one of our children. 


This year on March 21, 2017, our group met in Chugiak again.  We had a large gathering of workers who worshiped and studied and shared and encouraged.  After the meeting we happened to eat at the same restaurant.  As I stood in that same parking lot I was struck by the grace of God.  Last year I had shared troubling news with fellow pastors.  But, this year, things were different.  The medical issues were significantly improved.  The family concern has been dealt with in faith and in love.  A year after these troubles arose my wife and I are able to see the loving hand of God.


So, as I walked into the March Elders’ meeting on March 23, someone asked, “How are you doing?”  When asked this question we can all just say, “Fine,” or “OK,” and move on.  I told those sitting around the table, “Personally, I’m doing great!  It’s the rest of the world around me that seems to be falling apart.”  The last thing I want to do is give the impression that I am the only one who has things together.  Far from it.  But, from last year’s perspective of troubles, troubles which I was not sure how to handle, to this year’s blessings, I was doing well.  I personally went from unsure, to thankful for the blessings of God.  Yet still, life is full of doubt-causing trials.


Sometimes our personal concerns are such we are not sure what we are going to do.  As a pastor, as a Christian, even as an American citizen, I look around me at the pain, the division, the selfishness and sin, and sometimes I am overwhelmed.  But, my personal blessings gave me a chance to focus on a promise of God, as the trouble in the world around me continues.  Psalm 37 is a Psalm (along with Psalm 73) which asks the questions, “Why do evil people seem to prosper, and the righteous suffer?  How should I, as a child of God, live with this unsettling truth of life in a sinful world?”  God gives many answers to these questions, but one of the most comforting answers is found in Psalm 37:3-5, 3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:


Karl Marx is famous for saying, among other things, that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  This formative writer of communist thinking is sharing his opinion that religion has no truth, but simply makes people feel better.  However, in contrast to this statement of unbelief, I can personally stand in that same parking lot one year later and tangibly see blessings that I know God accomplished, not me.


In this season of Lent, as Christians watch Jesus make His way to the cross, there are often opportunities to empathize with the disciples as their whole world falls apart.  Their friend, their leader, their Savior, is facing injustice, brutality, and a bloody death.  It could seem to them that, “Even God can’t fix this disaster!”  Yet God surprisingly and lovingly uses the suffering and death of His own Son to pay for the failures and sins of the whole world.  And then, in the resurrection which Jesus had told His disciples would come, but they did not believe, Jesus strongly demonstrated the victory of God over all the forces of sin and evil in this life.  4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  The problem is that when we are going through the trials and tragedies of life we can forget, and we often do forget, the power and the love of God.  We forget to trust Him.  We forget to delight in Him.


I have another wonderful recent example of God working His power and love. Confirmation Day is coming soon, on April 9th.   Our 8th grade confirmation students have all written and turned in their essays in which they share their faith in Jesus, and I have sat down with each of them and asked them about what they have written.  A number of these students have chosen to write about their favorite Bible verses.  What surprised me is that these students have not only seen what I hoped they would see in God’s Word, but they have often seen something more, much more.  They have seen and understood the truth of God in ways I had not seen.  To be truthful, sometimes I worry about our students and their faith.  I hope they are not just going through the motions of attending class.  But, the insight and the faith shown by these students in their essays reveals God working in a strong and gracious way in the lives of these 8th graders.  4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.”


As we walk this Lenten journey together, I pray you are blessed to trust the Lord as you face the trials of life, and that you see the power and mercy of God’s loving hand in your life.


A Child of God, Thankful for Blessings I did not Expect,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    Please see the announcement below about a special love offering being received to help Hunter and Elizabeth Richards with their medical expenses for Kaiah’s hospitalization.


P.P.S.  Please remember that THIS SUNDAY, March 26, is our annual Shane Woods Ice Fishing Outing.


P.P.S  On Monday, March 20, I checked out Seventeen Mile Lake for the Shane Woods Ice Fishing outing this Sunday, March 26.  I only caught two fish, including this nice FAT 12” rainbow.  I threw it back, hoping a child catches it this coming Sunday.





