Wednesday, March 27, 2019

INTENTIONALLY Remembering and Celebrating God's Saving Love in Jesus

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Easter Day is late this year (in Western Christianity).  In some ways an early Easter is nice.  Celebrating Easter and Holy Week can be hectic for a pastor, or for the pastor’s family, or for the servant leaders in a congregation.  My wife, Kathy, once told me, much earlier in our marriage, that I don’t get to experience Lent, Holy Week, and Easter from the family side of Church celebrations.  Hmmm!  In addition, Confirmation Day and all its preparation also falls near Easter, at least at St. John, adding to everything else.  It can seem a relief for congregations and church workers to make it through the busy-ness of this season to continue practicing our faith in a less busy and stressful way.


However, over the years I have learned not to “wish away” the important celebrations of our Christian faith, but to instead work to appreciate even more deeply the love and grace of God which is the reason for our celebrations.  I have learned that it is important for my faith, and the faith of God’s people, to be in the moment during Advent and Christmas, and during Lent and Easter.  God has broken into history with His love and saving acts in Jesus.  We Christians do not want to miss what God has done for us by rushing through the observance and celebration of His grace.


Therefore, I am looking forward to Easter in late April this year.  Spring Break is over.  We are through the daylight savings change and days are full of much more sunlight.  Flu season is mostly done.  Yet, we still have many opportunities for Lenten observance to prepare our hearts for a meaningful celebration of Easter.  Unfortunately, sometimes people miss the meaning of observing Lent, and can then also miss the reason for celebrating Easter.  This year, because of a late Easter, we can really catch all that Jesus’ death on Good Friday and His Easter rising means to us!


Think about it. Why remember Jesus’ dying and celebrate His rising if we are not in bondage to sin?  Why celebrate Jesus’ Easter victory if we have not been overcome by our enemy, the Devil?  Why celebrate eternal life which Jesus won when He rose again on Easter, unless we face death and even hell because of our sin? 


When I talk to confirmation students, and when other Christians who come to me about priorities, I will ask them these questions, “What will last longer, the trials and accomplishments of this world, or eternity? Which are MOST important, the big issues of this life, or our eternal life?”


Since eternal life with God is THE most important possession we have, since it is a gift of God, since we receive this most important, joyful gift because of Easter, it is good and it is important to celebrate Jesus’ victory.  It is also good to know our enemies which Jesus defeated, the enemies of sin, death, and Satan. It is important to know why Easter is so joyful and important, why it is the most important day in history! 


God inspired Paul to give a summary of the Christian life, and why we live this life in 2 Corinthians.  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.”  (2 Corinthians 5:15)  Do you hear how Jesus death AND His rising call us and empower God’s people for victorious, joyful, Easter living?


PRAISE THE LORD that Jesus loved us so that He suffered and died to take away the power of sin and death and Satan.  PRAISE THE LORD that, for all caught in the bondage from which we cannot free ourselves, Jesus rose from the dead and offers forgiveness, eternal life, and life with a Christian purpose, through faith in Him.


Because Easter is late this year, I feel a special opportunity to really remember and receive the blessings of Jesus’ suffering, His Death, and His rising.  Please join me in taking the month of April this year to continue your Lenten walk and observance with Jesus’ family at your church. Please take the month of April this year to really celebrate Jesus’ Easter victory, which is also our victory through faith! 


A Child of God, Intentionally Remembering and Celebrating God’s Saving Love in Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Here are some pictures from the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast.  Nineteen people affiliated with St. John attended.


P.P.S. I went fishing on Monday, March 25, at Seventeen Mile Lake with Kym Miller to check the Lake out for the annual Shane Woods Ice Fishing Outing.  The fishing was a little slow, but the ice was 30” thick and solid.  We WILL gather for this memorial fishing outing this Sunday, March 31, after late worship.  Here are some pictures.


P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our third Lenten Meal, last Wednesday, March 20.





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, March 20, 2019

Waiting Through the Wilderness Time of Lent for God's Easter Deliverance

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


As I sit writing on Wednesday, March 20, the skies are overcast, the wind blowing, and the trees are bare. Much of our snow has melted, but dirty piles still stand in places.  No leaves grace the trees.  There are no visible buds on the branches and no flowers in the gardens.  This “part winter – part spring” time of year can be dreary and even affect one’s spirits.  In some ways this in-between season seems to last too long.  And, this time of year always seems to come during the church season of Lent.  Perhaps the time of waiting and perseverance makes real spring and summer, with leaves and flower and warmth, that much more sweet.


