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Join us here as we share uplifting messages
during these times of uncertainty and the coronavirus pandemic.

Daily Devotions

See the Daily Devotions page for devotions provided by Pastor Linda and Pastor Loren. You can use the devotions with your families or as an individual.

 


Family Friday

Psalm 104 and a Surprise Melody!

July 10

The Ranney family reads a piece from “The Message” and Psalm 104 about the wildly wonderful world that God created for us. They also surprise us with a familiar melody. #letitshine

 

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Crisis

July 9

A crisis is frightening and disrupts our normal daily life. COVID-19 and racism are both a crisis. A crisis leads to letting go, and it can result in a transformation. A crisis can make us aware that we are in the presence of God. He is with us at all times, with every breath we take. May we experience a loving transformation as we move through these crises. #letitshine
(3 min., 30 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

July 7

 

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

“What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”

Charles Crozat Converse and Joseph Scriven

 


Sunday Message

“Lightening Your Burden”

July 5

 

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others: ‘We play the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon,’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”

But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’ All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and to those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

In this text, Jesus is referring to the generation of his time, it seems, it could just as easily be addressed to our present times and generation.

Jesus is speaking to the people about a generation that cannot recognize the truth that is right in front of them. By many, John the Baptist is seen as having a demon or someone crazy who has lost his mind in the wilderness; not as the prophetic voice paving the way for the promised Messiah to come.

By many, Jesus is seen in a similar light, “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” Isn’t it is interesting that Jesus is described by these wrong judgements, and by the company he keeps! Jesus goes on to say and compare these judgements by the quote, “Wise and Learned” with the wisdom God has hidden to them, but given to children, and the innocent of heart. Jesus says “no one knows the Father in Heaven except his Son; and no one knows the Son except the Father,” and to those the Son chooses to reveal these revelations and understandings.

How is God speaking to us in this generation today? We are living in an amazing time, but very anxious and troubled times. This year of 2020 has ushered in a COVID-19 Global Pandemic, “Black Lives Matter” protests and riots, loss of jobs, a struggling economy, anxiety in the country with our elected officials. Thoughtless decisions and choices by some have all been a part of our world and struggling times, and they are at the center of all of our lives!

Many people say, “Where is God, in the midst of all this?” and “Why would God allow such suffering?”

Definitely, this is not an easy journey, and there is so much anxiety, anger, suffering and pain in this time. As Christians and followers of Jesus, we can trust that God has never left our struggles and pain in this time of the world. Jesus not only feels our hurts, sadness, suffering and pain, He understands and wants us to reach out to Him in our prayers and rely on His strength to carry our burdens and give us His strength, which we need to get through this time. Let us not get too far ahead of it, but walk through it, “One Day at a Time… with the help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light.”
Matthew 11: 28-30

So, trust in God’s promises, remember that you have been called and claimed as one of God’s children in the Family of God!

May the Love of Jesus bring you Peace and Joy in your hearts today… and the days to come!

In the Love and Grace of Jesus,

Jim Ranney ><>

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Freedom in Our Lives”

July 4

On this July 4th 2020, Pastor Loren reflects on how his views of freedom have evolved since his boyhood days on a 1950s Wisconsin dairy farm and are even now still being challenged by recent events. He finds his thinking tugged in many directions, as he considers how his beliefs affect his view of the world and his place in it. He calls on all of us to set time aside this holiday weekend to reflect on the meaning of freedom in our own Christian lives and how it impacts the world that God made. #letitshine
(4 min., 9 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Trust in the Lord”

July 3

The Ranney family encourages our hearts this Family Friday with a reading of Psalm 121 from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson and by singing “Trust in the Lord.” #letitshine

“Trust in the Lord”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make straight your path

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make straight your path”

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Freedom in Our Lives”

July 4

On this July 4th 2020, Pastor Loren reflects on how his views of freedom have evolved since his boyhood days on a 1950s Wisconsin dairy farm and are even now still being challenged by recent events. He finds his thinking tugged in many directions, as he considers how his beliefs affect his view of the world and his place in it. He calls on all of us to set time aside this holiday weekend to reflect on the meaning of freedom in our own Christian lives and how it impacts the world that God made. #letitshine
(4 min., 9 sec.)

 

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Remember

July 2

Pastor Linda focuses on the word “remember” in her message. She reveals that remembering is an important theme in Psalms. We are encouraged to pray to God for help, praise Him in every situation, and remember His loving kindness. When times are tough, we should remember what God does for us. It’s not always easy to see at the time, but God’s loving presence is always there. Remember that “joy comes in the morning.” #letitshine
(3 min., 24 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Fuia”

June 30

The Ranney family has fun performing a favorite camp song called “Fuia.”
#letitshine

 

 


Sunday Message

“These Little Ones”

June 28

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Matthew 10:40-42

So, the first question you might ask is who is Jesus talking about this morning when he refers to “these little ones?” The answer might just surprise us! Throughout the Gospels, Jesus has always welcomed the little children to come to him. So, we might think that our littles ones refer to children. But not so fast!

Actually, today’s Gospel follows directly on last week’s Gospel reading. Jesus has named his 12 disciples and then sent them out with the authority to proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ and cure illnesses. It must have been exciting to be called to be one of the 12. Any number of people were followers of Jesus at this point so to be one of the chosen 12 – Wow! And to be given authority to proclaim God’s Word and to heal people – Yikes!

But as Jesus continues to instruct his chosen disciples, the reality of their task quickly sinks in! “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves…Do not fear those who kill the body…I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Being sent out as a follower of Jesus is going to be hard and dangerous work! And I bet that if I had been one of Jesus’ chosen disciples, I would have had a few doubts right about then!

So when Jesus talks about giving a cold drink to one of his little ones, he is talking about his disciples. The Greek word for little ones is mikros. The same word is used in its superlative form when Jesus talks about the “least of these” in Matthew 25. We see that these disciples who are being sent out are young, young in this new faith, and let’s faith it, vulnerable.

As I was studying this text, I listened to a podcast called, “Sermon Brainwave” from Luther Seminary. One of the professors was talking about this text and how it applies to our churches as we continue to deal with COVID-19. She said, “The church has left the building.” That sentence caused me to really stop and think.