Friday, March 17, 2017

"The Mystery of Faith"

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Recently I have had conversations with a number of other pastors, and even pastoral students, about reaching others with the love of Jesus.  These conversations could just be theological and academic discussions.  But, there is a very personal component to these questions as well.  How do I share the love of Jesus with a spouse, or with one of my children?  How do I help a friend see the love of Jesus for their pain?  What words do I use?  How can I help someone I care about come to faith in Jesus and receive His blessings of salvation for this life and for eternity?  Helping someone I love and care about know Jesus’ love - that is personal!


Actually, from years of trying to share Jesus’ love, and from years of studying Scripture, and from years of watching God work, I have come to believe that, while God has answers for our questions, His answers are not always cut and dried.  There is no “magic pill.”


I was telling a “local joke” at our third Lenten worship service on March 15.  It went like this.  “Do you know what Lent is?” I asked.  When no one answered I informed them, “Lent is when the wind blows in Palmer.”  As most of you are probably aware, the wind started blowing on Tuesday, February 28, the day before Ash Wednesday, and the wind was still blowing on Wednesday, March 15.  So, the Palmer winds howled out of the northeast, down the Matanuska River Valley, for 16 days according to my count.  I heard many comments or complaints about the wind.  One friend told me that the longer the wind blew, the more his wife talked about moving to Arizona!


Therefore, it is perhaps a little ironic that on Sunday, March 12, in the middle of the wind, the assigned gospel lesson was from John 3.  Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus and Jesus surprises Nicodemus by stating, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)  Jesus tells Nicodemus that the people of this world need the new life we find by faith in the grace of love of God in Jesus.  But Jesus’ statement also confuses Nicodemus.  He asks Jesus basically the same question that others have asked me about reaching others with faith.  Nicodemus asks Jesus, “How can I find this faith, this new life?”  Nicodemus exact words were, "How can a man be born when he is old? . . , Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"  (John 3:4) How IS faith created in a person’s heart?


Jesus again answers Nicodemus, but not necessarily with an easy answer.  "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:5-8) Jesus answers speaking about . . . the wind.  Jesus is saying that God’s Spirit brings faith.  The working of God’s Spirit is a mystery, like understanding the wind.


Actually, we can understand, somewhat, why the way that people come to faith in Jesus is a mystery.  Every person is different.  We have different personalities, different families, different bodies, different experiences.  Each of us is a unique child of God.  This individual difference is part of this mystery of how faith is created.


But the other side of this mystery is that God works through His Spirit to create faith.  The working of God’s Holy Spirit is beyond the understanding of humans born of the flesh.  Again, if I have a loved one whom I want to know Jesus, there is no pat answer for how to bring faith to that person.  Everyone is unique, and God’s Spirit works in ways we don’t understand.


Nevertheless, Jesus does give us some direction in this reading from Scripture.  He tells Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  In other words, God uses means, or tools of the Spirit, to work in peoples’ lives.  God works through the waters of baptism and by His Spirit to create and strengthen faith. 


We are also told in Romans 10:17, Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.  God also promises to work through His Word to create faith in our hearts.  But, even knowing God’s tools of His Word and the Sacraments, the working of His Spirit is still a mystery.


During the blowing of the winds there was one question on everyone’s lips.  “When will the wind STOP?”  But no one knew the answer.


Do you have a friend or a loved one who need the love of Jesus?  I personally have a list of people for whom I pray.  Remember, each person is a unique child of God.  Not everyone responds in the same way.  Also, remember, God works by His Spirit, through the Word and Sacraments, to bring people to the blessings of His saving love.  But, just as we don’t totally understand the Palmer winds, we don’t always understand the working of God’s Spirit.  So, keep sharing God’s Word and Jesus’ love.  Pray for the person you care about.  Put the results in God’s hands.  Our Heavenly Father loves that person even more than you do.  He sent Jesus!


A Child of God, Praying for others to Know God’s Love,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.    I had planned to take all 6 of my grandchildren fishing on Finger Lake on Monday, March 13.  But the wind was blowing so hard I decided they would not enjoy being blown across the lake.  We didn’t go fishing.  They were disappointed, and so was I.


P.P.S.  Here are pictures again from the surprise moose harvest by our men’s group.  Only this time there are also a few pictures added of the butchering and processing.




Friday, March 10, 2017

Working Together for God - Growing Together in Faith

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


This year our St. John men’s group, we call ourselves Promise Keepers, decided to sign up for the state moose road kill list.  We thought that by signing up we could get some meat and help others in the process.  I delivered the application at the wildlife troopers’ office at the very end of February and asked about the program.  They thanked me for our application.  But, I was also informed that, because of the many applicants, we could not expect to be called for about a year.


