Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Seeking to Live a Simple Life of Faith in the Powerful Love of God


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

Do the problems we face in this world ever seem overwhelming to you, complex beyond reasonable solution?  How do people, especially God’s people, deal with issues like drug problems in our communities?  How do we face family disintegration and struggles, trade wars, terrorism, and environmental issues? 

 

I recently completed a “Basic Teachings of the Bible Class” again.  In this class we discuss Who God is, what He has done for us, His blessings in our lives, and how He calls us to live.  In the midst of a complex and confusing world, God’s call to Christians is actually quite simple.  He calls us to believe in Him, and to live in faith and love.  But while God’s call to live in His grace may seem simple, it is actually very difficult as we struggle against the enemies of God and His people, the devil, the world, and our flesh.

 

Therefore, God gives His help to His people.  The Lord gives His word, which we receive in regular worship and through personal devotions.  Our Savior promises to work His gifts of love and faith in our lives through our baptisms and in the Lord’s Supper.  God promises to answer our faithful prayers.  However, sometimes these answers from God to the complicated problems of life seem so simple that we dismiss God’s call to Christian living, and even God’s people can doubt His promises to help.

 

So, let me share with you story I heard this past week.  For the last 7 years Mrs. Temple Christiansen has taught seventh grade confirmation classes.  This is a real labor of love, since Temple’s four boys have all finished confirmation classes and are in college, or have graduated from college.  With her classes, Temple has been trusting God’s promises and going to Him in prayer for various concerns.  Please read below as she shares one journey our prayer she and her classes have taken with our Lord.

 

For the last four or five years our 7th Grade Confirmation Class has had a lesson which included discussion on the persecuted church around the world. At some point in those years a certain Pakistani Christian woman’s story was in the news, and I shared it with our class.

The woman’s name is Asia Bibi, a mother of 5 or 6 children. She was arrested, tried, convicted, and condemned to death in Pakistan of blasphemy, because she offered a cup of water to two Muslim women whom she worked with on a farm. The women claimed that instead of a very caring Christian act of recognizing other’s needs and doing what she could to help, that she was attempting to defile them.

Asia was imprisoned for many years, and struggled through multiple appeal attempts with dignitaries and ambassadors and lawyers from the United States and other countries working on her behalf. Prayers were requested through Christian organizations around the world.

A number of our 7th graders in Confirmation at St John Lutheran Church in Palmer, through the years, have prayed for Asia Bibi. At some time this past year, the Lord miraculously moved on the hearts and minds of the Pakistani justices, and Asia Bibi was acquitted by the Supreme Court in Pakistan and set free from the penalty for her alleged blasphemy, which was death.

But, there were such violent protests from Muslim radicals in the country who said if the justice system wouldn’t do it, THEY would kill her, that Asia Bibi had to remain in prison for her safety!

Today, I am so excited to share with you, that just this past week, Asia Bibi was finally able to get out of Pakistan, and is now on her way to, or already in Canada.

Thank you for your prayers, and praise God for his mercy and grace. Please continue to pray that this courageous Christian women will also be able to be reunited with her family soon.

                        Always trusting in Christ,

Mrs. Temple Christiansen

 

Life is complex and can seem overwhelming.  But God gives us a simple call of grace.  Our Heavenly Father loves us in Creation, and in the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  God calls us to believe His love and to live in faith and in love.  God promises to help us through His word and worship, through the sacraments, and through prayer. 

 

While this can seem overly simple, when God’s people answer His call we are not trusting our own faith, or our own worship, or our own prayers.  We trust the One who created us with His spoken Word, who saved us in the gift of His Son, and who calls us each to follow Him.  We trust the One who is more powerful and more wise than all the troubles or complexities of life.

 

I pray that you may face the trials and complications of your life with simple faith and love from God, and that you may see God answer your prayers!

