Stay warm and safe!
Calling all youth in grades 2-8. You are invited to come ring handbells for a six week session. This is for returning ringers, as well as those who would like to learn how to ring. Youth will be divided into groups by grade level. Masks must be worn and social distancing will be observed. It is fun to ring bells. It is fun to make music together with other ringers. Come be part of our youth handbell program. Click here to sign up!
I am pleased to share the news that the Council has voted to open the Sanctuary to worship beginning April 11. There will, of course, be new protocols to follow as we ease our way out of the pandemic, but we feel that things have improved enough to allow for this step. God has protected us during this time and taught us a great deal about what it means to follow Him in times of hardship. I pray we will return stronger in our faith, more committed to one another and more agile in our discipleship.
Here is the plan for resuming worship in the Sanctuary:
Schedule: Sundays, 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., worship only.
Rationale – We aren’t sure how many people will take advantage of worship or how the size of our congregation has changed during the pandemic. If we find that demand is more than capacity, we will add a service. We won’t have education in person as it puts people in the building longer, and children and their parents are less likely to have received the vaccine. Sunday School and the Adult Seminar will continue online. We will also continue Wednesday Night LIGHT worship at 7 p.m. outdoors when weather allows and indoors otherwise. We will continue to provide online worship.
Protocols: Masks are required, 45-minute service, communion in seats, reservations required, coffee served outside. Cleaning between services. Singing is allowed. Bathroom use is allowed, but only one person at a time. We’ll have a simplified bulletin, a smaller cadre of volunteers and use the hymnal. Nursery will be staffed and held in the Gathering Place.
Capacity: Approximately 100. We’ll do reservations by pews. We have 34 pews and are planning to do staggered seating. So, individuals and couples can be on either end of every other pew and larger families can be in the center of the other pews. No one will be seated directly in front or behind anyone else so that most people are properly distanced. Reservations are required, but if someone shows up without a reservation, and we have room, they will be allowed.
Rationale – Many of our members have received vaccination, and a majority will have access by the middle of April. We chose the week after Easter since we typically have lower attendance that Sunday and likely won’t be put in a situation of turning people away. We recognize that this will be a learning experience, and we will likely have to make several adjustments. It’s also probably likely that at the point we figure it out, we won’t need to have any restrictions and can set a new regular schedule of worship. 😊
Reservations: We will begin taking reservations next Wednesday, March 17. Reservations can be made using the form that will be emailed to the congregation that day or by calling the church office.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your patience. We are in this together and will figure it out together. I’m so proud of this congregation for holding together and weathering this storm in unity. The end is in sight. May God bless and guide us through this next chapter and transition.
“For God so loved the world” -Jesus
It is a simple statement, but I’m not sure we believe it. Do we really believe that everyone in this world is loved by God? Do we really believe that the world as a whole is loved by God? What do we think that means? What is love? God desires good things for the world. God protects the world. God cherishes the world. God has good feelings about the world. God has high hopes for the world. God gives good gifts to the world. God wants to spend time with the world. How would you define love? Now go back through the definition and add your name to all the ways God loves you. When you have finished that exercise go through and put the name of your enemy in place of the world. when we do those two things and work to believe them, we are getting close to what it means to say God so loved the world.
We have been having such a great time working with our hands in our creative Lenten Series: Created and Creating! This week we are doing paper cut-outs, like the famed artist Henri Matisse. It doesn’t require any artistic talent, just some paper (colored is better, but white still works!) and scissors. So when you join us on zoom, bring paper and scissors. Introduction to the art practice will be recorded and placed on the website for those who miss the event.
Created and Creating: A Lenten Journey through Artistic Spiritual Practices
You are created in the image of a creator! That means that you have the innate gift to create. Whether you know these talents already or you are just an admirer of other’s beautiful creations, I encourage you to join us this Lenten period to try out some creative spiritual practices. In our very first session, February 21st at 10:30am MST, we will be using this sand mandala kit. You can find us on the following zoom ID: 843 6443 9242.
Whether you feel comfortable to join us via zoom or not, I encourage you to explore the following spiritual practices this Lenten season.
