Woodwind Concert on the Lawn

On Sunday, October 4, we will be hosting an outdoor, masked-and-distanced concert by the principal woodwind players of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs. Enjoy music for flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon on our lawn! Admission is free, but reservations are required through the Chamber Orchestra website, and seating is limited. The program begins at 1 p.m. and will be repeated at 3 p.m. For more information, or to register, visit www.chamberorchestraofthesprings.org/winds-in-the-trees.

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:13-14

Forgetting what lies behind is going to be hard. With this pandemic changing the world underneath our feet and presenting us with a new reality we are going to be tempted to focus on what life used to be like. But our focus should instead be on what lies ahead, we need to look where we are going. I’ve done a lot of memorial services in the past two months and they’ve got me thinking about my life and what I’m aiming for. This passage from Philippians is a call to get your goals straight, to aim for the thing that matters most. Singular focus on Christ will bring everything else into perspective.

-Pastor Travis

The Church has Issues: Ephesians

Pastor Travis Norton
23 September 2020
Wednesday morning worship
Ephesians 4:17-30 
They were stealing for crying out loud
when we say the church has issues 
we’re talking about some very basic things 
Like Christians should obey the commandment 
that says thou shalt not steal 
Paul has to write to the Ephesians 
that Thieves who are now Christians 
must give up stealing 
But he goes beyond just what they  
need to stop doing 
He says that they should instead 
work honestly with their hands 
so as to have something to share with the needy 
There’s a whole other sermon there 
about the point of work being not just to provide for yourself 
but to share with others 
But for this morning 
we are just going to focus 
on the fact that the early church was so messed up 
Paul had to tell them to stop stealing 
I like this series on the church has issues 
because it makes me feel better about the issues 
the  modern day church has 
Well, maybe not better, 
but I take some satisfaction in knowing 
that those early Christians struggled just as much as we do 
At least our congregations 
aren’t full of thieves 
(that I know of) 😊 
Paul insists on something 
that maybe the early Christians weren’t aware of 
He insists that they need to change the way they live 
that they can’t keep living like the Gentiles 
The word gentile just meant  
non-Jew originally 
or the nations 
We would probably say Non-Christians today 
or even more simply 
call on Christians to act differently 
than everyone else 
Christians are supposed to live a unique kind of life 
following the values espoused by Jesus 
We should be known for being a bit strange 
for standing out from the crown a bit 
because we have standards that others don’t follow 
Paul names some of them 
here in Ephesians 
Christians shouldn’t lie 
we shouldn’t misconstrue the truth 
we should put away all falsehood 
When we get angry 
we shouldn’t use our anger as an excuse 
to misbehave 
And we should aim to resolve the conflict 
before the day is over 
No evil talk should come out of our mouths 
but only what is useful for building up 
Do you hear that 
Paul goes so far as to say that Christians should talk different 
We should be known for using our words 
for the purpose of building people up 
encouraging them and giving them grace 
Christians should not harbor bitterness or wrath 
we shouldn’t be known for arguing or slander 
There should be no malice in our hearts 
no wishing ill of anyone 
Instead we are to be kind 
tenderhearted and forgiving 
These are just some of the things 
that Paul urges the Ephesians to correct 
Now we may not have a problem with thievery 
but how many of us have bent the truth? 
How many of us have used our words 
to tear down instead of build up? 
How many of us have been unkind 
or hard hearted 
We have issues too 
don’t we 
Sometimes Lutherans have been particularly  
guilty of this particular issue 
We emphasize that we are saved by God’s grace 
that we can’t do anything to save ourselves 
And that is good and right 
we are unable to lift a finger to save ourselves 
God has done all the work  
in Christ Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection 
Even the Holy Spirit 
is the one who gives faith 
for us to believe and receive Christ 
However, that doesn’t mean 
that we shouldn’t put forth any effort 
into living a life worthy of the salvation we have received 
At issue here is the difference 
between justification and sanctification 
Justification is the act of salvation 
where our sins are forgiven 
and our assurance of salvation is secured 
We are saved by Grace through Faith 
as it says in Ephesians chapter 2 
Not by works so that no one can boast 
But then there is sanctification 
which is the process by which the Holy Spirit 
makes us a Holy, Set apart people 
In justification there is no growth 
you are transferred from being outside the kingdom of heaven 
to being inside the kingdom of heaven 
You are either saved or not saved 
there’s no in-between or back and forth 
That is not the case in sanctification 
There are indeed some Christians 
who are better Christians than others 
Not in terms of salvation 
but in terms of how their lives reflect 
the commands and expectations of Jesus 
now that’s a bold statement 
and you can argue with me after the service if you’d like 
I might like that actually 
But stick with me for a minute 
We are saved by pure gift of God 
but once we are saved we are expected 
to grow up and mature in Christ 
God expects us to get better 
to get better at holding our tongue 
and letting our words reflect the one we follow 
to get better at being honest 
telling the truth, even when it’s hard 
to get better at being generous 
sharing with those in need 
from the wealth we’ve built with our honest work 
to get better at forgiving 
those who have sinned against us 
God is at work in us 
That famous verse from Ephesians 
chapter 2 vs 8-9 about being saved by grace through faith not by works 
Is followed up by chapter 2 verse 10 
“for we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works 
which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” 
I was thinking about this life we are upposed to live 
as something we improve upon every year 
to offer a better gift to God and our neighbor 
some of you may know  
that I’m an amateur woodworker 
I’m learning how to create furniture 
from wood, mostly cheap lumber from Lowes 
I made this Adirondack Chair 
from $100 worth of Cedar 
But I’m not sure I improved upon the value 
of the wood 
I’m proud of this chair 
glad to sit in it on Saturday mornings and read the paper 
with my coffee sitting in the wide arms 
But it is far from perfect 
there are so many mistakes 
In the arms you’ll see six holes 
even though there are only three screws 
because I had to adjust the arms as initially they were too close together so that only my kids had small enough butts to fit 
On the back you’ll see a big piece of pine 
and multiple screw holes where I had to experiment many times 
to get the seat secure enough it wouldn’t break when you leaned back 
One arm is rougher than the other 
because I traced and cut the pattern on the wrong side 
The back is square 
and the whole thing unstained 
because I got so fed up with all the mistakes 
I just quit and said good enough 
But is it good enough? 
it makes me happy 
but I wish it were better 
Our lives are like this chair 
 they are meant for us to enjoy 
but they are also meant to be a gift to God and our neighbor 
And for that reason 
we can never stop growing and improving and perfecting them 
Everyday we get a chance 
to try again, to do better, to honor God with our lives more perfectly 
that’s not meant to dismiss what we did before 
God will always use the imperfect things of our lives 
to bring goodness and value to the world 
We don’t try to be better to earn anything from God 
we try to do better to improve our thanksgiving for what God has done for us 
Verse 30 says 
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, 
with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption” 
What does it mean 
to grieve the Holy Spirit of God? 
I think it simply means to give up 
and prevent the Spirit from doing the work the Spirit 
wants to do in our lives 
The Holy spirit is the one 
who is sanctifying us 
the one who is working on us to make us more like Christ 
Let’s let the Spirit do his work on us 
on our hearts, on our mouths, on our minds 
until our lives reflect the truth about Jesus 
Our salvation is not dependent 
on how well we live a life that imitates Christ 
But wouldn’t it be nice 
if our lives were lived 
so that people saw Christ in us? 
I think we’re all pretty good 
and I know I see Christ in you 
but we’re unfinished 
so let’s let the Spirit finish His work in us. Amen? 