 

A Child of God, Seeking to Live a Simple Faith in the Powerful Love of God,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  Here is a picture from Sunday’s baptisms of Elizabeth Morey (Mom), and her children Zephaniah Horman, Jackson, Tucker, and Wrangell Morey.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ppELYGH4Nzf1fUat9

 

P.P.S.  New Stephen Ministers are commissioned in worship this Sunday.  Here is a picture from Stephen Ministry training last Thursday, May 9.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/7P69zwMw7rd4BiCU9 

 

 

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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.

 

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SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR MINISTRY AND SERVICE THIS WEEK

 

TRUSTEES WORKDAY - A spring workday will be held at St. John, Saturday, May 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The Trustees would greatly appreciate a little of your "Time and Talent" in helping us with the Spring Clean Up of the Church Grounds. This task goes quickly if we get a good turn-out. So bring your rake, shovel, wheel barrow, good attitude and a few good jokes and we'll see you all on Saturday, May 18. J

 

ACOLYTE TRAINING – Acolyte Training will be held at St. John on Saturday morning, May 18, beginning at 10:00 a.m.  (This year there will NOT be a trip to McDonalds, as Pastor Rockey has a memorial event at noon.) 

        Children who are in 2nd grade and older who would like to serve as acolytes in worship are welcome to attend.  There will be snacks at the end.

        You could bring your children and then stay for the workday.  J

 

STEPHEN MINISTRY COMMISSIONING, MAY 19 – Four new Stephen Ministers will be commissioned in worship this Sunday, May 19.  Michelle Bower, Dan and Cynthia Carlson, and Dave Neslund have completed 50 hours of training and will begin serving as confidential, Christ-centered care-givers.

 

SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR MINISTRY AND SERVICE THIS MONTH

 

JUDY IS BACK IN THE OFFICE – PART TIME.  Our administrative assistant, Judy Stahancyk is back in the office part time.  She does still have active cancer, and is on a treatment schedule.  So we have multiple people serving in the office.  Libby Brock (Peter) is in the office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.  Ophie Hart is working on our Shepherd’s Staff data base and helping with administrative duties.

THANK YOU to those who filled in for Judy Stahancyk in the St. John office while she has been battling her cancer.  Thank you, also, to those who continue serving and volunteering.

 

UPDATING THE ST. JOHN DATABASE – For quite a few years, St. John has owned a member data base produced by our church body for the purpose of keeping our congregational records.  However, our “Shepherd’s Staff” database is not up to date at this time.  The Elders and Church Council have hired Ophie Hart to update this data base.  (Libby Brock Peter may also help Ophie.) 

St. John members will have an opportunity to update their information either by filling out forms or through phone calls to get the information.  Church records can actually be used for legal purposes.  Please respond when asked to share this information.

 

ON-GOING OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH, SERVICE, AND FELLOWSHIP

 

WEDNESDAY WORSHIP started again this Wednesday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. 

Wednesday worship is a both a replacement opportunity for worship for those who cannot attend worship on Sundays, and also an additional opportunity for worship for those who would like extra time for worshiping our Lord.  Wednesday worship uses the Bible Readings for the following Sunday, but has a different sermon than Sunday’s sermon.  Communion is also offered the Wednesday before The Lord’s Supper is served on Sundays,  Communion is served the Wednesdays before the 1st and 3rd Sundays.

            Come and join us for worship on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.!

 

SUNDAY SCHOOL FOR THE 2018-2019 SCHOOL YEAR IS FINISHED!  Our last day was May 12.  (There are discussions of a possible summer Sunday School.)

 

·       ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASSES

 

o   Jim Summers is teaching 2 individual classes May 19 and 26.

o   Jim Summers will teach a class on a book of the Bible, possibly a Gospel, beginning June 2.

 

STEWARDSHIP NEWS – MISSION OFFERINGS - As part of our regular budget St. John plans to reach out with the good news of Jesus to the world around us.  Some of that is done through our regular budget.  Last year we sent

·       $6011 to Alaska Mission for Christ.

·       $6011 to the Northwest District, and

·       $3000 to local missions.  Most of that went to Family Promise.  Some went to the St. John Mission trip to Eek.

