Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Learning that God Grows Faith Through Individual Relationships of Love

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


My wife recently told me that she has an idea for me as pastor.  Now, Kathy has had a number of ideas for me over the years.  Actually, they are usually pretty good ideas.  But, and this is a big “but”, Kathy’s ideas usually lead to quite a bit of work.  Kathy once shared with me, “We have such a good time at our congregational picnics, we ought to invite our neighbors.”  Now look at our Colony Days Picnic!  I like to tell Kathy that she has the ideas, and I get the work.  However, I also believe in what Psalm 100 says about “serving the Lord with gladness.”  So, I’ll share my wife’s new idea with you.


Kathy’s idea came from a conversation with our daughter, Mary.  Mary recently commented to Kathy how I used to bring her, and my other children, with me on shut in calls.  Mary related to Kathy how much she and Tim learned on these visits.  For one thing, Mary says they learned to behave.  According to Mary I taught my children to politely greet the folks we were visiting.  In addition, while I was talking with our elderly members, my children had to be quiet so I could talk with the adults.  Mary says that she and Tim had to find constructive ways to keep themselves occupied.  According to Mary, this also helped her, and helped Tim, to learn to relate to adults, even as a child. So, Mary learned a lot about faith and life on shut in calls with dad.


Actually, I also remember such shut in visits with my older children.  One lady I visited in a nursing home in St. Louis was failing and had not spoken to me in months . . . until I brought my infant son, Joshua, along.  Then she had all sorts of questions.  I also used to lead worship at a nursing home in St. Louis and would hold either Josh or Andrew in my arms as I led worship.  One day, however, I didn’t bring them with me.  I did not just hear disappointment.  I heard complaints about me not bringing my children!  (I even remember bringing Josh with me to jail in St. Louis, and bringing Mary on a prison visit in Jacksonville. I guess they got quite an education!)


So, Kathy’s idea is that I should take each of my confirmation students with me, one at a time, when I visit our elderly shut in members.  Or I could also take the students with me when I visit people in the hospital.  My normal plan is to visit members in the afternoons, 1-3 days a week.  Sometimes visits don’t happen when other demands take my time.  But, this is one of the parts of being a pastor that I truly enjoy.  It is a blessing to spend one on one time with someone, talking about life’s blessings and challenges, and considering the help and the grace of God for our lives.


Kathy thinks that since my children learned such valuable lessons, at least according to Mary and Tim, my students could also learn some of the same lessons from visiting elderly Christians who have trouble getting around in old age.  I do believe Kathy is right.  But, she has asked me at times to slow down, and then she comes up with ideas for more work!  Nevertheless, I believe this truly IS a good idea.


I know I am rambling.  However, there are two lessons I learned from this conversation.  First of all, faith is best taught, and discipleship is best grown, not in classrooms but in relationships.  Consider those Jesus discipled.  16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  (Mark 3:16-19)  While Jesus came to save the world, he spent most of His time with these twelve individuals.  These disciples then spread the good news of Jesus to others, who spread it to others, etc.


Secondly, love is the exercise of our faith that best grows a disciple.  The night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Jesus showed His love for us by dying on the cross to forgive us and to save us.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love does listen, does forgive, and does protect. These behaviors are easy to talk about, but difficult to do well.  Therefore, we need the undeserved forgiveness and love of Jesus so that we can show His love to others.  You see, faith grows when God’s people reach out in love.


Taking Confirmation Students on a visit to my shut in members might just give these students an opportunity to learn and to experience the faith of another Christian in a one on one relationship which shows love.  I do believe this practice of taking students with me on shut in visits will indeed grow faith.  And growing faith in students is the goal of confirmation.


Kathy had the good idea.  Now, I get to figure out how to make it happen.  But, I do love my elderly members, and I do love our middle school students.  With God’s help we’ll figure something out.


A Child of God, Learning that God Grows Faith through Individual Relationships of Love,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Family Camp!  I am told by DCE Intern, Ethan Mirly, that during this past weekend of camping, about 75 people attended Family Camp, even though not everyone stayed the whole time.  THANK YOU to all who helped plan this family event!  I hope to have some pictures of family camp in some future e-mails.


P.P.S.  I took Ethan’s family fishing on Monday, June 25.  With king fishing shut down we went to Long Lake on the Glenn Highway.  However, it was cold and windy, and some rain drops added to the fun.  Nevertheless, here is a picture of the result of  fishing with the Mirly’s.


