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.


·       St. John Easter Festival.


·       Saturday night preparation for Easter Breakfast.


P.P.S.  Snow on the day after Easter.






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, 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.


o   Here are some pictures from Confirmation Day, April 14, 2019.


·       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.


·       Here are some pictures events last week with food.


o   Our Lenten Meal April 10, 2019,


o   The Confirmation Banquet, April 12,2019.


o   Here are pictures from our Little Mermaid Outing and Meal, April 13, 2019 -




·       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!


·       Of course, this was followed by snow on Wednesday.





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, April 10, 2019

Praying On Confirmation Day for Young People in their Journey of Following Jesus

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


There is an old joke, a sad old joke, about Confirmation.  The joke goes like this: “How did the pastor get rid of the bats under the church building?  He ‘confirmed’ them and he never saw them again.” 


Confirmation day in the Lutheran Church, and in many churches, is a day when young people approaching adulthood share with others their faith in Jesus. This Sunday, April 14, is Confirmation Day at St. John. Eleven young people will share their faith in essays from their pens, from their mouths, and from their hearts, in which they state what they believe about God’s love for them.  Eleven young people will also answer questions and make vows to serve God with their lives.  The purpose of these vows is, “Since I believe God has loved me in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, therefore, I ask God to help me to live for Him.”


Unfortunately, though Confirmation Day is meant to be a life defining moment, it is often seen more as an end than a beginning.  Confirmation Day can be seen as a graduation from 3 years of education, rather than as the beginning of a life of mature Christian discipleship.  I just recently heard someone talk about Confirmation Day as “the graduation that is coming.”  That attitude concerning “graduation” may be the reason that, once our students are confirmed, we sometimes see less of them.  In fact, we sometimes do not see them again.


However, this year we celebrate Confirmation Day on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Palm Sunday has often been one of the traditional days for the Confirmation Day festivities.  After all, we hear in the Palm Sunday Gospel that even children sang the praises of Jesus when he entered Jerusalem that day.  What a good day, therefore, for young people to confess their faith and to commit their lives to Jesus.


In fact, as I consider the sad reality of Confirmation Day, that sometimes it is an end, that sometimes we don’t see students after this day, I am thankful that this important day is observed at the beginning of Holy Week.  During Holy Week we again get to watch and experience Jesus entering Jerusalem to the praises of His disciples and the people of the city.  This week, Holy Week, we remember and join in Jesus’ celebration of the Passover in the upper room with His disciples.  We are moved by Jesus’ agony and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arrest and sham trial, for us.  This week we again see Jesus brutally nailed to the cross, knowing that as He hangs bleeding, suffocating, and dying, Jesus is suffering and dying for us.  And, then, next Sunday on Easter, knowing that our sins helped put the Son of God Himself on the cross and into the grave, we will joyfully celebrate as Jesus rises from the dead, overcoming our sin and death, and offering God’s people eternal life in heaven with Him.  The celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas is a major holiday.  But, what Jesus accomplished during Holy Week, His suffering and dying and rising, changes the world forever! 


On Confirmation Day, on Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week, our class will be able to share with you how in the events of Holy Week, Jesus changes their lives and our lives forever.


In 1981 I was a young pastor who had a special opportunity.  I attended a Pastor’s Conference in Jefferson City, MO, with 2 other pastors from my area of St. Louis.  Also attending the conference was our new denominational president, Dr. Ralph Bohlmannn.  His earned doctorate was from Yale University.  Dr. Bohlmann was highly respected throughout the world as a theologian and a leader. I had known Dr. Bohlmann from his days at the seminary, when I attended.  Dr. Bohlmann needed a ride home to St. Louis where we lived, so he rode home with us, and then I took him to his house.  As we rode together, we discussed the opportunities and challenges of being pastors.  Another pastor, younger even than my late 20’s of that trip, asked Dr. Bohlmann about faithfully serving the Lord’s Supper.  Discussion moved to the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:26, which says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”  There are many applications of what this verse means to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  But, Dr. Bohlmann put our minds at ease with a simple explanation.  “When I receive the Lord’s Supper I am proclaiming to others, and saying to myself, ‘Jesus died FOR ME.’”  I cherished the opportunity to spend time with this respected leader on that trip.  And, since that trip, my own celebration of Holy Communion has been one of thankfully knowing even more that “Jesus died FOR ME.”


This year, Confirmation Day at St. John is held on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Eleven young people will confess their faith with essays and vows.  Listen to hear if they say, “Jesus died FOR ME.”  Eleven young people will say they want to follow Jesus. But we also know they will be tempted to forget him, now that classes are complete.