In my devotions on Wednesday I read from Numbers 13-15.  In this account from God’s Word the people of Israel, camping at Paran, have sent twelve scouts or spies into the land of Canaan which God promised to give His chosen people.  But, the people inhabiting the land seem big and strong to the scouts.  The Canaanite cities are fortified.  Ten of the twelve spies give a report of fear and doom.  "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. (Numbers 13:32)  The people who have been led to the land by God, want to turn around and go back to Egypt.


God responds with anger at the doubt and the faithlessness of His people, in spite of all His signs of deliverance.  (Numbers 13:11)    At Moses’ pleading the Lord forgives the people, and they are not destroyed.  However, those who left Egypt will die in the desert.  The Israelites will now wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  Those who were 20 or older when they left Egypt will perish in the wilderness during those forty years.  Now their children will inherit the land.


20 The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-- 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.


Can you imagine the disappointment, and then the drudgery of 40 years in the wilderness?  Forty years in a dry, hot, dusty part of the world!  The Promised Land is in sight.  But, it will take so long going through the wilderness to get there!


Perhaps you have noticed how the number 40 is often connected in Scripture with times of waiting and suffering and testing.  The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years.  When the floods came on Noah, it rained for forty days and forty nights.  (Genesis 7:12) Jesus was tested in the wilderness by Satan for 40 days.  (Luke 4:1-2)  In Scripture this wilderness time is one of waiting and testing until God’s people are delivered.


You know by experience that there are many “wilderness” times in all of our lives.  Life brings pain, disappointments, and failure.  Some of our struggles and wanderings are our own doing, when we turn from God’s guidance and God’s law and bring these struggles on ourselves, like the Israelites did.  But, sometimes, even as we seek God’s guidance and help and strength, life still seems like painful drudgery.  Life can seem a wilderness where we wander, hoping and waiting for the refreshment of God’s love and deliverance. 


But, in spite of the doubt and faithlessness of the Israelites, God continued with them throughout their time in the wilderness.  They made it through those forty years.  They entered Canaan and received God’s gift of the land.  And, because of the wait, the Promised Land seemed even more sweet.


Our call is to trust God even in these times of waiting and struggle.  Yes, there are wilderness times in this life.  This “part winter – part spring” will be over soon.  Warmth will cause the leaves and flowers to show the glory of God’s creation.  And, more importantly, someday God will take us from the tears of this world to His home in heaven.  God caused Paul to write about how these wilderness times make heaven even more sweet. 


“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  (Romans 8:18)


Perhaps it is only appropriate that the “wilderness season” of Lent is during this part winter-part spring time of the year.  But, Easter is on the horizon.  Jesus is victorious over our sin, over our pain and trial in this life.  And, in grace, Jesus offers His love to us.  Now we wait.  We wait trusting in the Lord . . . knowing that Easter, and God’s deliverance is coming.


A Child of God, Waiting Through The Wilderness Time of Lent for God’s Easter Deliverance,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Kathy’s birthday was March 10.  But, because of schedules, we had a family gathering on March 17.  Here are some pictures from our family celebration of “Mimi Kathy’s” birthday.


P.P.S. On Monday, March 18, one of my planned companions for ice fishing could not go.  So, I took care of MANY errands and chores around the house I had put off that needed attention.  Maybe fishing next week!





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, March 13, 2019

Rejoice - The Lost is FOUND!

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


About a month ago my wife pleasantly surprised me.  She had been doing some deeper cleaning than normal.  With the multiple animals we have in our house, Kathy was working to get rid of  ALL the animal hair from the floor AND from the furniture.  While she was vacuuming on a couch in our living room Kathy came across something, way down in the cushions, which I’ve been missing for a while – a Leatherman pocket tool. 


This was not just any Leatherman.  I especially bought this knife because it has all the tools I want for fishing.  It has a blade and screw drivers and pliers.  But, it also had scissors, and a file.  I had also purchased a special belt holder for this knife so that, if I was by the river and needed to change a fly or a lure, or if I needed to sharpen a hook, I had everything right there with me.


However, about two or three years ago, one day after fishing I couldn’t find the knife.  It wasn’t in my belt holder.  I looked in the boat.  I searched our yard.  I looked in my clothes.  Finally I gave up and bought another knife.  Only, the new knife was not as good as this knife.  It didn’t have all the same tools.  The Leatherman Company doesn’t make this model anymore. 