HOWEVER, we also plan to have various special offerings to give members of the St. John

Family an opportunity to support God’s work in other places.  This year’s schedule is like last years.  However, here is our schedule of MISSION offerings for 2019

·       January – April-          Heartreach Crisis Pregnancy Center baby bottles.  (Thos are on the

counter in the narthex.

·       May                            Alaska Mission for Christ – Eek AMC VBS (May 19 and 26!)

·       June                             St. John Youth National Gathering and Mission Trip

·       July                             Military Bible Sticks

·       August                        Family Promise

·       October                       LWML

·       November                   Canned goods for Thanksgiving Blessing / Christmas shoeboxes

·       December                   Special offering for community ministry at the Community Advent

Service

            The Stewardship Board wanted to inform you ahead of time about these opportunities to spread the love of God in Jesus.  Our hope and plan is that through the regular budgeted offerings, and through the designated special offerings we can be faithful stewards and share the love of Jesus.

 

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.

 

PRAYER CHAIN – St. John has an e-mail prayer chain administered by St. John member, Jacki Rose.  Jacki lives in Anchorage and cannot always get to Palmer on Sundays.  However, she serves God at St. John in this way.  If you want to share and receive prayer requests you can ask Jacki to be part of her distribution list.  E-mail your request to jrose@bluecrestenergy.com.

 

OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

 

BLOOD MOBILE – JUNE 23 The Alaska Blood Bank will have their Blood Mobile present on Sunday, June 23.  They will take donations on that day from Palmer United Protestant – Presbyterian, St. John, and St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, all located beside one another.  Sign up sheets will be available soon.

 

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.  Our tentative dates are July 23-29.  If you are interested please speak to Rod or Temple Christiansen, Marilee Nufer, Sara Guhl, or Pastor Rockey.  (Also going are Aaron Christiansen and Margaret Runser.)

 

AMC VBS VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR OTHER SITES - We are still in need of a couple of volunteers to fill summer teams:

·       Pilot Station: July 20-27.  Consider joining this team of 3 to serve in this southwest Alaska village sharing Jesus through VBS ministry.

·       Chitina: July 15-19. We are in need of 4-5 volunteers to plan a VBS program in this small village located on the road system. 

·       Kenny Lake Basketball Camp: Dates TBD.

Please share these needs with those in your congregation and on your team.  We would really like to see ministry continue in these villages. Above all, please keep these needs in your prayers.

Trusting in Him to provide,

Jan Bruick, Servant Event Coordinator, Alaska Mission for Christ

402.641.9691

 

SEEKING AMC COORDINATOR OF MINISTRY - Alaska Mission for Christ is seeking a visionary LCMS pastor/lay person with a missionary heart to serve as Coordinator of Ministry. This person will, prayerfully, lead Alaska Mission for Christ to make a bold culturally-appropriate witness in Alaska. He/she will work in partnership with local LCMS congregations, full-time missionaries, and a wide LCMS volunteer network. He/she will be responsible for maintaining a Christ-centered atmosphere as he/she leads and equips staff and volunteers. He/she will raise prayer and financial support to help Alaska Mission for Christ work toward making a bold witness for Christ in every community in Alaska. For a complete position description please go to: https://www.alaskamissionforchrist.org/current-needs. If you or someone you know may be interested please contact: Gerry Zellar, Board Chairman at rzellar@mtaonline.net or 907-841-8495

           

JAN BRUICK, Volunteer Coordinator for Alaska Mission for Christ, is coming to Alaska May 27 to facilitate volunteer teams for AMC.  Jan is in need of a vehicle to use for the summer.  If you can help you can tell Gerry or Ruth Zellar, Pastor Rockey, or you can call Jan at (402) 641-9691.

 

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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 judy@stjohnpalmer.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!!