The church has left the building! That kind of describes this unique time we live in, doesn’t it? Our building is closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have not gathered for worship or Bible Study or supper since the middle of March. With the exception of those who are checking on our building or our secretary who spends some time in the office, we have not been in the church buildings.

We are still the church. It is just that circumstances have forced us to leave the building. But two things remain constant. Jesus continues to send us out with the Good News of Christ and Jesus promises to be with us as we proclaim the Gospel. You and I are Jesus’ little ones.

Leaving our buildings has changed things. We grappled with how we would continue to be church without a structure. We are blessed to have people in our congregation who have shared their technological skills with us. We have been able to reach out with Facebook, and our web page and good old snail mail. Councils have been able to meet virtually.

We have left our building. And it puts us in a very different position. I don’t think that it is a bad thing. We are learning a lot! We are learning that we can adapt pretty well and be church in a new way. And as much as we long to get back together, we have also realized that we can do this.

We are sent into the world and told to be disciples of Christ. That has always been the case, but right now it feels much more literal. And that can make us feel vulnerable in some new ways.

Think about the word “welcome,” for instance. How many churches have the words, All Are Welcome, on their church signs? We really do not think much about it. We are quite good about welcoming visitors to West Blue Mounds or Springdale. They are our houses of worship and we know how to be good hosts. The church buildings are comfortable for us. We are at home.

But now that the church has left the building, how do we continue to extend a welcome? Our digital platforms may reach people we do not know. Our pictures and Bible Studies may be seen by people who do not know us. Suddenly, we are not on familiar ground. We little ones can feel a bit off balance and uncertain.

But the Lord who sends us out, continues to walk with us, assuring us of God’s love and guidance. Maybe it’s good to get out of our comfort zone. Maybe it’s about time to think about how to communicate with those who may not know churchy words or understand church tradition. Maybe we can proclaim the Good News in new ways to a new audience.

You and I are sent out as Jesus’ little ones. The way forward is a bit uncertain and the path is so new to us. But thanks be to God, Jesus leads us, goes ahead of us, and loves us as we share that love with others.

Pastor Linda

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Standing at the Door”

June 27

As life is starting to resume in some ways, we stand at the door before going out with some concern, because there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19. Pastor Loren explains there also was uncertainty as St. Paul was expanding the young Church. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 16:9 say, “a wide door for effective work has opened to me.” Today a door is also before us, ready for us to walk through, to do effective work for the Church. #letitshine
(3 min., 59 sec.)

3

 

 


Family Friday

“10,000 Reasons”

June 26

The Ranney family performs the song “10,000 Reasons,” which is a popular tune by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin played on Christian radio stations. #letitshine

“10,000 Reasons”

“Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name

You’re rich in love
And You’re slow to anger
Your name is great
And Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness
I will keep on singing

Ten thousand reasons
For my heart to find

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name”

Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Science

June 25

Pastor Linda reveals that she enjoyed science growing up by doing science experiments with her chemistry set or gazing at the stars. She has a great respect for science and doesn’t understand why science and religion are at odds. God inspired so much of scientific discovery. Let’s listen to the wisdom that has been shared with us to stay six feet apart and wear a face mask so we can protect others and ourselves.
(2 min., 55 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Tell the World That Jesus Loves You”

June 23

The camp song “Tell the World That Jesus Loves You” is today’s selection for Tuesday Tunes by the Ranney family. It’s a good reminder that we can always count on Jesus, including during these difficult times.#letitshine

“Tell the World That Jesus Loves You”

“Tell the world that Jesus loves you
Tell them you’ve found a forever friend
Open up your heart’s door to Him
The love of Jesus has no end

You can choose what not to believe in
You can deny there’s a heaven above
But once you take a look at Jesus
There’s no denying that God is Love

Tell the world that Jesus loves you
Tell them you’ve found a forever friend
Open up your heart’s door to Him
The love of Jesus has no end”

Michael J. Card and Randy Scruggs

 


Sunday Message

 “In Vulnerability, We Are Stronger”

 June 21

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:24-39
This passage of scripture made me think about how important “risk management” can be to a person. I realize that this is a term that refers to managing finances and investments in a way that places them at the least risk and means they will be safe and secure. But I think it also applies to the way most of us handle things in our lives. I for one like to avoid things that have a lot of risk involved with them. Risk creates a lot of stress and makes me very uncomfortable. This means that I do not venture out into things that are unknown without exploring all the possibilities beforehand. I don’t go to close to the edge of the cliff for fear of falling. And with COVID-19 still a real present reality, even stepping out into our communities will continue to carry a risk factor with it.

As Jesus makes clear in these verses, our willingness to be disciples of Christ carries a risk factor with it. Now how can the message of the cross about the forgiveness of sins and our personal salvation possibly create any risk? After all the Gospel brings true peace to those who suffer, to those in need of healing, to those marginalized, to those demonized, and to those oppressed. Don’t we want to proclaim that from the roof tops as Jesus says in these verses? Where’s the risk?

Jesus sets out words that might start us thinking of discipleship in a slightly different way than we usually do. I don’t think Jesus was trying to scare his disciples or us with these words, but he certainly is making a point. We can hardly miss the words he repeats three times thought these verses, “have no fear,” “Do not fear,” “do not be afraid.” I think he is telling them this is scary business and the natural response to what I am asking you is fear. As we look at our country, it is easy to see how fear has become a motivating force behind what has been happening in the culture and the economy as well as increasingly in political priorities. But as powerful as fear is, Jesus is telling us, don’t let it be the motivating force in your discipleship because that could derail God’s mission.

Believing in Jesus – really believing in what Jesus says, what Jesus stands for, and then admitting it – is risky business. Sometimes it’s just easier not to rock the boat, to maintain the status quo and just stay silent. That way we don’t jeopardize the comfortable life we are living. We don’t risk strained relationships, being unfriended on Facebook or losing our privileged positions. So what do we do? Listening to Jesus in these verses, we see that telling the truth of the Gospel is our priority, and that when we do so, nothing will ever be the same again.

“For nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

So when we faithfully proclaim the truth of the Gospel and live it, we put ourselves on a collision course with the powers of this world. When Jesus asks his disciples to take up the cross, he is telling his disciples to identify with marginalized people who could easily be victims of Roman crucifixion.

The cross becomes the dividing line for those of us who proclaim Jesus as our risen Lord. As disciples today, we stand before the empty tomb as the power of the resurrection flows over us so that we can embrace the Kingdom of Heaven happening here and now.