I was so surprised when Kathy found this knife that I thought maybe I had also lost my second knife and that is the tool which Kathy had found.  But, “No!”  That newer knife is still in my tackle box.  This Leatherman which Kathy found is my prized fishing tool.  So, you can understand my delight when this long-lost, very useful, tool was found again.  Thank you, Kathy!


Jesus tells a number of stories in the Gospel of Luke about finding lost things.  In Luke 15:4-7, our Lord talks about a shepherd who loses just one of his one hundred sheep.  But, that lone lamb is so precious that the shepherd leaves the 99 and goes searching for the lost sheep until He finds it.  What a wonderful picture of our Good Shepherd, Jesus!


In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus tells about a woman who has 10 coins and loses one.  Some have suggested that these coins were her dowry, which would allow her to marry.  According to Jesus’ parable, the woman swept, and she cleaned, and she looked, until she found the one lost coin.  The coin was so important and precious to the woman, it was worth the effort.


Then in Luke 15:11-31, Jesus tells the story of the lost, or wandering, or “prodigal” son.  Jesus says that a man had two sons, but one left home for wild living.  When this son painfully realized the error of his ways, he returned to his father’s home, repenting of his foolishness.  The son asked simply to be a servant in his father’s house.  But the father rejoiced at the return of his son.  Instead of making his son a servant, “Dad” threw a party.  The father gave the son new clothes and a family ring on his son’s finger.  This precious son had been “lost, but now was found.”


In each of these parables Jesus is responding to the church leaders of His day.  These religious men had criticized Jesus for spending time with the lost sheep of God.  We are told, “. . . the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."  (Luke 15:2).  Jesus wants these religious leaders to know that God loves everyone.  The Heavenly Father even sends His Son, our Good Shepherd, to go looking for His lost sheep.  Jesus describes the joy in heaven when the lost are found in this way, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  (Luke 15:7) 


Jesus has two messages for these religious leaders to comprehend.  First, God does not leave the lost to their own wandering.  God loves them enough that He sends His only Son!  Secondly, Jesus is also instructing these teachers and leaders that they too should not just write off those living outside God’s will.  The church of God should also search for and should welcome the lost lambs of Jesus when they hear God’s call, repent, and return home.


It is easier when this lesson is taught to someone else.  But, it can be hard to hear this lesson when Jesus speaks it to us.  Are there people you are willing to write off?  Terrorists?  Criminals?  Or, might it be easy to write off those family and friends who have deeply hurt us?  Do you think God has written them off?  Or, are not those the lost sheep for whom Jesus also came to this earth?  Are not those the lost sheep for whom Jesus also came to die?  If God goes looking for His lost children, should we not do the same?  Truthfully, sometimes it is tougher to reach out to those closest to us.  But God sent Jesus to find us.  God wants us to reach out with His love to others.


I am really happy to have my knife back.  But, this Leatherman is just a knife, and I could and did buy a replacement, even if it wasn’t the same knife.  However, those who anger us, who disappoint us, who hurt us, are still the beloved children of God.  These are people for whom God sent His Son, Jesus, to seek and to save.  (See Luke 19:10)  Are you also reaching out to those in your life who need Jesus’ love?  Are you rejoicing when Jesus finds His lost lambs, and maybe you are the one through whom God reached them?


A Child of God, Thankful that Jesus Found Me, Hoping to Reach Jesus’ Lost Sheep,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Mid Week Lenten Worship is held again this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at St. John.  Our series might be called, “Life’s not Fair!”  However, the official theme for this year’s Lenten sermons is “The On-Going Battle, Opposition by Evil to Righteousness, Love, and Mercy.”

            This week we Luke at Luke 5:17-25, and consider the theme, “Jesus forgives, then heals the Paralytic.”       Ann Marie Svedin and Adeline Martin will be helping with our skit.

            REMEMBER, there is a meal ahead of the service.  The meal is held at 5:30 p.m..


P.P.S.  Kathy and I were on vacation last week in Florida.  I did some fishing there.  Here are a couple of pictures of my brother Stephen and fish  which he caught. (Mine wasn’t worth a picture.)


P.P.P.S.  I took my son, Josh, and his four kids fishing on Monday, the first official day of Spring break from school.  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.





Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lent - A Time To Repent!"