 

 

 

Jonathan Rockey

Child of God

Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather

Senior Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church

907-841-4066 - cell

907-746-5131 - home

907-745-3338 - church

907-746-6117 – fax

 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Called by Name to God's Love in Jesus


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

On Saturday, May 4, my wife, Kathy, and I attended one of the annual rites of spring in Palmer.  We watched 5 grandchildren participate in the opening ceremonies for the Palmer Little League.  I’m not sure how many kids were present, decked out in their uniforms, but there were a lot!  I believe I was told in 2018 that there were about 450 children playing Little League baseball in Palmer.  If there were that many children this year, with parents, grandparents, and siblings also present, then well over 1000 people attended the ceremonies last Saturday.

 

A unique feature of opening day ceremonies for Little League every year is that, as the teams are introduced and take their place on the field, each child who is registered has their name called out over the loud speaker.  Imagine that, calling out 450 or so names!  That is more than a high school graduation in our area.  But, as I have observed Little League baseball in our community, this is all about the children.  The goals of Little League baseball are that children learn teamwork, learn sportsmanship, skills, and the ability to face adversity and to grow and improve as a player and a person.  Those are high ideals. But, the children are important. So, we stood in the crowd as child after child had their name spoken over the loud speaker.  (By the way, I like the Little League Pledge which states, I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose I will always do my best.”)

 

From a happy event of name reading on Saturday, I read about a sad instance of reading names in the Anchorage Daily News from Sunday, May 5.  The paper reported that on Saturday, May 4, in a ceremony sponsored by the Southcentral Foundation at the Alaska Native Heritage Foundation, there was a reading of the names of 191 Alaska Native Women who have gone missing or been murdered.  According to the article, the list of names was 5 pages long.  This reading is intended to foster healing from the grief of loss.  These women are still remembered and missed by families and friends.  Even if these women have gone missing they are still important, every one of them.  So, their names were read aloud in this ceremony on May 4.

 

Then on Tuesday evening I was listening to a sports and music show on Big Cabbage Radio.  (I know the show’s radio host!)  I heard more names read, this time on the radio.  The American Legion baseball team for our community, the Palmer Pioneers, has been chosen for 2019.  The names of all those players chosen for the team were read aloud on the radio.  It is an honor and accomplishment to make a team.  And, a team needs the contributions of each member.  So the names of these players were read aloud on the radio.

 

It has long been a source of comfort and strength for the people of God to know that our Lord knows us personally, even by name.  I often hear the words of Isaiah 49 spoken when talking about God’s personal love.  Isaiah writes, Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)  While this verse is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, it also teaches about God’s personal love for each of us. 

 

All of Psalm 139 shares about God’s personal knowledge and love for His people, but, verses 13 and 14 are most well-known.  13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)  We are not nameless beings walking the planet.  Each of us is individually known and loved by our Creator and Savior. We are known from conception by God Himself.

 

In the New Testament, Peter reminds the dispersed Christians how they have received God’s individual and personal love as they have come to faith and received the blessings of his covenant, His promises, in Jesus.  Listen to 1 Peter 2:9-10.  “9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  Think of that.  To our world we might seem like nobodies.  To God we are His chosen and saved people with a purpose for life!

 

At St. John we have been rejoicing at a concrete way in which God is showing His personal love in our midst.  On March 31 we heard the name of Myra Marie Thomas spoken, as God called her in baptism, as He forgave her sins and gave her the gift of the Holy Spirit, promising His personal love.  On April 14 Freya Ann Kopperud was called as a child of God in baptism.  On Mothers’ Day, May 12, God will keep His promises of personal love for Elizabeth Mary Morey, Zephaniah Alexander Horman, Brooks Jackson Morey, Elias Tucker Morey, and Wrangell Colton Lee Morey.  (By the way, Elizabeth is the mom!) God will also speak His personal love on June 9 for Jessie Ann Ford and for Mallory Ann Ford, and on June 23 for Sadie Rae Psenak.  Do you hear those names?  God knows each of these people personally.  He knows them in mind, body, and soul. Our Lord knows they need a Savior.  So, in baptism they are called by God to His saving love in Jesus. In baptism they die with Jesus as their sins are washed away, and rise with Jesus to new life, as God acts in power and personal love.