Pew Partners

Let us greet one another!

Every Sunday morning many of you would come to church and head into the sanctuary to claim your spot in your pew. Perhaps before the prelude or after the postlude you would chat for a moment with the people around you. Certainly, most would be accustomed to sharing the peace with those scattered around you, also in their regular seat.

We would like to continue that time of community and sharing the peace with a monthly zoom gathering of your “pew partners!”

We’re going to need a little help from you to make this happen! While the pastors and Marcia are pretty good at remembering who sits where, we can’t remember everything! Click to sign up here.

Please note that even if you don’t use a computer or tablet you can call into a zoom meeting with just a phone number, so you might not see faces that way, but you’ll be a part of the conversation! When groups have been formed we’ll send you an email with your zoom link and you’ll be set to share the peace!

Factions and Unity

Pastor Carrie Baylis
16 September 2020 
Wednesday a.m. worship 
1 Corinthians 11: 17-34 

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace, peace and mercy to you from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. 

The Corinthians were a pretty divided people.  Paul wrote his letter to them about six decades after the death of Jesus, and it’s safe to say that they were not one cohesive community.  Most would say that they worshiped money and all that it could buy, though not everyone had money in this sprawling town that was second in size and affluence only to Rome.  Paul came here on a mission to convert this crossroads of a town to Christianity, believing that if conversion could take hold here, it could be viable anywhere. 

