Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
This past Advent God warmed my heart through some children at St. John.
For a number of years now our Advent and Lenten sermons in our mid-week worship services have been a short meditation surrounded by skits. If you have attended these services you know that the beginning skit raises a problem that God’s people face. The pastor shares a meditation on this problem based on that night’s Scripture reading. Then the concluding skit shows God’s help and grace to help us with the temptations and struggles of life. The people of St. John seem to appreciate and enjoy these short sermons.
Also, for a number of years Carl Jacobson, Scott Manke, and Ann Marie Svedin have acted out these skits. They receive the skits ahead of time by e-mail, and then arrive early and practice their parts so that they are ready for worship. However, this Advent, Ann Marie suggested that others might also want to participate. It was somewhat late to make many changes for Advent 2018, but after mid-week Advent worship on December 12 I announced that if anyone else was interested in helping they should let me, or one of our actors know. Maybe they could help with Lenten skits in 2019.
However, after worship on that evening, third grade student, Avery Martin came up to me and asked me with a smile on her face, “Can I help with the sermon next week?” To say I was surprised is putting it mildly. However, I talked with Ann Marie, and with Avery’s parents. Ann said she would help Avery. Avery’s parents would get her to church to practice. So, I wrote Avery into the skits for the meditation on December 19. As she helped with the skit for the sermon, Avery spoke up, she read well, and she did a good job of acting her part. I believe that the congregation and Avery were blessed by her participation.
Then after worship on that December 19 evening, fourth grade student, Gaelen Swigart, and fifth grade student, Adeline Martin (Avery’s sister), also came to me and asked if they could help with future skits. Well, that was already the end of our mid-week Advent worship for 2018. But, Lent is on the horizon.
This is not the first time that children or youth of St. John have helped lead worship. In 2014 the 8th grade confirmation class acted out the skits as we considered Ephesians 6 and “The Armor of God.” Some youth who have been through Lay Ministry training have led worship and even preached, at St. John and at other locations that needed help. And, each Advent we have children help with the reading and prayer as we light the Advent wreath. But, I do not ever remember children this young being this excited about serving our Lord by helping with worship!
As we begin a new year many have made resolutions hoping for a better 2019. Resolutions to change our lives for the better can be a challenge. However, resolutions where God’s people seek to make the world a better place can be a bigger challenge. In Promise Keepers’ men’s Bible Study on Tuesday, January 8, one of the areas of need that we identified as needing help was that of children in our community. We saw the need of help for families, and we prayed for God’s help in that area.
I can think of few areas that deserve the effort and attention more than that of raising children to know their Lord, to know their their Creator, and to know their their Savior. God calls families, and His family - the Church, to train children in the knowledge of the Lord. Consider the words of Proverbs 22:6. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” One of the most important jobs of God’s people is to provide life training to children. Or, consider God’s words through Paul in Ephesians 6: 4. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Parents are to instruct about the Lord, and about His plan for our lives!
The ultimate goal of teaching children about the Lord is that they grow in trusting Jesus as their Savior, and that they live in His grace now and eternally. As you know, often the teacher learns more by teaching, than the student learns in class. It is a blessing to see children who want so much to learn and who are growing in their faith.
It is not often that the preacher is blessed by His sermon in the same way that the congregation is blessed. On December 19, I was not only blessed by the words of Avery, but by the attitude of faith and a desire to learn that I saw in Avery, and in Gaelen, and in Adeline.
May God bless the efforts of all God’s churches so that the words of Jesus come true, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 13:15) What a great goal for the beginning of 2019, and for years to come!
A Child of God, Blessed by the Faith of Children,
P.S. PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020? You may know that I am using the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House for my personal devotions in 2019 and 2020. I have encouraged others to join me. After the Palmer Kiwanis meeting on Tuesday, January 8, Paul Scott came up to me and talked about his use of this devotional bible, saying that he enjoys the short focus and devotional sections as well. I encourage you to read through God’s Word with us as you are able.
P.P.S. Here are some pictures of a beautiful day of skiing at Alyeska on January 3 with my daughter, Mary. (No fishing this week.) This was a great Father – Daughter time. J
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.