Therefore, I ask you to pray for this year’s class.  Please pray for Sawyer Christiansen, Jake Colberg, Payten Ewart, Jacob Hartman, Nathaniel Lawton, Adrienne Martin, Savannah Martin, Arthur Merritt, Hannah Nelsen, Lilly Nichols, and Sarah Walton.  Pray that Confirmation Day may not be an end of their Christian education, and may not be the end of their growth in faith.  Pray that, instead, this is a day that they say from the heart, “Jesus died FOR ME,” and begin, with God’s help, the difficult journey of following Jesus as committed disciples.


A Child of God, Praying On Confirmation Day for Young People in Their Journey of Following Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Here are some pictures from Confirmation Classes, 4-3-2019.


P.P.S. Here are some pictures from last week’s Lenten Meal, on 4-3-2019.


P.P.P.S.  Here is a picture from a group of St. John leaders on April 2, planning the position of a new pavilion on our east property.





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, April 3, 2019

Trusting in God's Love Through the Troubles and Weariness of Life

Dear Members and Friends of St. John,


Does the struggle of life ever make you weary?  On Tuesday I read a devotion from a friend who was weary of today’s political climate.  He described today’s political scene as a place where some politicians ignore valid questions, call the person with an opposing viewpoint names, trash the reputation of the person with a different opinion, and then declare victory in the matter without addressing the problem.  While that may not always be the case, it is too often the way public discourse seems to happen today.  My friend was weary.  I confess to a weariness of political name calling too.  But, that is just one example of how the sin and the evil in our world can weigh on us.


Do you think Jesus ever got weary?  Time and again Jesus reached out with teaching and miracles to create faith.  Time and again Jesus reached out in love and mercy to the lowest in society, and to the leaders.  Yet the people did not seem to get it, at least not at first.  So, as we are told in Luke Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, toward His looming cross. (Luke 9:51)


This Lent we have watched in our Wednesday services as Jesus reaches out in love, in forgiveness, in mercy.  Jesus is calling the people of God’s promise, and Jesus is calling the whole world, to receive the love of their Creator and Savior.  We have seen Jesus reach out to a paralytic (Luke 5), to a tax collector – Levi (Luke 5), and to a woman known to be sinful and who was therefore rejected by others (Luke 7).  We see Jesus reach out and even eat with a group of “tax collectors and sinners.” (Luke 15)  Finally, we will watch and marvel at Jesus’ mercy for chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, who responds to Jesus in repentance and faith. (Luke 19)


Jesus reached out in love and mercy, yet, time and again the people in Jesus’ day doubt, they grumble, they turn away, they react in anger that Jesus is loving and merciful.  No wonder we hear Jesus exclaim, 34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! " (Luke 13:34)  Do you think Jesus was weary?  I do.  Sigh!


So, do you ever get weary in your spiritual walk, in your journey of faith with our Lord?  Do you grow tired of being faced with the same trials and temptations day after day?  Do you find yourself at the end of your rope wondering where God is in your struggle, in your suffering?  Do you wait and long for the time that all things will be made new?


While Jesus did grow weary because of the lack of faith from those He came to save, He nevertheless persevered and continued in His mission to save the world.  Jesus struggle reached its peak in the last 24 hours of His life with His prayer in the garden, His betrayal, His trials before the various leaders of the day, and His crucifixion.  Finally Jesus cries out on the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  But, did you know that when Jesus spoke these words He was quoting a Psalm?  And did you know that this Psalm tells why Jesus persevered, in spite of His weariness?  Listen.



1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.  4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.


In the disappointments, the trials, in the agony of life and death, Jesus trusted God, His heavenly Father.  So, in spite of weariness that even affected Jesus, He continued to fulfill His mission as Messiah and Savior for the world.


Maybe you also grow weary of 6 long weeks of Lent, weary of looking at our sins and failures, weary of looking at Jesus’ repeated call to repentance, before we finally get to celebrate the joy and victory of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter.  But, these times of struggle, times of failure, or times of weariness do happen.  Life is full of struggle and trouble because we live in a sinful world.  But, when our troubles cause us to be tired and weary in our walk of faith, like Jesus we can trust God who has delivered His people in the past, and Who is delivering us through the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus, today.


A Child of God, Trusting in our Faithful, Loving God, Through the Weariness of Life,

Pastor Jonathan   


P.S.  Here are some pictures from Confirmation Classes, 3-27-2019.


P.P.S. Here are some pictures from the Lenten Meal, 3-27-2019.


P.P.P.S.  Here are some pictures from our 2019 Shane Woods Ice Fishing Outing.


P.P.P.P.S.  The Frontiersman wrote an article about the St. John Shane Woods Ice Fishing Outing.  Here is a link.




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.