While Paul was able to bring Christianity to life in his mission, the Corinthian believers had to try to figure out what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ in their particular cultural context.  In a city where competition for status and privilege governs social relationships, Paul was trying to help them understand and practice a religion in which the embodiment of love is called the highest of the “spiritual gifts.”  It was going to be a new understanding of love, love for the neighbor, love of Christ, love that was not inward or self-centered that idolized money and status, that separated the haves and the have nots and that couldn’t see past schisms to find common ground. 

Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with fractured communal unity caused by the attitudes and actions of various groups within the Corinthian congregation. The letter’s overarching theme involves his appeal that there not to be divisions, factions and schisms among the Corinthians, but that they be continuously united in the same attitude and the same resolve for each other through Christ. Many were practicing Christianity, gathering in house churches, and celebrating the Eucharist.  But the ways in which they are doing it draw upon or call differences to what their status is in society and all the things that entails politically, socially, economically.  All are welcome at the table, but not every table is set the same. 

Paul is able to find the Lord’s Supper as the place to both call us out for making it about us and in the next breath call us to unity in what God has given us in this meal. If factions and division and status are going to be a part of gathering Paul was not going give thanks for the fact that they simply gathered, he was a truth teller. He tells them that their gathering is not for better but for worse. That’s a tough pill to swallow in itself when they believe they have gathered to share in Christ’s meal for them, but he goes on and tells them that gathering together with factions and division among them and status to even further separate them is in contempt for the church of God.  It makes me nervous to hear Paul call them in contempt.  I had to stop and think about why that makes me nervous today, is it because we still live in a world of haves and have nots, is it because we are divided on so many things in this world yet make claims of righteousness and unity in the church, is it because we come to the table and receive God’s meal of grace despite ourselves.  Maybe it’s all of these things. 

Paul saw the Corinthians gathering to share in the Lord’s Supper and criticizes them for problems associated with their practice of the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians, it seems, were allowing the divisions that characterized their culture to shape the way they celebrated their common meal. Paul was not happy about it. 

The Greco Roman culture was divided into social levels. Status is always relative: my high status only has meaning when juxtaposed to your low status (or the other way around).  

Virtually all social interaction was shaped by this hierarchy of status. The church at Corinth had members of relatively high status, with the power and wealth that went along with such position, as well as people of relatively low status. This mixing of status then posed challenges for the Christians at Corinth. 

Status often showed it’s ways, if a host had guests for dinner, perhaps gathering for house church, it was common for guests of high status to be served more and better food and drink than others, and for guests of lower status to be served less food and drink of poorer quality. Differences in status resulted in differences in treatment. While not everyone was happy with these differences, most accepted them as a part of how the world worked. 

This status driven culture was so taken for granted that it shaped the practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper at Corinth. So, Paul takes the Corinthians to task for what was happening when they met for the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians observed the Eucharist in conjunction with a common meal, and at that meal social divisions were visible in a way that Paul believed compromised the Gospel. “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk”. 

For Paul it is unacceptable, especially since the Lord’s Supper was intended to demonstrate the unity of the church in the mutual dependence on the grace of God shown in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Paul’s response to this situation was not to abolish the system of status. That task would have been impossible and ultimately out of the control of the Christians at Corinth. Rather, he instructs the Corinthians to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a way that doesn’t marginalize the poor among them. 

Instead of turning the Lord’s Supper into an occasion to exhibit social distinctions, the Corinthians needed to be reminded of what the Eucharist is for: remembering Jesus and proclaiming his death until he comes. They ought to partake in the Lord’s Supper in a way that demonstrates their unity rather than their divisions. 

Perhaps the question we ought to be asking ourselves is how do we come to the table today, is it in unity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ or do we take our divisions to the table and home with us again. 

The supper’s purpose is to remember Jesus. The church gathering together in fellowship and coming to the table is to remember Jesus.  This meal is a time to reflect on what Jesus has done in giving his life for others. It is a time, Paul later explains, for self-examination, not a cross examination of others who join us. The Corinthians are to discern the body — both Christ’s earthly, human body and the corporate body of believers — so they can overcome division and re-member the body of Christ to which they belong. One of the things that I’ve learned from Paul is that overcoming division is not the same as giving in to someone else’s truth.  As we come together at Christ’s table, we are reminded that we are shaped by the self-giving love of Christ and it is only through him that we are made whole.  As we live into the gospel truth, we repent our sins, and we come to the table of grace with a thankful heart, we are made whole. 

