If you are anything like me, this election has been overwhelming. Confusion, uncertainty, frustration, and disappointment are just a few of the feelings I’ve experienced. How about you?
A not-so-secret “secret” in the pastor world is that we often preach what we need to hear most. Today as I write this, these words from Isaiah are what I need to hear. I hope they will be a helpful reminder for you as well in these trying times.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” -Isaiah 43:1b
Whoever you voted for does not change whose you are. God has claimed you as a child of God. And you are deeply loved. As we look to the future, I pray we will move forward acting and speaking in ways that share our loving identity. I pray politics will not keep us from continuing our work to care for our neighbors and God’s incredible creation. I pray that each of us would live into this identity of beloved child of God.
Fear not! God is with us.
An Advent Like No Other
It’s hard to be believe, but Advent begins in November. As we reflect on eating far too much for Thanksgiving dinner AGAIN, we shift right into the season of Advent, a time when we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. But if we are realistic at all, we know that this year will not be normal.
As I think about this, there is a part of me that just wants to make friends with the Grinch and hibernate until it’s over. But there is another part of me that sees this as a great opportunity. Let’s not even try to recreate Christmas as we’ve always done and let’s embrace the opportunity before us.
As you will see by the plans we are making for this Advent and Christmas (see below), things will be different. We’re going to do a daily Advent Calendar on Facebook. We’re planning a drive or walk by Advent Event outside. We’ll have a special Christmas delivery for all of you. We’re imagining a BRIEF outdoor worship by candlelight on Christmas Eve. It may not look like it always has, but I believe it will be memorable. And most important of all, a child will be born into this messy and uncertain world reminding all of us that our hope is in God.
Make plans to join us this Advent and Christmas and consider being part of the many activities we will be doing to make this year special. As we look back on this Christmas, I hope we can fondly remember our COVID Christmas together.
With anticipation & hope,
In case you didn’t notice, we have an election coming up. And if you did not notice, you must not have a TV and you must be on lockdown in your house, because the election is everywhere! While most of us cannot wait for the campaign commercials and lawn signs to go away, let me remind you this is a time to practice your faith.
As we prepare for the election, take some time to reflect on the actions, policies, and character of the leaders on the ballot. Who most reflects what God is calling us to in this world? Who reflects the love, compassion, and care for all of God’s children? And then I would encourage you to cast your ballot trusting that you are following your faith.
This Sunday will be Reformation Sunday. Some of the changes that came about in the Reformation led to the inclusion of all people in the work and ministry of the church. Martin Luther reminded us that the work of the church is not just done by priests. We are part of a priesthood of all believers who are the hands and feet of Christ in this world. If we believe this to be true, it means that our faith seeps into every aspects of our lives.
And so, as we go to work, as we go to school, as we go to the polls, we reflect the faith to which Christ has called us. May we be faithful everyday in the life we live. May we be people who reflect the love and compassion of Christ.
The next few weeks of worship will be special. We will be celebrating and giving thanks to God for a variety of people. As we do this, I am inviting you to be part of this time of thanks and praise.
This Sunday we will celebrate with our confirmation students who affirmed their baptism on October 4. These nine youth have been a joy to teach these past few years and I look forward to all God has in store for them. Please be praying for them in the days, months, and years to come. And join us as we celebrate this important faith milestone.
On October 25, we will be celebrating Reformation Sunday, a day when we remember the work and ministry of Martin Luther and many other reformers. We are a church that is constantly called to see the ways God is working in this world. And when we listen to God’s voice, we will be awakened to new ways of being church. No more, “That’s how we’ve always done it!” Celebrate with us the ways the church has been renewed and let us give thanks for Luther’s vision to bring the church to a new way of being.
On November 1, we will remember the many Saints who have touched our lives on All Saints’ Day. This is a time to reflect and remember, but also to give thanks for the ways these people blessed our lives and our faith. I am hopeful that we will be able to share this day with all the joy and tears that come with it. And let us especially remember two of the Saints who shared their faith with us at Peace: Gary Ewers and June McGloin.
Our worship is enriched as we participate together in worshipping God. So, I hope you will consider being part of what we’re doing in worship over the next few weeks. I’m looking for videos of the Creed for Reformation Sunday. I’m looking for pictures and names of Saints. Check out the details below and please consider participating in these worships! See you on Sunday!
Ever receive great news, but then you must get back to work? That’s where I’m at right now. I’m just giddy and yet, I need to write an article for the Weekly Update!
Have I left you in suspense long enough? Well, just minutes ago, I found out that Peace received the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant! This is a grant of almost $50,000 that will not only allow for my dream sabbatical but will also allow for renewal programs here at Peace. I am thrilled for us!
Of course, my list of concerns immediately comes to mind, as some of my plan isn’t even possible right now due to bans on travel to China among other things. But I know that our sabbatical team will work through the details and come up with the best possible renewal plan for our congregation and myself. As we figure this out, we will be sure to communicate the details with the congregation.