 

Do you know God’s personal love from your baptism?  Have your children or grandchildren received God’s personal saving love in their baptisms? 

 

There are so many people in our world, and it can seem that the large numbers tell us we are unimportant and nameless.  But God knows us by name from His powerful creating love.  God calls us by name in our baptisms to His saving love in Jesus.  In God’s eyes we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

 

A Child of God, Called by Name to God’s Love in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan   

 

 

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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.

 

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Thankful that God is Stronger than the Enemies to Faith and Life



Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

Last Saturday, April 26-27, the Alaska Mission for Christ offered a class on church history at St. John.  This history class was open to everyone, though it was specifically a continuing education opportunity for Licensed Deacons and Lay Ministers.  Before studying about the first three hundred years of the history of the Christian Church on Saturday, Friday night prepared us for that study by examining different types of thinking.  Our teacher, Aaron Hayes, talked about “classical thinking” which looks to God’s Word and to God Himself for truth.  We discussed “modern thinking” which looks to scientific observation and explanation for truth.  And, we considered “post-modern” thinking which often states there is no ultimate truth, but that everyone has their own truth.  Interestingly, all styles of thought continue in today’s world, though modern and post-modern thinking seem to predominate in public conversations.

 

Our teacher, Aaron Hayes, made a point about “modern thinking” that caused me, and others, to pause.  Hayes said that a large portion of modern thinkers, those who look to experience and to the interpretation of science for truth, purposely left God out of their models.  They had no place for God in their thinking.  Some of that “leaving God out of our world” has also bled into the post-modern thought patterns.  But, perhaps you know from your own experience this desire by some to eliminate God from our public life.

 

I confess, as a father and grandfather, I am concerned.  As a Christian man, I want my offspring to know about the love and the grace and the life that God gives.  I want my children and my grandchildren to know about God’s love and providing through creation.  I want them to know God’s saving love in Jesus.  I want those I love to know that in His Word, in the Bible, God has given truth that teaches His children about Him, truth which creates saving faith, and guides our lives.  I want my children and grandchildren to know and trust the gifts God shares in Scripture.

 

But, if there is no place in certain areas of life for God, or if God can only have a secondary place, what kind of world am I leaving to my children and my grandchildren?  What if they have to be quiet, or if they have to hide God in their schools, in their places of work, or in their political discussions?  If God is the source of life Who gives wisdom for living, why do we have to keep His wisdom silent?  I know this issue is much more complex even than I am stating, but I confess that it causes me concern as I think of the future of my family.

 

There are many issues in life which seem bigger than we are.  How do God’s children deal with this desire in the world around us to eliminate God from the world He created?  How do we continue, for example, with chronic disease or terminal illness?  How do we face life failures and sins that have hurt others, and have changed our lives?  How do we deal with a world that seems intent on violence and destruction?

 

As I work through my daily devotions I recently read Deuteronomy 20, where the Lord instructs the Israelite people about entering the Promised Land and facing enemies that were stronger than God’s children, at least militarily.  But, listen to what God tells His people about facing enemies stronger than they are.  1 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: "Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."  (Deuteronomy 20:1-4)  God says He is with us, and HE fights for us!

 

As a Christian man in a world that often demands that I leave my Creator and Savior on the sidelines, as a Christian father who sees these thought patterns which seek to steal the faith of my children, as a Christian grandfather who wants to see his children and grandchildren in heaven, God’s words comfort me.  The trends in our world may seek to silence God’s love found in His Son, and may seek at times to diminish my faith in Jesus found in His Word.  But, God is stronger than our enemies, stronger than His enemies.

