Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
In recent weeks my daily devotions have been leading me through the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was written as Jerusalem was being destroyed by the Babylonian army around 587 B.C. As Jeremiah was inspired to write his book, the people of Judah who weren’t killed were being taken into exile to the land of Babylon. It was one of the darkest times for God’s Jewish people. Jeremiah is not my favorite book to read.
Much of what God inspires Jeremiah to prophesy is a call to repentance. The people of Jeremiah’s time were constantly breaking God’s laws in regard to justice, in regard to sexual purity, and especially in regard to idolatry. Time and again God’s chosen people are called to turn away from worshiping idols that were not truly gods. They were called to turn back to worship of the only true God. Nevertheless, time and again the people of Judah, as all Israel before them, gave in to their temptations and their sinful desires, and damaged their relationship with God. God called His people to sorrow for their sin. He called for a new heart that would turn from sinful behavior and show itself in faithful behavior. But the people of Jeremiah’s day failed. They did not want to repent or to change.
As the horror of last week’s school shooting in Florida sinks in, a new set of behaviors rears its head. As I watch the fallout from this tragic act of evil, it seems everyone is seeking for someone else to blame for the tragedy. In the news I have heard blame placed on law enforcement, on the nation’s laws, on families, on school policies. But, while I have heard people blame others, I haven’t heard one voice of repentance, of someone admitting their own part in this societal problem that has led to so many school shootings. I have not heard a willingness of anyone to change themselves for the good of all. No one wants to repent.
This weekend the Confirmation classes and families will go on a retreat to Victory Bible Camp. We will focus on God’s call to live holy lives, lives that are set apart for God and different from the ways of the world around us. What we will find is that we have failed in this calling and need new hearts and new lives.
The words of Psalm 139 reflect an attitude that could help people of all times, especially in their relationship with God. The last two verse of this Psalm read, “23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NKJV) In this Psalm David is asking God’s help to do what the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time did not seem to want to do. David asks God’s help to do what most in America seem to shy away from. David asks God to help him see his own sins. David is praying that God would lead him to change his own life to “the way of life everlasting.”
The real God-inspired wisdom of David in this verse is that, instead of trusting himself, instead of trusting his heart, his feelings, his thoughts, David looks to God for guidance. David knows that his own heart and mind are damaged by his own sinfulness. But God does know our hearts. And, David knows that God desires eternal life for David and for all people.
In the New Testament God tells us that the way to life everlasting is found in a life of faith in Jesus. Paul writes about new life in 2 Corinthians 5. “15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. . . 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17)
How do we turn from selfish living for ourselves, to life that is lived for God? When we see the loving sacrifice of God, that Christ Himself died for sinners like us, then we want to live, not for ourselves, but FOR HIM. When we are in Christ, God makes us new. He cleanses us by forgiving our sins. He gives us new hearts to love him because He loved us. We can admit our own failings because we are forgiven. We can live for God, loving Him because He loved us.
Such new life of repentance and faith is not a one-time decision. All we need to do is look at the book of Jeremiah. Time and again the people tried and failed to live as God called them to live. We can also look at how people in our own country respond to tragic evil, and consider our own part in that problem. The same problems seem to keep happening. But, thankfully, the love of God continues to call us to repent and believe in God’s love for us in Jesus. The love of God in Jesus continues to forgive the sins of those who turn to Him in faith. The love of God continues to work to change our hearts.
I pray for my country on a regular basis, not so much for prosperity, as for hearts that repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors and turn to God. I pray for my fellow Christians daily, not so much for healing of their bodies, though I do pray for healing. But more so, I pray for a faith in Jesus that gives new life. “ . . .if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” May God work this new life in each of us.
A Child of God, Seeking a Life of Continual Repentance and Faith in Jesus,
P.S. Here are some pictures from our Ash Wednesday Fellowship meal served by the Carlsons, the Christiansens, and the Martins. https://photos.app.goo.gl/9UJDpyxouCQxO8Bd2
P.P.S. I went fishing with granddaughter, Annabelle, and St. John member and friend, Kymberly Miller on Monday. Here are some pictures. https://photos.app.goo.gl/LsONap70UMOhWFNS2
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.
ST. JOHN ACTIVITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES
MID WEEK LENTEN WORSHIP CONTINUES each Wednesday in Lent, including this Wednesday, February 21, at 6:30 p.m. We continue with services under the theme, “Conventional Wisdom vs. God’s Wisdom.” This week our sermon is entitled, “God’s Wisdom Concerning Prayer.”
Come and prepare your hearts for Easter with our Mid-Week Lenten series listed below..
Lent 1 - God’s Wisdom Concerning Glory Palm Sunday, Upper Room
Lent 2 - God’s Wisdom Concerning Prayer Gethsemane (Not my will but your
will – Does God answer?)
Lent 3 - God’s Wisdom About Forgiveness Judas – Forgiveness Can’t be Real . .