P.P.P.S.  The Northwest District Convention was held in Portland, June 21-23.  Dave Nufer, Kathy Rockey, Michael Moore, and Pastor Rockey attended for St. John.  Here is a picture of Pastor Jake Dickerhoff and his lay delegate, Tracy Mears (Tracy’s mom, Sharon, attends St. John.)





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, June 20, 2018

Thankful for Unity and Cooperation Instead of Division

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


This past week I wrote “thank you notes” following our 12th Annual St. John Colony Day’s Picnic.  You may know that we estimate that we fed a free picnic lunch to about 1450 people again this year.  The lunch, held on June 9 after the Colony Days Parade, consisted of a hamburger or hot dog, potato salad, beans, slaw, chips, and ice cream!  This picnic is a big event that takes a lot of planning and volunteer labor.  There is also some cost involved in feeding this many people.  If the job of offering this picnic fell to just one person, or if just a few people handled this responsibility, the task would be overwhelming and unmanageable.  But, when many chip in, then St. John and the members of our community are able to join hands and serve the people of Palmer.  


So, I wrote “thank you notes” to the committee that planned the picnic and the parade entry.  These notes went out by e-mail to the thirteen members of our Evangelism and Fellowship Boards, as well as to the 6 others who voluntarily and regularly attended planning meetings.  Thank you Picnic and Parade Committee members!


I sent 50 “thank you messages” to people who provided food or helped serve.  I first sent messages to those who signed up to bring food, to set up and take down, and to those who volunteered to serve.  In addition, I looked at pictures of those who marched in the parade and I looked at pictures of those who helped at the picnic and then sent messages to thank them as well.  Please know that in some cases I sent one “thank you” to a whole family who volunteered.  But, we thanked 50 people or families at St. John who helped in one way or another.  Some of these committed volunteers showed up on Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. and did not leave until 4:00 p.m. that afternoon!  Thank you, volunteers!


I also sent thank you letters to the 16 businesses and organizations who donated so that St. John can offer the picnic.  The cost of parade decorations and candy was $350.00 this year.  The picnic supplies cost $2046.68, for a total cost of  $2396.68.  (My wife, Kathy, commented that we fed 1450 people for less than $1.50 each!)  However, local businesses and organizations made cash donations and in-kind donations for the picnic and parade entry.  These donations totaled $2370.00!  An anonymous individual who knew that figure then wrote a check for $26.68 so that this event broke even!  Along with the thank you letters, I also sent pictures of people eating and enjoying themselves at the picnic in order to show those who donated how their money and donations were used to serve the people of Palmer.  Thank you Palmer Community!!


I am thankful for the people of God at St. John who worked together on this event.  In 1 Corinthians 12 God inspired Paul to describe His church as a body, where each part has a different job or function, but they all work together.  Paul summarizes this section of Scripture by saying of God’s church, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  (1 Corinthians 12:27) Personally, I get tired of seeing people disagree and fight so much in our culture today.  Partisan politics, and even divisions in churches, cause people to work against one another.  What a blessing to see so many of God’s people working diligently on a single task.  I believe over 100 people at St. John were actively involved in one way or another.  Thank you, Lord!


However, in our divided time, it is perhaps even more amazing to see so much community support and unity in one event.  Members of the Picnic and Parade Committee did solicit donations from the local community.  But, a number of businesses actually came to us and asked if we needed help for this effort.  In Psalm 133 the King David writes, How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”  I understand and appreciate the sentiments of David.


It is important for God’s people to know that, while God primarily sent Jesus to save the world, Jesus also brings God’s blessings to our lives in this world.  By Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection, through Jesus’ forgiveness and love and the sure hope of eternal life, the sins and barriers that divide us have been overcome and broken down.  Or, as Paul also writes, “13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,”  (Ephesians 2:12-14)  On the Saturday of Colony Days I believe I saw barriers broken down and “brothers living in unity!”


As we watch the news, as we peruse social media, and even as we talk with friends, we hear much disagreement and division.  I personally hear shouting and even hate from people who have differing opinions from one another.  What a blessing to see such unity in this large and diverse Group!  Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you are our Peace!


A Child of God, Thankful for Unity and Cooperation, Instead of Division!

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  I have included a list below of those businesses and organizations who have supported the picnic with donations this year.


P.P.S.  If you did not receive a “thank-you e-mail”, I’m not sure that everyone got the e-mail messages I sent.  The spam blocker that MTA now uses indicated it stopped the sending of many of my messages.  These messages did include a link to pictures.  I was told that including that link may have caused the messages to be rejected for sending.