Jesus is calling out fear with the promises of God’s love for us and presence with us. Do not fear, because we can have confidence in who God is and know that God is present in the world in mercy and compassion. Jesus redefines the worth of people, so that in our vulnerability we are stronger in Christ.

May God’s love bring justice and peace for all.

Pastor Loren

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Compassion Creates Bonds”

June 20

Pastor Loren explains that if something is broken, we want a speedy fix by throwing it out and getting something new, or by getting do-it-yourself tips online. That approach doesn’t work with people, however. Healing of wounds may happen fairly quickly on the surface, but the pain underneath may take a longer to heal. We want others’ suffering to end, so that sometimes leads to attempting a quick fix instead of taking the time needed to heal. Compassion is difficult because seeing others who feel vulnerable, hurt or lonely is painful. We can show support by giving love, even if we don’t quite know what to say or do. This breaks through barriers and creates bonds of healing. May we find this compassion in ourselves and do what Jesus called us to do in our world. #letitshine
( 3 min., 36 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

Higher Than the Mountains

June 19

The Ranney family does a reading from Psalm 25 and performs a song about God’s enormous love for us, which is beyond what we can imagine. #letitshine

“Higher Than the Mountains”

“To You oh Lord I lift up my soul
In You I trust oh Lord
To You oh Lord I lift up my soul
In You I trust oh Lord

Higher than the mountains
Deeper than the sea
Wider than the ocean is your love for me
You’re with me on the mountain and the valley below
You walk right here beside me everywhere that I go

To You oh Lord I lift up my soul
In You I trust oh Lord
To You oh Lord I lift up my soul
In You I trust oh Lord

Higher than the mountains
Deeper than the sea
Wider than the ocean is Your love for me
You’re with me on the mountain and the valley below
You walk right here beside me everywhere that I go

To You oh Lord I lift up my soul
In You I trust oh Lord
To You oh Lord I lift up my soul
In You I trust oh Lord”

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Together

June 18

Pastor Linda shares that during the pandemic, she misses seeing others, hugging and having Bible studies. Though we’re physically apart, we’re still together in the Body of Christ. All of humanity is in this pandemic together, and we’re also together in working to improve race relations. God is there for all people. Pastor Linda reminds us to always reflect God’s love to everyone. #letitshine
(2 min., 56 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Edelweiss”

June 16

The Ranney Family performs the beloved song “Edelweiss” from the popular musical “The Sound of Music,” by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers.

“Edelweiss”

“Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white clean and bright
You look happy to meet me

Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white clean and bright
You look happy to meet me”

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

 


Sunday Message

“A Shared Mission”

June 14

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.’”

Matthew 9:35 – 10:8

 As we begin this passage, we hear just what it is that Jesus is up to, and what the focus of his ministry among us is. It is a simple summary of what is most important in Jesus’ mind as he travels from city to city and village to village. He is teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He is healing, curing every disease and every sickness. He is responding to the people he sees around him, and deep within him he feels compassion for them. As he encounters the crowds they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They are in need of someone to step in and address their need – to do what Jesus has been doing.

And Jesus knows exactly what he is going to do. He is going to send his disciples on their mission out into the world. A mission that grew out of his compassion for the people he encountered. The disciples are to be the laborers out in the field doing the work that he has begun. He lays it out quite plainly when he says, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”

Those are pretty tall orders. They might have sounded a little overwhelming to the disciples to whom Jesus was giving them, and I’m sure they sound equally daunting to us as we hear them today. Yet there they are. Jesus’ directions to his disciples both then and now. I wonder what the world would look like if the ways by which we imagined how to follow Jesus were these four imperatives? “Cure” “Raise” “Cleanse” “Cast out”

Jesus commissions his disciples to perform the very works that he does, calling them to go into new places and situations. The real proclamation of God’s realm is marked by healing and setting people free. Jesus gives the Twelve clear instructions, then sends them out to do his works and proclaim his message. Once sent, however, they are on their own.

At the center of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven drawing near are these two essential marks of discipleship – healing and setting people free. The question we must ask, is are these present in our churches today? Or have we turned following Jesus into an individualized way to heaven that directs our gaze upward, so that we don’t even notice what is going on around us and we don’t feel the compassion that Jesus felt for those to whom his mission was directed.

Yet as Christians we so often want to know exactly what we are supposed to do. We turn to scripture for these directions and try to apply those words to our situations. We hope to find answers. But when we confront things like Covid-19, the economy or government, we can’t ask the Bible to tell us how to manage these directly. Instead, we ask how the Bible may inform our vision of a just society. What we find in our search for direction from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are things like honesty, compassion, justice and love.

Our desire for instructions often derails us from what is most important. Where the realm of heaven is breaking in we find healing and freedom from what binds us. This is what we need to know. The mission on which Jesus sends his disciples and us is to speak to those of us who are bound by a power we may feel powerless to resist and into situations where evil has us firmly in its grip.  We may find ourselves bound by behaviors, patterns, or structures we cannot escape, and so we repeat the same behavior time and again. Even as we struggle with our role as disciples we truly know that the realm of heaven has drawn near when healing takes place and we are set free from what binds us.  Now we, as disciples, are sent into the world, taking Jesus’ message beyond his instructions into surprising new places.

What defines us, as it did those first disciples, is our shared mission in the ongoing breaking in of the kingdom into the world.