 

In fact, during this Easter season God’s power over our enemies is more evident than ever.  The forces of Satan and the effect of sin can seem overwhelming.  On our own, our enemies are stronger than we are.  But, guess what?  God’s words to the Israelites are also spoken to us.  For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."  Jesus has gone before us into death, and into eternal life.  Jesus offers that eternal life to all who know and confess their enemies, sin and death, and who trust in Him.  Before His death Jesus used similar words to strengthen and encourage His disciples for their coming crisis.  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)

 

Do you have concern for your family?  Do you worry about the future direction of our country and of our world?  Life is difficult and we are not strong enough on our own to face the attacks that come our way.  But God is stronger and He fights for us.  Therefore, we can even face the impossible battles.  We don’t have to be afraid.  God is with us in this life.  God has won eternal life for us in Jesus dying and rising, in His forgiveness and His salvation.

 

A Child of God, Thankful That God is Stronger than The Enemies of Faith and Life,

Pastor Jonathan   

 
P.S.  Rev. Jake Dickerhoff is pastor of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Anchorage.  His two daughters, Harper and Magnolia Mae, required serious heart surgery in Boston, MA, earlier this winter.  They are home and “Maggie Mae” attended a meeting of Lutheran Church workers in Funny River on Tuesday, April 30.  Here are some pictures.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/YbSpFgdEu7f6xBtk8

 

 

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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.

 

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

He is Risen Indeed!


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

“He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!!” Those words, spoken last Sunday in worship services around the globe, proclaim good news that has changed the world, and that has changed our lives.  Yes, the sin of this world and the sin of our lives has shown itself in hatred, violence, greed, and death. BUT, Jesus died and rose again.  Jesus has paid the price for the sins that cause such pain and trouble in our lives.  Jesus rose again and offers eternal life in heaven to all who believe in Him.  This good news of eternal life is a stark contrast to the death and judgment our sins deserve.  Could there ever be better news than the resurrection of Jesus our Savior?

 

Perhaps you have considered how the grief of Jesus’ followers made them numb to this good news of Jesus rising.  As we read the Bible, it seems the disciples could not see nor believe the reports that Jesus had risen.  Consider that, at the tomb, Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize Jesus.  Jesus had to call Mary by name.  (John 20:1-18) The grief in Mary’s heart had blinded her eyes to the Good News she was actually seeing right before her eyes!

 

When the women returned to the disciples on Easter morning and shared with them the words of the angels that Jesus had risen, we are told of the disciples’ response. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”  (Luke 24:11) The grief of Jesus’ disciples made them unable to see and believe. 

 

On Easter Sunday evening Jesus appeared to His disciples, though Thomas was not with them.  The ten told Thomas about Jesus’ appearance. But, Thomas could not believe Jesus had risen.  Perhaps you’ve heard Thomas’ words.  . . . Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." (John 20:25 ) The pain of Thomas’ grief kept him in the depths of doubt, instead of the joy of faith.

 

I think we can all understand how the loss of a loved one changes our lives.  No wonder grieving spouses are told not to make any important decisions for 6 months after the death of their loved one! No wonder Jesus’ disciples struggled to see and believe.

 

However, can the news ever be too good to believe?  The disciples on the way to Emmaus had been told that Jesus had risen, but when they saw Jesus they did not recognize Him.  They told Jesus, “20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.”  These men heard that Jesus had risen, from more than one source.  But, Jesus’ rising seemed too good to be true!

 

Even after the disciples had seen Jesus alive, when they later met Him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, they still did not recognize Jesus at first.  And Peter had to be reassured that Jesus’ dying and rising were really true for him.  You see, Peter had denied 3 times that he knew Jesus.  How could he be forgiven?  Such news would be too good to be true (or so it seems)!  So, Jesus had to reassure Peter 3 times that he was still called to serve as an apostle.  (John 21:15-19)

 

The news of Easter is so good, it can be hard to believe.  But, thank the Lord above that His love and salvation are not an empty hope, but is as real as the death and resurrection of Jesus.  When this good news hits our hearts, when our eyes open to the fact that Jesus rose, then the resurrection of Jesus should and does make a difference in the way we live today.  We have joy in the midst of trials, because Jesus lives!  We have courage in the face of opposition, because Jesus lives.  When life looks difficult, we have faith and we trust God to care for us, because Jesus lives and defeated sin and death.  In a world of selfishness we love, even loving our enemies, because the risen and living Jesus loves us.  Do people see the light of Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation shining through you?  The prayer of pastors, the prayer of this pastor, is that the good news of Jesus is not just words.  My prayer is that the good news of Jesus rising changes the hearts and lives lives of those I serve.