And so today, I want to say thank you to all who have supported this idea of sabbatical for our congregation. I’m especially grateful to the council and my sabbatical team who includes Tim Vernier, Nathan Johnson, Laura Bishop, Nicole Crego, Al Weidler and Jean Villhauer.
Now let’s pray for a successful vaccine!
Tuesday night when our council gathered, we looked at the progression of COVID cases over the last few weeks. On September 15, Monroe County had 34 active cases, September 22 – 98 active cases, September 29 – 193 active cases. Now you might say, that is all of Monroe County. However, the reality is Sparta and Tomah hold the majority of those cases.
When we look at the numbers, they are not the numbers we are hoping for. And unfortunately, the numbers are not looking to improve any time soon. I think more than anything, our congregation wants to gather again. I want to gather. But at this time, other than our outdoor worship (which depends on the weather), we are not seeing that as a viable option.
It’s been over 6 months now that we have been apart. I miss you all! But more so, I appreciate that the priority of our council is to keep our members safe. God calls us to protect the most vulnerable and so that is what we will do. I am so grateful to our council for making these hard decisions.
But, I also want to thank you as a congregation. You have been patient and supportive as our council has made these decisions. We understand this is not the ideal way to be the church, but we will continue to be the church in new and creative ways as this pandemic continues. Thank you for your support and thank you for the many ways you continue to reach out to each other as a reminder that we are the body of Christ even in these times.
God’s blessings and love,
There are moments when I forget about everything that is going on in the world today. Glimpses of normal (whatever that might be!). It usually happens as I am hiking in the woods with my family or snuggling in for a movie with pizza and popcorn. For that moment, life feels right. Life feels comfortable and easy. And then, in a blink of an eye, the reality of the world comes rushing back to me.
I cannot imagine what I once defined as “normal” will ever be normal again. Our world is changing more quickly than we often want to admit. And normal, as we often define it, means comfortable and how things have always been. We want what is normal because it does not stretch us or challenge us or pain us. We want to go back to a prior time because then we can just forget about the reality of today.
And yet, Jesus is not one to encourage comfy, cozy faith. He calls out the hypocrites. He challenges enemies to love and serve one another. He pronounces forgiveness to the outcasts of society. He loves without conditions. This is the faith that Jesus calls us to.
As people hurl hateful words and divisive actions at one another, Jesus calls us to a new way. A way that is not comfortable or easy, but is loving, hopeful and just. The way we are church will not go back to how it has always been, but perhaps this is God’s opportunity for us to find a new way forward. Perhaps, this will be the new normal!
As wildfires sweep across the west destroying thousands of homes and tropical storms drop record amounts of rain in the south, we cannot help but be concerned about creation. As scientist point to global warming, we must ask the question, what can we do? How do we help restore creation?
For Sunday, Lutherans Restoring Creation, a ministry of the ELCA, put together a creation-focused worship service for congregations to use. Peace will be sharing in this worship experience as churches across the ELCA gather for worship to lift up this important cause of caring for God’s creation. This service will include participants from all over the country including Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, The Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing, Rev. Lenny Duncan, Rebekah Bruesehoff, as well as numerous parish pastors and members of the Lutherans Restoring Creation Board of Directors. Music will be provided by Marty Haugen, the Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, and Pastor John Tirro.
I hope you will join us for worship this Sunday on Facebook at 9:30 am. I also hope we consider how we might restore creation so that generation after generation might be blessed by all God has created.
This Sunday we are going to try something. We are giving you the option of worshiping in-person outdoors. I’ll be honest. I’m thrilled to be able to preach to real live humans. I’m excited to see your faces, even if covered with masks. And I’m happy to be in your presence, although still 6+ feet away.
While I’m eager for worship this Sunday, I know that it will not be the same. There will be parts of worship we will not do due to health risks. Singing will be by soloists. And who knows how the weather, sound system and technology will be acting come Sunday morning. This makes me nervous excited!
While I want everything to go just so, I know there is much that is out of my control. This last Sunday was a shining example of what can go wrong. My prayer is that as we gather, whether online or in-person, with a glitching screen or temperamental weather, we know we are a part of God’s great and messy creation. We are united in something so much bigger than ourselves. And God will show up whether it’s perfect or perhaps even more so, when it is not.
So, thank you for the incredible grace you have shown me in this time of trial and error and frustration and learning. Your grace is strength and encouragement for me as we navigate these uncharted waters. We are blessed to be a community of love and grace no matter how we worship.
Your sister in Christ,
I have found there are times in my life when it has been hard to explain something I know. People will ask, how was your trip? The trip was great! What was great about it? In those times, it can be difficult to specifically say what it was about the trip that made it so great. It is hard to put it into words.
We have all had these experiences when we have been left searching for words. And yet, we know that there are some questions that are important for us to answer.
This Sunday we will hear Jesus’ question his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter is quick to answer and is even commended for his good answer. But what if Jesus asked you this question today? What would you say? And whatever it is that you would say, would it make a difference in how you live Monday-Saturday?
As we move to Sunday, think about this question. Who do you say Jesus is? The answer might make all the difference for you.
See you Sunday,