March 7th – Paper Cut-Outs
March 14th – Creative Writing
March 21st – Clay modeling with Jazz accompaniment
March 28th – Lutheran Rosary
Although most of these classes use materials that you will have in your home, the final two classes do require extra materials (clay, beads, string). If you would like to be provided with these materials before the zoom classes on March 21st and 28th please email Michaela Eskew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 3, 2021
On the Brink
Today we start a new series as we return to Wednesday worship. We’re calling it “On the Brink, stories from the edge.” The idea is to look through scripture for those moments of significant transition. Times when Israel or an individual was on the brink of something new. What can we learn from scripture about these times of great transition?
We are on the brink now as the pandemic comes to a close and we anticipate opening the building again. We know that things have changed, there is no going back to normal or the way it was. There’s too much water under the bridge for that and we’ve experienced too much, learned too much. When we return to indoor worship and see our whole congregation face to face again it won’t be the same congregation. People have died, people have left, new people have joined, babies have been born. And we’ve all been changed in ways that will take years to fully be revealed. We’ve undergone something together but also independently. And it will take some time to fully realize how it has affected us. My wife is now fully vaccinated, and she was sharing with me that when she was at the gym someone started working out next to her. Even though she was fully vaccinated she still felt discomfort, even as she told herself it was ok. We’ve been through a lot and it’s taken a toll. We will need to be intentional about thinking through and naming the ways we’ve been changed.
Today, we turn to Joshua on the brink of new life in the promised land to learn a bit on how to move into something new. Joshua and Israel had been through a lot together. Just think a bit about their history. Joshua, the son of Nun, was sent by Moses along with eleven other spies 40 years prior to go scope out the promised land. When they returned, only he and Caleb were confident they could take the land. They had faith when the other ten had fear. Joshua was outvoted and the result was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Do you know how hard it must have been to be outvoted on such a significant issue and yet stay with your people? Not only did Joshua stay, but he became a warrior and leader for the nation of Israel. When they came against enemies, it was Joshua in the trenches leading the charge. When they crossed over into the promised land and faced formidable foes who outnumbered them, it was Joshua who led them to victory after victory. Yet Joshua never took credit, he always gave that to God, knowing that any victory they achieved was by God’s grace.
Joshua led Israel into battle, into war. I wonder how many friends Joshua lost in those battles. I wonder how many wounded veterans were in the crowd that gathered to hear Joshua’s last speech before he died? That’s when this speech takes place. Joshua was very old, the battles had been won, although more would be fought. Joshua had led Israel over the Jordan into the promised land and fought to subdue it. He then divvied up the land among the tribes, casting lots, deciding the future of families and nations. But then before they are too settled in this new land and before the memories of the wilderness had faded Joshua gathers all the tribes before him for some final instructions. Some on the Brink instructions before he dies. What would you tell a people who had been through so much together? What would you want them to remember, what points would you press home? Joshua has a long memory and what he wants Israel to know is all the ways God was there for them. He takes them back all the way to Abraham, before the wars, before Jericho, before the quail and manna, before the spy adventure, before the red sea, before the 400 years of slavery, before Jacob and Isaac. All the way back to that moment when Abraham was called out of the blue by God and led to the promised land. Then step by step Joshua tells the history of how God gave the promised land, rescued them from Egypt parted the seas, fed them from heaven, gave them victory over opponents and restored them to the Promised land. I can see them nodding their heads, especially as he recounted the things they had personally experienced. Remember crossing the Jordan river and God piled up the water on one side so we could cross over? Remember looking at the walls of Jericho and thinking we didn’t have a chance? Remember marching around the whole city while they jeered at us and attacked us? Remember when God brought the walls down at the sound of the trumpets? I imagine mothers and fathers taking their sons and daughters by the shoulders as Joshua talked – urging them to pay attention. It must have been a stirring speech because when Joshua comes to the end, comes to the point he wants to press home, the crowd shouted in response. Joshua asks them to choose this day whom you will serve, knowing the temptations all around them to serve other gods. “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” And the crowd responds in kind, we will too. Even when Joshua casts doubt on their acclamation, saying they are unable to serve the Holy God and he will surely punish them if they go after false gods. They shout again, “NO, we will serve the Lord.” And they do for a generation or so as they make their home in the promised land. They serve God for awhile but then their children forget, and their children’s children go their own way.