God’s blessings on our calling to bring healing and freedom to all,

Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Seeing a Way”

June 13

Pastor Loren explains that seeing involves more than knowing what is physically in front of you. He shares a Bible story from Luke about Jesus seeing a woman who couldn’t stand straight, who was only able to look down. She had been afflicted for many years. Jesus heals the woman, setting her free from her suffering. We often miss seeing others who carry a heavy weight on their shoulders. We must look closely so we can see people who suffer, and do what we can to take away their pain.
(3 min., 19 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“I Just Wanna Be a Sheep”

June 12

The fun, energetic camp tune “I Just Wanna Be a Sheep” is performed by Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons. Jim also provides a contemporary reading of The Good Shepherd in Psalm 23 from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson. #letitshine

“I Just Wanna Be a Sheep”

“I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
And I pray the Lord
My soul
To keep
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa

I don’t wanna be a Pharisee
I don’t wanna be a Pharisee
‘Cause they’re not fair you see
I don’t wanna be a Pharisee
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
And I pray the Lord
My soul
To keep
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa

I don’t wanna be a hypocrite
I don’t wanna be a hypocrite
‘Cause they’re not hip with it
I don’t wanna be a hypocrite
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
And I pray the Lord
My soul
To keep
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa

I don’t wanna be a Saducee
I don’t wanna be a Saducee
‘Cause they’re so sad you see
I don’t wanna be a Saducee
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa
And I pray the Lord
My soul
To keep
I just wanna be a sheep
Babababa”

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Vulnerable

June 11

Pastor Linda comments that many people in our community are vulnerable because of COVID-19. Our parish has created a Smart Team to create a plan and determine when we can safely open our church doors. Church won’t look the same for a while. Many in our community are vulnerable so won’t be able to attend services, and some common aspects of church like singing will be put on hold to avoid risk. We all remain a vital part of the community in faith. Each person is valued and loved. We are God’s church, regardless of where we worship. #letitshine
(2 min., 54 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“We Shall Overcome”

June 9

Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney performs “We Shall Overcome,” written by Pete Seeger, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Zilphia Horton. The song was especially popular during the civil rights movement. We think of the difficult times our country is facing, with George Floyd’s death, protests, and COVID-19. In the midst of these serious issues, we should remember that God loves all people. May God bless us and keep us, and bring peace into the world.

“We Shall Overcome”

“We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

We shall live in peace
We shall live in peace
We shall live in peace, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

The Lord shall see us through
The Lord shall see us through
The Lord shall see us through, some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
The Lord shall see us through, some day”

Pete Seeger, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Zilphia Horton

 


Holy Trinity Sunday Sermon

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

June 7

 

Sunday Message – Trinity Sunday

“Come, Join the Dance of Trinity”

June 7

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)

Today is Trinity Sunday, the day we celebrate the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our Bible verses for today are the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus sends out the disciples to teach and to baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity. And that is how we baptize and that is what we teach.

But just what do we mean when we speak of the Trinity? Three in one. One in three. Yes, but what does it mean?  It’s a mystery! Yes, but we can’t just leave it there or we miss something very powerful and amazing about this God we call Trinity.

A few years ago, my Noon Bible Study at Zion began a study based on the book, The Divine Dance, by Father Richard Rohr. It was a look at our idea of Trinity based on ideas that go way back in our Christian history. He used an icon to help explain some of what he was discussing. It is called “The Trinity,” by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev in the early 15th century.

The story is told, Rohr shared with us, that an artist became a follower of Jesus just from gazing at this icon, saying, “If that’s the nature of God, then I’m a believer.”

I think for many Christians, their picture of God has been distorted. God the Father is seen as a distant and judgmental figure. Jesus the Son as loving. And the Holy Spirit, well, doing whatever it is that the Holy Spirit does. Rohr blasts away that distorted picture calling on the Early Church Mothers and Fathers and says, “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love. And God is not just the dancer; God is the dance itself.” The book talks about this never-ending current of love that constantly flows between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God is TRINITY. God is LOVE. God is RELATIONSHIP.

Now look at the picture of the icon. Note that the three persons of the Trinity are seated a table, leaning into each other, totally open to emptying  themselves and receiving fully from each other. They share a cup. Do you see the small rectangle on the face of the table? Speculation is that once there was a mirror there. And as you stood and looked at the icon you would realize that there was a place at the table for that person looking at it – a place at the table for you!

Our book talked about how God is not a, “distant, static monarch but…a divine circle dance. God is the Holy One presenced in the dynamic and loving action of three.” Father Richard goes on to invite us to understand, “That this Table is not reserved exclusively for the Three, nor is the divine circle dance a closed circle:  we’re all invited in.”

God is TRINITY. God is LOVE. God is RELATIONSHIP.

I do not claim to understand the mystery of the Trinity. But for me the picture painted by the icon and by Father Richard is a profound picture of Trinity.

We are all invited to the dance!

 

“Come, Join the Dance of Trinity” Evangelical Book of Worship #412 v. 4

Within the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun,
We sing the praises of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
Let voices rise and interweave, by love and hope set free,
To shape in song this joy, this life: the dance of Trinity.

Pastor Linda

 


Word for the Day Saturday

Love

June 6

Pastor Linda reads a part of Saint Paul’s poem of love from Corinthians. This love can and has changed the world. We continue to see great acts of love from healthcare workers, from those who wear face masks to protect others, and from those who peacefully protest to support the Black community. The power of God’s love will never be defeated, and we should always reach out in love to others.
(3 min.,12 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Create in Me a Clean Heart”

June 5

Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney reads a devotion from “Grace for the Moment” by Max Lucado. He reveals that your name is written on God’s hand and that He whispers your name. The Ranney family also performs the familiar song “Create in Me a Clean Heart” with a melody that will be new to some of you. #letitshine

“Create in Me a Clean Heart”

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Cast me not away from Your presence, oh Lord
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation
And renew a right spirit within me”

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Heart

June 4

Pastor Loren talks about the heart attack he experienced and the weight he felt on his chest. It would not go away without outside intervention and help. We also have broken hearts and feel a weight on our chests because of George Floyd’s death. We need intervention from God to let the light in, and to help us find renewed life on a path of love, support, positive change, compassion and healing.

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Kum Ba Yah”

June 2

The Ranney family provides a performance of the meaningful African American spiritual “Kum Ba Yah,” which means “Come By Here.”