Paul’s concern is not (or at least not primarily) about the proper understanding of the sacramental presence of Jesus in the bread and wine, but about the recognition of the body of Christ in our brothers and sisters. To properly discern the body at the table means that we cannot come while leaving others uninvited and unwelcomed, or without mourning their absence. We cannot leave the table and be content to leave anyone hungry for it is a table where all are welcomed and our fellowship proclaims the scandalous message of God’s grace. To discern the body in the Supper will send us into the world with new eyes and new hearts, to encounter Christ there again and again.  Amen. 

“For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21:32

When was the last time you changed your mind about something substantial? When was the last time you let someone of less or different status than yourself, influence the way you think? Jesus is talking to the pharisees, those super religious people, when he shames them for not seeing what the sinners saw so clearly. John the Baptist was sent by God and his message was a heavenly one. The whole exchange worries me a bit. Are there things God is doing in the world now that I’m missing or dismissing? Is there a message being proclaimed from heaven that I’m too stuck in my ways to hear? How do we protect ourselves from missing out on God’s action. In part I think it’s about humility. To always hold what you think you know loosely and be willing to listen and learn from anybody, maybe especially those on the margins of society to whom God is more likely to speak. I fear becoming a pharisee. The antidote I think, is a willingness to change one’s mind. Easier said than done.

-Pastor Travis

September Ingathering Food Drive for Care and Share

Typically we would gather around 750 pounds of food in the through way in our church building during the month of September. Obviously we can’t do that in the same way we have before, but we do want to do our part to feed the hungry. So we are doing a digital food drive through the Care & Share food bank. We’ve set a goal to raise $2,000.00 which exceeds the value of our typical 750 pound food donation. Please consider a small donation towards this. Imagine purchasing a few boxes of mac & cheese, or several cans of soup and give that amount.

You can give directly to Care and Share through our fundraiser, by clicking here. Or you can you send a check to First Lutheran marked for the food drive, and we’ll make sure it gets contributed. Thank you!

The Book of Acts Bible Study Podcast

By Michaela Eskew
September 14 – December 14 2020
Podcast uploaded by Tuesday morning

In this time of Pandemic, I couldn’t think of a more relatable text than the Book of Acts. Join me this Fall, as we put ourselves into the shoes of the First Apostles. Let us remind ourselves of our humble beginnings in the Early Church. Let us walk alongside Peter and Paul as they bring the Gospel to the world. And finally, let us learn from the disciples who began their ministry cowering behind locked doors only to be called by Jesus Christ to continue his ministry and to heal and proclaim their witness to a broken world. This Bible Study will be in the form of a 30-minute podcast, uploaded weekly to our website. This way you can read alongside me and challenge yourself with my commentary and questions whenever is convenient for you!

You can find the podcast on our website here:
Scroll down and look for the red section. Or you can click on this direct link that will take you to this weeks upload:

Don’t forget to share with friends and family that might also be interested!

First Bibles for our 6th Graders

At the beginning of each year, we recognize our 6th graders as they transition from elementary Sunday School into Middle School Youth Group. To help prepare them for the affirmation of faith they partake in Confirmation we equip them with new study bibles which they receive on the first Sunday of the new school year during 9:15 am worship.

Due to Covid-19, we are choosing to offer this milestone at our mid-week service on the lawn. Today, September 16th, at our 7 pm service, our 6th graders will be gifted a bible and will be specially recognized by our congregation and their families.

We will be live-streaming this service on our YouTube Channel and recordings will be sent out to families so that family members that are unable to attend can still witness this milestone moment in their youth’s life.

Please join us in celebrating these 6th graders on September 16th at 7 pm, virtually or in person! If you plan on attending in person, please let us know by clicking here.

‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?’ – Matthew 20:13

It is no fun to feel like you have been wronged. That you didn’t get what you deserved, what you earned, what you worked so hard for. The workers in the field who had been there all day surely felt they should have received more than those who had only worked a part of the day or even just an hour. But that wasn’t the agreement, when they were brought to the field early in the morning they had already settled on what they would earn.

I sometimes wonder if it was really about the money. Were the workers ticked at the perception they were being treated unfairly, or were they even more upset by the unchecked mercy and grace offered by the landowner. Grace, mercy, forgiveness offered to those who were perceived as having not earned it, made the workers uncomfortable, they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” It is that radical generosity, grace and mercy that Jesus offers to us, and I think that we find discomfort in that because we are not always good at extending it to others. Maybe this is a good season to find the places that we are uncomfortable with the last being first and first being last and extend our grace and generosity there. God doesn’t play by our rules, God doesn’t toss aside those who haven’t earned their keep, God extends his hand in grace and mercy to the least, the lost, and the last and that can be very discomforting for us all.

-Pastor Carrie

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