. for me
Lent 4 - God’s Wisdom Concerning Selfishness Peter’s Denial – Take Care of # 1
Lent 5 - God’s Wisdom Concerning Power Pilate – The Government Has the
Lent 6 - God’s Wisdom Concerning Death Ladies at the Tomb – Death is Final
MID –WEEK LENTEN MEALS are served at 5:30 p.m. This week the Berberichs, the Colbergs, and the Knuths will offer a taco bar.
All 6 meals have people who have signed up to serve them. It is possible that the folks serving week 4, March 7, and week 6, March 21, could use another family or two to help them provide and serve the meal. THANK YOU to those who are serving God and their Christian family at St. John by providing these meals.
SUNDAY SCHOOL AND BIBLE CLASSES are offered each Sunday. In addition to regular Sunday School the following Adult Classes will be taught.
· Ethan Mirly will teach a class on February 18 and on March 4. He is looking at current trends in culture and “engagement” by people in the faith of God’s church.
· Ephesianas taught by Hunter Richards will be taught one more Sunday, February 25. Then Hunter will teach a class on “Selected Psalms”
· Dave Nufer will start a new class on March 11.
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 each Sunday. 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.
THE ANNUAL ST. JOHN CONFIRMATION RETREAT is held this weekend, Friday, February 23, to Sunday, February 25. At the current time we expect 20-21 youth and 11-14 adults to attend, with one other family member also attending.
Those attending should be at church, packed (please remember to bring towels), and having eaten, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. We should arrive home around noon on Sunday.
Please keep this retreat in prayer.
A MARRIAGE RETREAT will be held at the Alaska Sunset View Lodge, Friday, March 2 – Sunday March 4. Nine couples have signed up to attend. We have room for 2-5 more couples.
Please keep this retreat in prayer.
OTHER ACTIVITIES SCHEDULED FOR GROWTH, MINISTRY, AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE FUTURE . . .
· March 4-11 - Family Promise families will be at St. John,. Please sign up if you can help serve homeless families.
· Sunday, March 18 - A NEW MEMBER POT-LUCK will be held after late worship.
· March 25 - Jews for Jesus WILL PRESENT “Christ in the Passover” in worship in both worship services.
· March 25 - The Shane Woods Memorial Ice Fishing Outing will be held after late worship.
· March 25 – April 1 - Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, March 25, and concludes with Easter on Sunday, April 1.
o The Passover Meal is Thursday, March 29 at 6:00 p.m.
o Maundy Thursday worship is held on Thursday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. Seventh grade Confirmation Students will receive communion for the first time in this service.
o The St. John Youth will present Good Friday worship at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30.
o The Easter Festival and Easter Egg Hunt will be held at St. John on Saturday, March 31
o Easter Worship is offered on Easter Sunday, April 1, at 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m.
o Easter Breakfast will be offered on April 1 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
· April 8 - Confirmation Day is held at St. John on Sunday, April 8 in the 11:00 a.m. worship service.
Sunday, April 15 - A Congregational Play Outing to the play, “Mary Poppins” at the Glenn Massey theater will happen on, at 2:00 p.m. Cost is $23-25.00. This is a matinee show, chosen so that families may attend. There will be a pot luck at church before the play for those attending.
Our prayers are that these opportunities for worship and fellowship will strengthen God’s family at St. John in faith and love.
AMC VBS TEAM MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY – I got the following e-mail last week from Alaska Mission for Christ Volunteer Coordinator, Jan Bruick. There will be a sign up sheet on the counter in the narthex to see who might be interested in forming a VBS team to one of these southwest villages.
It's been a busy season of emails from team leaders sharing village/community invitations for the return of their AMC team. What a blessing!
In the midst of this process came a phone call from the Catholic Diocese asking AMC to provide seven VBS teams to southwest Alaska--all "new" villages to our ministry. We have had one team from Ft. Collins, CO step up to adopt one of these villages. However, six remain. We also have two southwest villages with Moravian ties looking for teams to return this summer. Eek was served by a team until 2015, and Akiak had a team until this past summer.
Therefore, I am reaching out to you and your congregation to see if you have any resources within your congregation or ties back to a lower 48 congregation who might consider forming a team to serve in these Yup'ik villages this summer.
I am trusting each day that God has a plan for my work in carrying the Gospel message throughout the state. If you can assist me in any way (especially through prayer and sharing this need with your congregation), I thank you!
These are all southwest Alaska villages. The Catholic sister is selecting which order these are fulfilled with a team based on her knowledge of the community:
Chefornak (this village is next on list for adoption)
Emmonak (this village is next on list for adoption)
Tununak (Tooksook Bay may adopt this village, as well. Waiting on team size to come
Moravian Villages to be re-opened to AMC teams are:
Trusting in Him,
Jan Bruick, Servant Event Coordinator
Alaska Mission for Christ
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 firstname.lastname@example.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!!