“Kum Ba Yah”

Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah
Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah
Kum ba yah, my Lord, kum ba yah
Oh Lord, kum ba yah

Someone’s singing, my Lord, kum ba yah
Someone’s singing, my Lord, kum ba yah
Someone’s singing, my Lord, kum ba yah
O Lord, kum ba yah

Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum ba yah
Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum ba yah
Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum ba yah
O Lord, kum ba yah

Someone’s praying, my Lord, kum ba yah
Someone’s praying, my Lord, kum ba yah
Someone’s praying, my Lord, kum ba yah
O Lord, kum ba yah

 


Sunday Message

“The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost”

May 31

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!‘ Amazed and perplexed, they ask one another, ‘What does this mean?’ Some however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’

 “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming and the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Acts 2:1-21

Last week’s Sunday message that Pastor Loren wrote was based on the Gospel of Luke 24: 44-53. The resurrected Jesus has appeared and met with the disciples one last time, before he ascends to Heaven. He has told them that they are to wait in Jerusalem. The Lord has promised that soon they will be given a gift from Heaven that will clothe them with power on high. Jesus has called them to wait and to pray. After Jesus ascends to Heaven, it says in Luke 24: 53 “And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

Today, we read about how the Holy Spirit shows up to the disciples with the Pentecost. It begins by saying, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Acts 2: 1-2

Wow, can you truly imagine what that moment must have looked and felt like?! All of them being overwhelmed by the power of God in the form of a mighty wind, and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit, as tongues of fire came down and rested on their heads. They have been touched and baptized by the Holy Spirit! They are even able to speak in tongues of other languages, as the Holy Spirit enables them to do.

As only God can do, the Holy Spirit’s presence moves and stirs more people into this moment, as many other God-fearing Jews from other countries and regions have gathered for Pentecost. They now have been a witness and heard the disciples praising God in their own languages, and they are both amazed and perplexed.

It is the Holy Spirit that has given Peter wisdom and a voice to help bring clarity to this moment. Peter addresses the crowd. He reminds them that this is from God and that the gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to them, just as Jesus had promised would happen. He quotes the words of the prophet Joel and begins with, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” Acts 2: 17

The Holy Spirit, of Acts, is the same Holy Spirit of today. God, continues to show up, and to call and claim us as his own children, into the family of God. God has given each of us a gift in our Baptism, when we have been welcomed and claimed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the word and the water, we have all been given a gift from the Holy Spirit!

In Isaiah 43:1 it says, “Israel, the Lord who created you says, ‘Do not be afraid-I will save you. I have called you by name-you are mine.’”

Powerful words indeed, from a Loving and Holy God! God Loves you and has claimed you. You can trust and know that we are with God in this life journey. Thanks be to God, for the Love and Grace we have been given, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in our hearts and lives!

As you remember your Baptism and the promises spoken, may your days be filled with the Holy Spirit’s stirrings of Peace, Love and Joy!

Grace and Peace in Christ,

Jim ><>

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Safety and Sanctuary Through Christ”

May 30

A sanctuary can mean a place to gather as a community of faith, or a place to go for protection. Pastor Loren explains that a church has always given safety and sanctuary, but now we are keeping our doors closed to protect others. Even if we are not in church, the gift of the Holy Spirit given on Pentecost ensures that Christ is with us and remains our refuge. #letitshine
(3 min., 32 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

May 29

The Ranneys read Psalm 149 about song and praising God, and then entertain with the familiar gospel tune “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Face Mask

May 28

Pastor Linda reminds us that wearing a face mask is not a political statement, but rather a way to protect those who are vulnerable as well as ourselves. Jesus asks us to love others, and wearing a face mask is an easy way to share that love. #letitshine
(2 min., 11 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Just a Closer Walk With Thee”

May 26

The traditional gospel song “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” has a long history of adding comfort. Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons perform this beloved song. The lyrics remind us that Jesus is our constant source of hope and strength. #letitshine

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, if you please
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, if you please
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

 


Sunday Message

“A Season of Waiting”

 May 24

 “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them. ‘Thus is it written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”
Luke 24:44-53

These verses from the Gospel of Luke are the last words we read in that Gospel. Now you might think that they should be words that would wrap things up in a nice neat package and leave us satisfied with the ending. But that is not the case. This is clearly a setup for what is coming next. Here we see Jesus being taken away from the disciples and being lifted up into heaven. Jesus disciples must have felt the earth slipping beneath their feet at the thought of being left alone.

Sometimes we have to look back to move ahead, and that is clearly what Jesus is doing. He is getting the disciples ready for what is coming next. He reminds them of the words that he spoke to them while he was still with them. They are invited to remember. And as he draws their memories back, he “opens their minds to understand the scriptures.” Remembering can open our hearts and minds. In so doing Jesus is getting them ready to open their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit.

He says to them that he is sending upon them what his Father has promised, and they will be clothed with power from on high, which is the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit which rested on Jesus at his baptism, the same Spirit that anointed Jesus to preach good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed would now be given to the disciples and eventually to us. A gift from beyond ourselves.

So how do we begin to speak of something we have never seen?  Though we cannot see the Spirit, we can see where the Spirit has been. There is a woodcut of Jesus’ Ascension by the German artist, Albrecht Durer that gives us some insight into this moment. When we look at it closely – not up in the clouds, but on the ground – we can see footprints on the earth. Durer has carefully outlined Jesus’ footprints down on the level where the disciples are standing with their mouths open. Perhaps the artist is asking, “Why do you stand looking up into heaven?”

Look at Jesus, and we will see where the Spirit has been:  Jesus’ feet carried him where others wouldn’t go, brought him to tables surrounded by odd companions, gathered children on his lap, and questioned the inequality between the wealthy and the poor.

In the Spirit, God is interacting with the world, closer to us than we are to ourselves. All we need to do is look at the life of Jesus to see where the Spirit has been. Jesus says, “I will be with you in the power of the Spirit.” The Spirit that anointed Jesus anoints us, still breathes with us and surprises us. Still shapes the community called the church whether it is gathered in a building by hearts linked together in faith.

In his final moments with his disciples, Jesus lifts up his hands, that still bear the marks of his wounds, and blesses them as a dramatic sign of mercy and forgiveness. We end with the disciples returning to Jerusalem “with great joy” and going to the temple and blessing God.
Jesus had told his disciples to stay in the city. Thinking about Jesus’ instructions to the disciples through our own experiences of sheltering in place sheds new light on the necessity of waiting. There is no indication that they knew how long they would have to wait. It seems that the Holy Spirit could have descended on them at the same moment that Jesus was leaving, but instead they are sent back to Jerusalem to wait.

Waiting is rarely easy, and it can be even more difficult to endure when we do not know when the end will be. For us this is a time of waiting, not knowing when we will be able to return safely to in-person worship. Even in this time we are assured that we are together in God’s love and are being strengthened in the presence of the Spirit. This time of preparation equipped the disciples to go out and spread the gospel, enabling the church to grow.

This season of waiting seemed necessary.