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Wednesday, March 6, is Ash Wednesday.  Members of St. John, as well as believers from many other Christian churches, will willingly participate in a curious tradition.  They will have their foreheads marked with the sign of the cross, this mark composed of ashes.  Why would someone willingly have ashes rubbed into their skin?  Why would someone walk around with an imperfect cross of dirt on their forehead for all to see?


I have recently been asked by a number of people about Lent.  You won’t find the word “Lent” in the Bible, but you will find in Scripture the suffering and the sacrifice of Jesus which Lent remembers.  Lent is a word which comes from Latin and actually means “spring.”  The time set aside for Lent remembers the 40 days of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, plus Sundays. But, Lent is a season when Christians have especially focused upon and meditated on the suffering, the passion, and the death of Jesus to pay for our sins.


Because Jesus willingly faced opposition from the very people He came to save, because He suffered and died for our sins, these six weeks of Lent are a special opportunity for repentance.  As we remember that our sin is the reason Jesus suffered and died, as Christians prepare for the victory celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death in His rising from the dead, God’s people have used Lent as an opportunity to confess their sins, to turn to the love and forgiveness of God found in Jesus, and to work on living for God instead of for themselves.


Actually, repentance is a common and recurring message of Scripture.  Time and again God’s people fall into the sin of fleshly desires and of rebellion against the rule of God as Lord of their lives.  So time and again God calls His people to turn from their sin, and to turn to the love, the grace, and the guidance our Lord lovingly offers.  Sometimes these calls to repentance even speak of ashes as a sign of sorrow over sin.  (Look at Job 42:1-5, Isaiah 58:1-10, and especially, Daniel 9:1-9).  Jesus began His public ministry with His baptism by John, and with His temptation by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.  As soon as this time of calling, testing, and strengthening was finished Jesus began preaching.  His message was, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"  (Mark 1:15)


In fact, when Jesus scolds the villages in which He had taught and performed miracles for the lack of repentance He found in those villages, Jesus Himself mentions the “sackcloth and ashes” of repentance.


20 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:20-21.  See also verses  22-24!)


There is a good reason the Christian church observes Lent before celebrating Easter.  Chronologically of course, Jesus did first suffer and die before He rose.  But, when God’s law points to our sin and the punishment we deserve for turning against our Creator and Lord, then we see the forgiveness won by Jesus’ sacrificial death, and the eternal life He offers by faith because of His resurrection, as the amazing gift that it is.  When we know our sin and repent, the mercy of God gives new life.  That is why the Apostles also began their ministry by preaching law and Gospel, repentance and salvation.  Listen to the words of Peter and John in the temple right after Pentecost Day.


18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”  (Acts 3:18-19)


The idea of repentance is not popular with people of today.  But even Adam and Eve in their day tried to shift blame instead of admitting their sin and submitting to God.  However, it is only when we admit that we have dirt on our hearts, that the cleansing of Jesus really is Good News.  When we repent in sorrow because of our sins and turn to the mercy and the forgiveness won by Jesus, this Good News refreshes our hearts and souls.  The rising of Jesus is not just a miracle of the Son of God, but victory for us in our lives.


So why observe Lent?  This season of the church year is not found in Scripture.  But, the repentance of Lent prepares our hearts to receive the good news of Jesus forgiveness and salvation by faith.  As we remember the suffering and death of Jesus for our sins during Lent, the celebration of Jesus’ Easter victory becomes personal and powerful in our lives.  A Blessed Lenten Season to each of you.


A Child of God, Repenting My Sin that Led to Jesus’ Death,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Ash Wednesday Services are held tonight, Wednesday, March 6, at St. John at 6:30 p.m. with the imposition of ashes.  Hunter Richards will preach and lead worship as Pastor Rockey is helping with the Veterans of the Cross Retreat in Florida.  (Pastor Rockey returns late Friday night and will lead worship on Sunday morning.)


P.P.S.  If you want to prepare for worship this Sunday, read Luke 4:1-13 about the temptation of Jesus.


P.P.S.  Kathy and I are on vacation. 

·       One of the reasons we were in Florida is that I was asked to preach at the conference of retired church workers, the “Veterans of the Cross” Retreat.  A treat is that my brother, Pastor James Rockey, was the liturgist as I shared God’s Word.  We also got to spend time with the man who pastored us as children, Pastor Robert Besalski.  Here are some pictures.


·       We held a family get together / reunion on Saturday, March 2 at the home of my sister, Martha, and her husband, Mark.  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.