P.P.P.S.  I thought about it, but I did not go fishing this past Monday.  On a day of wind and rain, I stayed home and played “Mr. Fix-it!”





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, June 13, 2018

Thankful for my "Dad", Especially Thankful for my HEAVENLY Father1"

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


During the Memorial Day weekend our 6 grandchildren spent the night at our home.  It was a noisy time of family fun.  That Sunday, May 27, our grandson Jake hurt his ankle playing with the others in the sprinkler when he slipped and fell.  For quite a while Jake limped around. In fact, Jake limped Sunday afternoon and even on Monday.  I had trouble believing a little slip caused such on-going pain, so I encouraged him to stop limping.  Yet, when Jake’s mom and dad took him to the doctor, after an examination and an x-ray, the doctor put Jake’s ankle in a cast and is treating him for a broken bone. Boy, do I feel like a bad grandpa!


That’s not the first time I have had trouble believing one of my offspring was feeling badly.  When Andy was about 5, and playing with Josh on the same T-Ball team, he claimed he did not feel well didn’t want to play one day.  I thought Andy was making excuses, so I encouraged him to “be tough” and play.  But Andy kept saying he felt sick.  I finally relented and drove Andy home.  In the car, on the way home, Andy threw up in the back seat.  I realized my lack of compassion for my son.  I felt guilty, without understanding, like I wasn’t the best dad.


Overall I think of myself as a good father.  I have come to believe from Scripture that the first job of parents is to teach their children about their Lord.  I have sought to teach my children about Jesus, with my words, and even more with my life.  But, there are still many examples of my failure.  My children have a list of times that “Dad” acted in ways that are less than stellar.  They now remember and remind me of my failures and inconsistencies as they tease me.


I believe that fathers are also to love and care for their children.  Kathy and I have made many decisions in life that were specifically intended so that we could be good parents to our children.  These decisions extend from decisions about our work and our jobs, to what kind of gifts we gave at Christmas and birthdays.  Kathy and I did not always agree about what was the best way to parent our children as Christian children.  But, when we disagreed we discussed our differing opinions as to what was the best way to parent.  We decided how we would act and, as much as possible, we did so accordingly.  Nevertheless, there were many times we felt we had made mistakes as parents.

There is one Father, however, who is always wise, always loving, and always compassionate, who always does what is best for His children, even if His children do not always appreciate His love.  Listen to these words about our heavenly Father from Psalm 103.  8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”  (Psalm 103:8-14)  What a blessing to have the Almighty Creator of all as our loving heavenly Father! 


Jesus points out in the New Testament that, even though earthly parents try to love their children, our heavenly Father loves us even more wisely and fully.  Listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 from the Sermon on the Mount.  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!”  (Matthew 7:9-11) God gives good in response to the requests of His children.


Yet, the most loving act of our heavenly Father is that He sent Jesus to save us.  We are God’s created children.  Jesus is the “one and only” Son of God, or as more directly translated from the original Greek in the King James Version, the “only-begotten Son” of God.  Imagine, the heavenly Father sent His “one and only” Son to save His “created children,” to save you and me!  16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16-17)


America observes Fathers’ Day this Sunday.  In many places of worship we will give God thanks for our earthly fathers.  I know my own father is God’s gift who has helped me begin my life in faith, and has helped me to grow in my understanding of God’s gracious love in Jesus.  Thank you, Dad!  But, we can especially be thankful for our all-loving, all-compassionate, all-sacrificing, and all-wise heavenly Father.  When our earthly fathers fail, as we all do in this sinful world, we can be sure of the eternal, saving love of God our heavenly Father.


A Child of God, Thankful for my dad, and especially for my Heavenly Father!

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Colony Days events at St. John went especially well this year.  The weather was great!  Our parade entry was one of our best.  The food lasted, and one of our largest groups ever was fed without long waits.  (We figure we fed about 1450 people!)  The youth had a good Rummage Sale.  I sent out “Thank You E-mails” to 50 people, and I’m sure I should have sent more.  THANK YOU to all who gave of their time and efforts!


·         Here are some pictures from the St. John Colony Days Parade entry.

·         Here are some pictures from the St. John 2018 Youth Colony Days Rummage Sale -

·         Here are some pictures from the St. John Lutheran 2018 Colony Days Picnic -

·         Here are pictures of the Palmer Kiwanis Moose Poop Palooza” fund raiser -


P.P.S.  I took Ethan Mirly and Galen Swigart fishing on Monday.  We did not have any bites.  But, at least this week we saw other people get bites.  Here are a couple of pictures.