There is no power without a season of preparation, without a period of waiting. Readying the heart for the surprising actions of God in the Spirit. #letitshine

God’s Blessings in our waiting,

Pastor Loren

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Outside the Frame”

May 23

Today Pastor Loren muses about picture frames and that they are meant to narrow our view to what’s inside the four sides. While this helps us to see and understand the artist’s meaning, looking outside the frame can be just as illuminating. As our minds process this pandemic, we tend to frame its impact in our own personal ways. Pastor Loren urges us to expand the frame to include all creation, because Jesus is waiting there to fulfill His promise: “Behold, I make all things new.” #letitshine
(3 min., 35 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Be Glorified”

May 22

Jim Ranney and his sons read the Prayer of Saint Francis from West Blue Mounds Lutheran Church. They take turns shouting out a keyword for each verse as they sing “Be Glorified.” #letitshine

“Be Glorified”

In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified!
In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified today.

In my home, Lord, be glorified, be glorified!
In my home, Lord, be glorified, be glorified today.

In our family, Lord, be glorified, be glorified!
In our family, Lord, be glorified, be glorified today.

In our world, Lord, be glorified, be glorified!
In our world, Lord, be glorified, be glorified today.

 

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

Amen

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Music

May 21

Singing together brings joy, but it adds risk because it can spread the virus. Pastor Linda explains that music touches our soul and is a gift from God. She shares the lyrics of one particular song that reminds her of God’s presence during these difficult days. Music can be soothing to all of us until we can be together again. #letitshine
(3 min., 6 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary”

May 19

Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons read from Psalm 150 and sing “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary” at lovely West Blue Mounds Lutheran Church. #letitshine

“Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary”

Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary, for You

Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary, for You

 


Sunday Message

“The Spirit Walks With Us”

May 17

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and
he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of
truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.
You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave
you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me; because I live, you al so will live. On that day you will know
that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my
commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will
be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
John 14:15-21

What do you say to someone when you are going away? In chapters 13 thru 17 in the
Gospel of John, Jesus shares with his disciples what has come to be known as his
“Farewell Discourse.”

In the passage for this Sunday, John 14:15-21, Jesus continues his words to his disciples
which began in verse 1 with, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Words of good bye to
his disciples as he anticipates his arrest, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. He
knows they will feel alone, abandoned and without hope once he is no longer with them.
So he makes a promise to them. At this moment on Jesus’ last night with his disciples,
he gives them the promise of the Spirit’s presence. He says, “I will ask the Father, and
he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”

What is it that the disciples need to hear from Jesus at this moment? Like a child whose
parent is going away for a time, they need some word of assurance that they will not be
alone, that there will be someone to be with them, to care for them and to guide them.
They need to have their fears calmed so that they can carry on with their lives.

And that is just what Jesus does. He tells them there will be another Advocate, and that
is the Holy Spirit. We realize that when Jesus speaks of another advocate, that means
there has been an Advocate already. And that is Jesus. The disciples have seen Jesus at
work in their lives and now they are told that their connection to the Holy Spirit is
grounded in everything they have experienced with Jesus, which makes the Holy Spirit
become a more tangible and real presence rather than someone floating out there
somewhere.

So what does the Holy Spirit do for the disciples in this moment of Jesus leaving and for
us who have the Spirit as our Advocate? First of all this is the Spirit of truth; the truth
which is Jesus. Second, the disciples know the Spirit, and to “know” in the Gospel of
John is to be in relationship. The Spirit abides with us and will be in us which means we
are in a relationship. And finally the coming of the Spirit, the promise of the Spirit,
means that the disciples will not be orphaned, they will not be abandoned.

Jesus speaks words of assurance and certainty to the disciples. “In a little while the
world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.”
The Easter message is that life rather than death has the final word. Faith is a
relationship with a living being. To have faith in Jesus we must be in a relationship to
the living Jesus – a Jesus who is not absent but present. Otherwise faith is reduced to
the memory of a Jesus who died long ago.

The work of the Spirit is to make the presence of the living Jesus and the Father known.
Coming to faith is like falling in love. One cannot fall in love when there is no one
there. Love comes through an encounter with another person. If faith is a relationship
with the living Christ and the living God who sent him, then faith can only come
through an encounter with Jesus. And the Spirit is the one who makes this presence
known.

So how do we understand the Spirit as an Advocate. When I think of an advocate it is
someone who speaks for me when I am unable. But here it is someone with whom we
have a relationship and who walks alongside us, our ever-present companion embodying
Jesus’ very presence. Someone who accompanies us through our life and looks a whole
lot like Jesus. This Advocate is who Jesus has already been for his disciples – guiding,
teaching, reminding, abiding, witnessing, interceding, comforting. What they have
known in Jesus, and fear losing in Jesus’ absence, they will always know in the promise
of the “advocate.” The Spirit continues Jesus’ work and reveals the presence of the risen
Jesus and his Father to the community of faith.

So this means that we have actually seen the Spirit lots of times. Anytime someone
stands up for another . . .  Anytime someone acts like Jesus. . .  Anytime someone bears the
love of Christ to another . . . we’ve seen the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit looks a lot
like us when we stand up for others, try to be more like Jesus, and bear Christ’s love into
the world. So as we experience the one who has come along side of us, Jesus becomes
down-to-earth and concrete once again in our world. In this way the Holy Spirit is at
work in us and through us and for us and all the world.

In this time of troubled hearts and heart-wrenching questions, of abandonment and loss;
of despair and grief, our advocate, the Spirit, walks alongside us – everywhere and
always. #letitshine

God Bless,

Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Finding Truth”

May 16

We get bombarded by “truths” from a variety of sources, and it can be tough to know who to listen to, and who is telling the truth. Pastor Loren reminds us that there is one who we can always depend on for truth, and that is Jesus. #letitshine
(3 min., 17 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Lord, You Are More Precious” and Psalm 84

May 15

Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney reminds us that God’s love changes everything in our lives. God is always there to guide us, during both good times and challenging times. The Ranneys read Psalm 84 and sing “Lord, You Are More Precious.” #letitshine

“Lord, You Are More Precious”

“Lord, You are more precious than silver,
Lord, You are more costly than gold.
Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds,
And nothing I desire compares with You.

I exalt thee, I exalt thee,
I exalt thee, oh Lord.
I exalt thee, I exalt thee,
I exalt thee, oh Lord.