 

So, I’ll tell you a story.  There is a young many in my “Basic Teachings of the Bible – Adult Member Class”, named Lucas Fisher.  Lucas has been attending St. John for a number of months.  He has participated in the St. John Youth Group and helped with the Good Friday service.  I hope the class I teach has taught Lucas about God’s love, and that God’s love has made a difference in Lucas’ life.  On Saturday night, before Easter Sunday, about 15 men gathered to set up for Easter Breakfast the next day.  Lucas and his dad were there.  As we finished setting up and as people were leaving, I told Lucas and his dad, “Thank you for helping!”  Lucas replied, “Thank you for LETTING us help!” 

 

Lucas’ response may seem like a small thing, but his response warmed my heart.  In this world of selfishness and sin, to hear a young teenage man thank the leaders of his church for the privilege of serving, tells me that Jesus is making a difference in Lucas’ life. 

 

The accounts of Good Friday and Easter are not just past history, they affect us personally.  I pray that you see, understand, and believe that Jesus died and rose for you.  I pray, as Jesus’ dying love and resurrection victory has an on-going affect on your life, that people do see the light of Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation shining through you, and through me.

 

“He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!!”

 

A Child of God, Seeking to Let the Light of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Shine Through Me!

Pastor Jonathan   

 

P.S.  Here are some pictures from Holy Week.

·       St. John Passover and Maundy Thursday Worship – First Communion for 7th Grade Students.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/CGAmBLaceraYNAW28

 

·       St. John Easter Festival.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/cPfNCLp2Ti1uFvgg9

 

·       Saturday night preparation for Easter Breakfast.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ykSUAhSVKTZCN3979

 

P.P.S.  Snow on the day after Easter.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/J2ToWigMnWYxbJKN7

 

 

 

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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.

 

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Easter - After the Greatest Loss, The GREATEST Victory!


Dear Members and Friends of St. John,

 

Perhaps you were shocked and saddened, like many at the fire in Paris which engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday, April 15.  This historic cathedral, begun in the 12th century, has been a center of the Roman Catholic faith, and of Christianity, in France.  In many ways, however, Notre Dame represented not just the Christian faith, but represented France to many around the world.  In fact, the cathedral was so important in the mind of the French, I am told, that when mileage from Paris to another location in France is calculated, the Paris location of measurement was Notre Dame.  It was the center, the heart of Paris.  So, losing this center of Christian faith, this center of French spirit, is a blow to the heart and to the spirit of many. 

 

Reality of the fire is now soaking in.  The disbelief and the grief at the loss of the cathedral is palpable.  Many are left wondering, “How could this happen?” Many are left asking, “What now?”  Even as people search for the cause of the fire and destruction, there seems to be a sense of emptiness, of sorrow.  The cathedral will never be present again in its historic form.

 

Perhaps this loss can begin to remind us of the loss experienced by the disciples of Jesus on Good Friday.  However, the death of Jesus was so much greater than the destruction of an historic cathedral. Jesus was not just a symbol of God’s power, compassion, and love.  Jesus is the Son of God Himself.  Jesus is the cornerstone of the foundation of God’s Church.  On Good Friday, it was not a building that burned, but the promised Messiah, the Son of God who died on the cross. No wonder the disciples could not recognize Jesus on Easter morning, and could not recognize Him on the road to Emmaus.  The eyes of their minds were blinded with grief and loss.