Therefore, it was a surprise when I arrived home from Lenten worship and choir practice this past Wednesday, March 8, to receive a call from Joel Larson.  The troopers had called him with an opportunity to harvest a moose on Trunk Road.  This opportunity became quite an experience! First Joel waited for 5 other men from our group to arrive. Then we experienced the help of the Alaska Moose Federation.  Perhaps what we will remember most, however, is the brutal winter wind whipping down the Matanuska River Valley.  Of course, the wind has been blowing for over a week, so maybe we should not have been surprised.  And maybe, because of the wind, it isn’t a surprise that others said “no” to this opportunity and we got called so soon, after being told we could expect to wait a year.


The moose was delivered to the home of one of our members where we skinned and quartered and hung the meat.  We planned to finish the butchering a couple of days later.  All this skinning, and gutting, and standing in the wind, and working as a team began around 9 or 9:30 p.m.  I arrived home between 12:30 and 1:00 a.m.  But, as Joel and I were driving home he said something to me that could seem like just a normal statement of fact.  Yet what Joel said was actually quite profound.  As we were riding home in Joel’s truck he pointed out, “You know there was some pretty good camaraderie tonight.”  Yes, we may have gotten dirty, and bloody, and cold, and stayed up late.  But 6 Christian men worked together for a good purpose.  There was team building, a common purpose, and effort given to serve our Lord and others.  There was good “camaraderie.”


However, this building of Christian relationships does not only happen when 6 men harvest a moose.  Whenever people of God work together to serve the Lord and others, people grow in their relationship with our Lord, and they grow in their relationships with one another. 


For example, the women of St. John have sewn quilts for decades.  Every year they send between 100 and 150 of those quilts around Alaska and around the world to do God’s work.  When the women of St. John sew together to serve the Lord, Christian relationships are built.  When Stephen Ministers meet, and encourage, and pray together so they can support and encourage God’s children in time of trial, Christian relationships are built.  When musicians combine their voices and their instrumental talents in order to lead others in praising our Lord, Christian relationships are built.  When Christian people work together to help homeless families, when God’s children combine their efforts to provide Christian education to our children, when church members work and serve on boards to provide programs and ministry for the people of St. John, Christian relationships are built!  (The only danger in providing this list is that there are so many other ways that people serve God and others that I don’t want to offend anyone by not mentioning them.)


In Ephesians 4 Paul talks about God’s plan for His church. “11 It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Ephesians 4:11-16) 


According to verses 11 and 12, God’s plan is that leaders “prepare God’s people for works of service.”  (The New King James version translates this verse to say, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,”)  According to verse 16, God’s plan is that His people grow in their relationship with Christ “as each part does its work.” When God’s people work together, in response to the saving love of Jesus, relationships with Jesus and with other Christians grow and are built up!


Actually, we all need this kind of growth and building up!  In this self-serving world each of us needs to look outside ourselves and think of something and someone other than ourselves.  We need to serve God and others in order that we might grow.  In this world, where people are so captured by electronic gadgets, we need personal relationships and interaction with other people.  In this world, where we struggle with sin and failure and corruption, we need to grow in the one who died and rose to restore us in our relationship with God.  God’s plan is that, when His people work together, this work doesn’t just build camaraderie, but we grow closer to God and we grow closer to one other Christians.  That is why, as a pastor, I have often suggested that each member of a congregation should take part in at least one extra growth opportunity, and one extra service opportunity.  It is part of God’s plan that we might grow as His children.


How are you working with other Christians to serve our Lord and to grow in “camaraderie,” in your relationship with God and with other children of God?


A Child of God, Thankful for the Camaraderie of a cold, windy, Alaskan winter night,

Pastor Rockey


P.S.  We had quite a number of activities at St. John this past week.



  • Here is one of our youth enjoying a ‘little’  Confirmation snack on Wednesday, March 8.  Snacks are a favorite with our students.


  • Here are pictures from the Lenten Meal on  Wednesday night, March 8.


  • Here are pictures from a surprise moose harvest by our men’s group


P.P.S.  And, here are some pictures of ice fishing with Pastor Tony Schultz and Lutheran Indian Ministries Vicar Rick McCafferty on March 6.  It was windy and cold on that day too.










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 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.