Lord, Your love is wider than the oceans,
Lord, Your love is deeper than the seas.
Lord, Your love encompasses all nations,
And Lord, Your love has set me free.”

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Worry

May 14

It’s easy to be consumed by worry about our family, friends and front-line workers during this pandemic. Our level of anxiety can skyrocket as we wonder how best to move forward. Pastor Linda shares comforting words and explains that God walks with us every day. #letitshine
(2 min., 44 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Behold What Manner of Love”

May 12

The Ranney family brings us a performance of the familiar camp song “Behold What Manner of Love” from Springdale Lutheran Church. #letitshine

“Behold What Manner of Love”

Behold what manner of love
The Father has given unto us,
Behold what manner of love
The Father has given unto us,

That we may be called the children of God,
That we may be called the children of God.

Behold what manner of love
The Father has given unto us,
Behold what manner of love
The Father has given unto us,

That we may be called the children of God,
That we may be called the children of God.

 


Sunday  Message

“Love Each Other as God Has Loved Us”

May 10

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’”

John 15:9-12

Jesus’ words are a part of what is called his Farewell Discourses. Several chapters in John’s Gospel let us hear Jesus comforting his disciples, encouraging them, and teaching them. He knows he will soon be arrested, crucified, and die. He wants to prepare his dear friends for what comes next. And a part of this last discourse is his command to love one another, just as Jesus has loved us. Take note, this is important: We are commanded to love. It is not just a suggestion.

A number of years ago we visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D. C. It is a beautiful, somber, and simple memorial to the service men and women who died or were listed as missing in action in the 19 or so years that Americans served in Vietnam. There are 58,320 names on the Wall. The Wall is a stark reminder, honoring those who were lost

In the past two months, more people have been lost to COVID-19 than were lost during the Vietnam War. This is a dangerous and deadly disease. And the projected death rate has just been raised. To listen to the doctors and nurses fighting for their patients’ lives is harrowing. Yet, we must listen to them.

When my daughter wants to talk about something important, she has often told me, “I have feelings!”  Well, I have feelings that I want to share with you. How our world has changed in just two months. When this started we talked about maybe getting back to church by Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday. Now we know that was too optimistic. We don’t know when we will get back to normal and we don’t know what normal will look like. To be honest with you, sometimes I get scared. Sometimes I get impatient. Sometimes I long to go to a crowded restaurant or go to a crowded concert hall. And to be completely honest with you, what I am feeling lately is a good amount of anger. Anger at all those people who are ignoring the disease, who dispute facts, and who insist that their “rights” are more important than the health of our community. We are all in this together and we all have to take care of each other.

When Jesus gave his disciples the command to love others it was in light of what was coming in the days ahead. He knew that his disciples were about to go through a difficult and uncertain time.  You and I are in a very difficult and uncertain time and Jesus gives us important guidance for dealing with it. He tells us that we are to love each other just as God has loved us. God’s love for us is self-giving, never selfish. God’s love is abundant. There is enough to go around. God’s love is for everyone, (unlike toilet paper, it would seem). That is the love we are called to have for one another.

My daughter also often says, tongue in cheek, “It’s not rocket surgery mom.” In other words it is not as difficult as rocket science or brain surgery. We know the facts. They are before us every day. We can neither deny them nor ignore them if we are truly to love one another. We can stop the spread of this disease by listening to the experts:  the scientists, and the doctors and nurses on the front lines. We can stop the spread of this disease by staying safer at home if we are able, and to practice social distancing if we do have to go out or to work. When stay at home orders are lifted, we can continue to love each other by wearing a face mask, avoiding crowds, washing our hands, and staying 6 feet apart. Jesus died on a cross to show us love.  We are simply asked to wear a face mask and stay six feet apart.

When I saw pictures of protesters in the Michigan capital with their rifles, I was frightened as well as angry. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they had at least worn masks and stayed 6 feet apart, (I still would not have liked to see weapons!). It struck me as so selfish. Flaunting the guidelines to protect their freedom!  Freedom is not about my right to harm someone. It is about making sure that we all have the same privileges and responsibilities. The great irony of freedom is that the more we have, the more we are obligated to one another.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us an ugly part of our nation that many people would probably like to continue to ignore. Deaths due to COVID-19 are so much higher for our brothers and sisters of color. Systemic racism is as obvious as selfishness when we demand our chicken nuggets even though the death rates at meat processing plants are tragically high. And the plants stay open even when their workers are not protected. We know many of those workers are people of color.

God’s love is for all! It is for the worker on the front lines trying to make a living, it is for the doctors and nurses, it is for the protesters in Michigan and Wisconsin, it is for our leaders in Madison and Washington. And it is for you and for me.

We are called to love one another, as God has loved us. It is what we have always been called to do as children of God. Right now, I can love you by staying home, listening to the experts, praying for you, calling you to see how you are doing. I can love you by working with our church leadership to make decisions that will not put you in danger.

May God give us the wisdom, strength, compassion, and courage to love each other as God has loved us! #letitshine

 


Saturday Message

“Prayer and Open Hands”

May 9

Pastor Loren explains that hands folded in prayer convey a sense of power and peace. Today’s uncertainty elevates the level of intensity in prayer. When we can trust and open our hands in prayer to God, we are better able to receive His gifts for us. #letitshine
(3 min., 33 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Michael Row the Boat Ashore”

May 8

Today Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons read John 21: 4-6 (about Jesus, his disciples and fishing) and sing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” Recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary (and many others), this song is an African-American spiritual first noted during the American Civil War, according to Wikipedia. #letitshine

“Michael Row the Boat Ashore”

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Jesus died for you and me, hallelujah
Gonna set the children free, hallelujah

Brother and sister set the sails, hallelujah
Brother and sister set the sails, hallelujah

Michael row your boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row your boat ashore, hallelujah

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Growth

May 6

Pastor Linda reminds us that we are called by God to comfort, console and share joy. We should lift others when they falter, and accept encouragement when we struggle. We grow together in love as a community of faith. #letitshine
(2 min., 42 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Jesus Loves Me”

May 5

When surrounded with stress and uncertainty, it can be comforting to think of the lyrics of a song many learned as children – “Jesus Loves Me.” The Ranney family sings and uses sign language to communicate simple words with a profound meaning. #letitshine

“Jesus Loves Me”

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so

 


Sunday Message

“Good Shepherd Sunday”

May 3

(If you have the opportunity, you might want to read the 23rd Psalm.)