 

Sadly, tragically, the death of Jesus was necessary in God’s effort of sacrificial love to make atonement for sins we had committed.  As Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus,  “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)  Our sin made the death of God’s Savior necessary, if we were to be forgiven and saved.

 

As I read about the fire at Notre Dame, I have also read that there were reparations taking place.  The cathedral was deteriorating.  The limestone structure was in danger of crumbling because of pollution.  If and when a rebuilding occurs, maybe this problem will now be addressed in a way not previously possible.

 



Christians see Jesus’ tragic death as bad news that points to our sin, but also as good news concerning the love of God.  When He died, Jesus willingly laid down His life down to pay for the sins of the world, to pay for our sin.  As Jesus taught,  11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-- only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (John 11:11, 17-18)  What a tragedy and burden of guilt. Our sin is so grievous that the Son of God had to die to pay what we owed!


 

Therefore, what unbelievably good news for the people of the earth, for us sinners, that Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose again that first Easter!  What good news, what a reversal of fortune, that the tragedy of Jesus’ death, is overcome by His rising to life!  What victory that Jesus’ rising overcomes the consequences of our sin, which caused even the Son of God Himself to die!  Because Jesus rose, as we trust in Him as our Savior, we now have the promise of new life in heaven where God promises, There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  The destruction caused by our sin and our weakness has been overcome by the sacrificial love and the victorious rising of Jesus.

 

The loss of the Notre Dame Cathedral will continue to cause downcast hearts and spirits.  But, hope is rising that perhaps a new cathedral will take its place, one built of even better materials. 

 

In order to understand the good news of Easter, we need to first understand the depth of our lost-ness and sin.  But, when our sin hits us on Good Friday, Jesus’ Easter victory lifts us.  I pray that you can join your heart in the joyful chants of Easter victory from Christians around the world again this year.  “He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!!

 

A Child of God, Finding Truth in Jesus’ death, and Life in His Easter Rising!

Pastor Jonathan   

 

 

P.S.  It is worth also considering what a friend of mine reminded me this week.  God never commanded His people to build a temple or a church.  In 2 Samuel when David told the prophet Nathan that he wanted to build a house, a temple, for the Lord, God responded in the following way.  “Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling” (2 Samuel 7:5-6).  In fact, God did not allow David to build the temple.  David’s son, Solomon, built the temple for worship of God, with these words in his prayer.  “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Have regard to the prayer of your servant…that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there’” (1 Kings 8:27-29).  God’s people on earth construct buildings, temples, churches, cathedrals, because they serve as practical tools for worshiping God and equipping for living out the Christian faith.  But, our real treasure is the God and Savior we worship, not the building in which we worship.

 

 

P.P.S   It has been a busy week – I have LOTS of pictures to share

 

·       From April 14, Palm Sunday, Confirmation day;

o   Here is a picture from the baptism of Freya Ann Kopperud, April 14, 2019.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/CPwHjKHYf3MsmPWa8

 

o   Here are some pictures from Confirmation Day, April 14, 2019.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/L5KJsLsFH8BgSkHn7

 

·       Here is a picture from the last day of Confirmation Classes on April 10.  MOST of our 6-8 grade confirmation students for 2018-2019 are present.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/6w5tZyhhz4jecddn8

 

·       Here are some pictures events last week with food.

 

o   Our Lenten Meal April 10, 2019, https://photos.app.goo.gl/md3sfpW19PrzuYrQA

 

o   The Confirmation Banquet, April 12,2019.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/LGYKEnZZt6CAb2oS6

 

o   Here are pictures from our Little Mermaid Outing and Meal, April 13, 2019 - https://photos.app.goo.gl/frV1w4tM5rZdN24Z8

 

WHEW!!

 

·       FINALLY - I actually put my boat in the water at Finger Lake to try it out on Monday, April 15.  That is the earliest ever for me!  https://photos.app.goo.gl/QD7Cwmanyvd9Lxa58.

 

·       Of course, this was followed by snow on Wednesday.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/jwq8Jv3km2jeg8xr9

 

 

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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.

 

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