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, June 6, 2018

Listening for My Loving Lord to Give Me Direction for My Life

Dear Members and Friends of St. John, 


Recently I visited one of our members in an assisted living home.  This member is somewhat feeble, which is why they are cared for in the home.  So, when I talk with this person I need to pay special attention to what they say.  I turn off the TV, which is usually on at a high volume.  I sit in front of them and look them in the eye.  I make sure to listen carefully.  And, when I speak I try to make sure they understand.  They may have trouble speaking at times.  But, my wife says I don’t hear as well as I once did either.  I give special attention to listening to this elderly member.


So, how do you listen for God?  Do you have trouble hearing God speak to you?  Do you wish the Lord would tell you which job to take?  Do you wish God would guide you in your relationships with others?  Do you wish God would help you with spending decisions?  Do you yearn for God to help you set your priorities?  How do you listen for God? 


You should know that often God speaks softly.  But, when we listen, and when we hear our Lord’s voice, His voice brings peace and joy and strength.  God’s voice brings love and life!


There is a famous account of the prophet Elijah found in the book of 1 Kings.  (You might want to read 1 Kings 17-19) God had directed Elijah to speak His word to the king of Israel, Ahab, and to Ahab’s wife, Jezebel.  Ahab had followed Jezebel’s lead in worshiping false gods, and Ahab had then led the nation of Israel into idolatry.  So, God arranged a showdown on Mt. Carmel between Elijah and the false prophets.  The Lord showed himself to be true God, and Ahab executed over 400 priests of the false god.  Queen Jezebel was furious and swore to kill Elijah.  In fear, Elijah ran south to Mt. Horeb.  But, worse than fear, Elijah became horribly depressed.  After all, Elijah had done the Lord’s work, and now his life was in danger.  Elijah whined to God that he wanted to die.  But, the Lord appeared to Elijah to strengthen him and give Elijah direction.  Listen to how God spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13,


11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"


Sometimes God is difficult to hear, even for a great prophet like Elijah.  The Bible describes the voice of God as “a gentle whisper,” or as the King James Version translated this phrase, “a still small voice.”  When God speaks we need to listen.  We need to pay attention in order to hear God’s voice in our lives.


When I listen for God there are two truths that I know.  First, I don’t always understand everything about God, or about His ways.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says, 8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  I actually find comfort in knowing I cannot personally understand everything!  So, I lean in trust on my Lord and His love and His wisdom, knowing that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine.


Second, I know where to go to listen.  Jesus prayed for His disciples because of the trials they would face in serving Him.  In the prayer Jesus prayed the night he was betrayed, these words are recorded as Jesus asked His father to care for His followers, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)  God speaks to us in His Word.  So, we find God’s truth in Scripture.  But, God speaks to us even more plainly in another messenger.  Jesus told His disciples, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  God speaks to us through the righteous life of Jesus, and through His love and sacrificial death.


So, if God is hard to hear, but I need His direction for my life, where do I go to listen?  Personally, I begin each day in devotional Bible reading and in prayer.  I am alone with God during this time.  I underline what I read.  Even though I have read the Bible many times, each day I read I learn something new.   I see God’s love in a new way.  I learn more about Jesus.  And, when God answers my prayers, His answers teach me about our Lord and His life.


Do you wish God would speak to you?  Are you listening carefully and paying attention as He speaks through His Word, through His Son, Jesus?


A Child of God, Listening for My Loving Lord to Give Me Direction for my Life,

Pastor Jonathan          


P.S.  Here are some pictures from “Garden Planting Day at St. John on June 3. The sunflowers grew from seeds planted at the Easter Festival.


P.P.S.  In my weekly e-mail last week I said I would send pictures of garden planting day at our house, and then I did not send them.  (I wrote my e-mail in the car on the way to the Alaska Church Workers’ Conference and had trouble seeing the screen. ) 

Here are some pictures from “Garden Planting Day 2018 at the Rockey house with grandchildren.


P.P.P.S.  If you read my e-mail about my dog, Mat, here are a couple of pictures of Mat over the last year.  We have now taken EXTRA steps to keep Mat at home.  He will visit the vet on Thursday!

·       Fishing with Mat in May

·       Ice Fishing with Mat in March

·       St. John Shane Woods Ice fishing Outing

·       New dog, Matanuska, in July 2017 -


P.P.P.P.S  The last day of the Alaska Church Workers’ Conference 15 folks went halibut fishing.  Here are some pictures.







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.