That’s why it’s so important to tell the story, to retell the history of God. And so, I wonder as we are on the brink now, ready to move out of pandemic life into something new. What do we want to remember? What story will we tell? What do we want our kids and our grand kids and all those who come after us to remember? It was a year ago when we moved online, before we even moved outdoors, and I was full of fear. I worried that people would stop giving and that we would have to downsize staff. I imagined the conversations I would be having to tell people that we couldn’t pay them anymore. I worried about our outreach partners, that we wouldn’t be able to support them anymore. Could we continue to feed the hungry, house the homeless, foster children? But then week after week, like manna from heaven, you continued to give and support this ministry. God provided. I want to remember that, how God provided for us when things were bleak. I want to remember how the people at First Lutheran were faithful and supportive during the darkest night. I want to remember that we were able to worship without a sanctuary or pews. Hundreds of faithful members of First Lutheran have worshiped in their homes, on their decks, in their bathrobes and pajamas with coffee in their hands. When someone complains about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary or their pew has been taken by a guest, I want us to tell the story about the time we worshiped outside of the four walls of the sanctuary. How we were still moved by the gospel and touched by the music, when the pandemic kept us at home. I want us to remember that God was working, that the Spirit was active. Talk about the new members who joined our church and still haven’t been inside the walls of the sanctuary. Talk about the people who found us online, the Selleck family in Maine, Thim Liu in Malaysia, Russ and Donna in Florida. Tell the story of our home bound who rejoiced at the opportunity to return to worship through online services. Tell the story of how our people came together as a congregation to baptize, confirm, marry and bury, all without the building that can so easily become an idol. So that when we have the building back, future generations never confuse the building with the church.
People of God, we have been through something together and we will bear the scars for the rest of our lives. The scars of isolation, the scars of fear. The grief over the ones we’ve lost, especially those who died from Covid. Let’s never forget Dennis Kruse or Don Niles. Even as recently as last week we mourn with Darrel Shafer who lost his mother to Covid. We will bear the scars of the political division during last year that took its toll on our unity and we lost a few friends in that conflict. I pray those scars and this shared experience will strengthen us for the days ahead. Soon this time will be behind us and the old temptations will return. But let’s tell the stories of God’s faithfulness. Let’s remind each other, not only of the hardships but of the way we got through it together. Let’s be like Joshua and commit ourselves to the Lord and charge others to do the same. We are still in this, but not for much longer.
We are on the brink, not of returning to normal, but of entering something new. Choose today how you will come out on the other side. Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
If you are 65+ and have not been able to make an appointment to receive your Covid vaccine, we would like to try to assist you. While there are many different ways to schedule an appointment, it isn’t always easy. If you are still waiting and would like us to work with you to obtain an appointment, please call the church office and leave your name and number and we will give you a call back to walk through the process. You can also email Pastor Carrie at email@example.com.
Making an appointment to receive a Covid vaccine can be frustrating for many. If you have successfully made appointments for yourself and feel that you would be able to assist someone else who is 65+ in making an appointment, please contact Pastor Carrie via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What gets in the way of us worshiping God? In the gospel reading for this week, it was commerce. It was selling animals and exchanging of money that was taking place in the temple. Quite the opportunists I would think, what better place to capitalize on a crowd of people that at the temple, the center of the community. I wonder what it was that made the people think this was okay and that coming to the temple for a business transaction wouldn’t be destructive to those who were seeking the holy. The perception of what was holy in that space looked to be serving oneself and lining your pockets with money. It was a brazen show that money and power were going to take the seat held by God to whom the temple was dedicated. Jesus was having none of it. He came into the temple and chased out those who were selling, poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and turned over tables for good measure. I have to imagine that this was about as angry as we read about Jesus being, imagine the insult he felt when money and power were so visibly valued over the God who loves us. John’s gospel places this story at the beginning of Jesus ministry which is different from the synoptic gospels and is one of the reasons that John’s gospel is my favorite. Right up front, we get a picture of Jesus who is not messing around. It’s also a place to realize and remember that Jesus has come to replace the temple, that the presence of God is now embodied in Jesus who is with us and for us, and despite any barriers that might be set before us, like those in the temple that day, Jesus invites us all to be his followers and to walk with him in his ministry.