“’Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’”     John 10:1-10

We have come to the 4th Sunday of Easter in our Church year. That is the way the church marks time. But the movement of time certainly has not been what has guided us though the days of these past months. Our days have been marked by death totals, infections rates and testing. God’s message has spoken to us over these times to guide us through the days of Lent, Holy Week and Easter as we have floated on the stream of coronavirus flowing through our country and the world. This Sunday though is a Sunday that brings us to an image that speaks firmly and compassionately into our world. This is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” It seems like a good time for a message about abundant life.

This Sunday’s Gospel is the one printed above from John 10:1-10. In these verses Jesus is attempting to help those gathered around him, which included his disciples, Pharisees and others in the crowd, come to an understanding of who he is. The 9th Chapter of the Gospel of John immediately before this tells the story of the man blind from birth whose sight was restored by Jesus. This resulted in his being kicked out of the synagogue, out of his community by the religious leaders. Jesus’ words in John 10 about sheep and shepherds speaks to this sense of being displaced, uprooted, adrift in a threatening world. They need to hear that they will not just get through these difficulties but experience life and joy to the fullest.

As always he uses familiar images that they can identify with. They include the shepherd, and the gate in these verses. It’s always confusing when he goes from one idea to another, but as we think about how we come to a better understanding of our God, there really isn’t any one image that can encompass who God is. So Jesus uses many images to help us, and when one doesn’t seem to work he finds another. They cover a vast array of images, from light, way, truth, life, vine, and here of course the shepherd and the gate. We see him move from one image to another in response to their lack of understanding of what he was saying to them.

First, Jesus contrasts the shepherd, who enters the sheepfold by the gate to take care of the sheep, with the thieves and bandits who climb over to do the sheep harm. That seems clear enough. But they don’t get it. So he turns the image from those who enter by the gate to the gate itself. Now he is the gate, through which the sheep pass into the protection of the sheepfold and go out to green pastures. We immediately want to know what it means, but maybe a better question is why it matters. When we focus on the why, it becomes clear that Jesus is the one who offers life and seeks the good of his sheep.

In the midst of these uncertain times it is good to be reminded of where our confidence is placed. Jesus tells us that it is in the relationship between sheep and shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd and he reminds us that we know him, have trusted him and will continue to trust him. In this way we can tell the difference between false hope and real hope, and a genuine offer of abundant life and all the counterfeits being peddled to us.

The theologian David Lose in commenting on this text says this is Jesus’ version of “You’ve got this,” because he has promised, “I’ve got you.”  “Jesus makes a promise about what he is doing for us – protecting, providing, caring, sacrificing, and giving life –  and also a promise about how we’ll respond – trusting, listening, embracing, thriving. I suspect it came as good news to a community adrift, afraid, and unsure about the future in the first century . . . and I suspect it will come as good news to us who are adrift, afraid and unsure about the future today.”

So as we are tired, doubting whether we can endure, wondering how in the world we’ll continue living in what feels like crisis mode over the long haul, we can take heart knowing that “Jesus has us” and  “we’ll get through!” #letitshine

God Bless,

Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Caring From Six Feet Away”

May 2

Social distancing puts us in an unfamiliar world, where we are unable to express our care through a hug or gentle touch. Yet our willingness to separate shows we care because it keeps others safe. Although there is space between us, it is not filled with emptiness, but with promise. The Spirit is at work, provide healing and comfort in our journey. #letitshine
(3 min.,19 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“I Lift My Eyes Up” – based on Psalm 121

May 1

This time has been challenging for families all over the world. To remind us that God is in the midst of our journey, bringing us hope and promise, Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons perform “I Lift My Eyes Up,” based on Psalm 121. #letitshine

“I Lift My Eyes Up”

I lift my eyes up
Up to the mountains
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You
Maker of Heaven
Creator of the earth

Oh, how I need You Lord
You are my only hope
You’re my only prayer
So I will wait for you
To come and rescue me
Come and give me life

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Koinonia (Community)

April 30

Pastor Linda explains that the word koinonia means “community” in Greek, which is the language of the New Testament. She explains that although we are apart, we are united as part of a world community sharing this difficult time, and also as a parish, united as the beloved children of God. #letitshine
(2 min., 46 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“We Are One in the Spirit”

April 28

#letitshine

We Are One in the Spirit

We are one In the Spirit
We are one In the Lord
We are one In the Spirit
We are one In the Lord
And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored
And they’ll know we are
Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love!

We are one In the Spirit
We are one In the Lord
We are one In the Spirit
We are one In the Lord
And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored
And they’ll know we are
Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love!

 


Sunday Message

“Seeking Out God Even in Times of Doubt”

John 20:24-29

April 26

A blessed Sunday to you all on this 3rd Sunday of our Easter Season! Today we conclude our 4-week look at St. John’s Easter story. (Thanks again to the Northeast MN Synod of the ELCA for the idea!)

It is one week after Easter. The Jesus has appeared to Mary Magdalene. He has also appeared to the disciples behind their locked doors. He brought them Peace and breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

But one of them was missing. That was the disciple, Thomas, you know, Doubting Thomas! Take a look at our verses for today from John 20:24-29.

“But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’“

When the rest of the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Risen Lord, he reacted in a way that many of us might. Really, you saw a dead man, come back to life? Come on guys, knock it off! I won’t believe it until I see Jesus and touch his wounds! We don’t know where Thomas was or why he wasn’t with the rest, but for him the joy of Easter has not happened. Our helpers at the Northeast MN Synod say this, “Thomas was still living into the overwhelming fear and the uncertainty he was experiencing.”

Maybe Thomas simply was doubtful. Maybe he couldn’t let himself hope that what the others said was true. At any rate, a week after Easter he was with the disciples and Jesus did appear to them. He again gives them his peace. And then he tells our doubtful Thomas to see and touch his wounds. Thomas can only react by proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replies, and his reply is not just for Thomas but for all of us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

My mom always said that Doubting Thomas was her favorite Bible character. She told me that she liked the fact that he was honest about his doubts. To be a people of faith means that sometimes we have doubts and often we have questions. At a time like this, we may have even more doubts and questions. And that is okay, and it is an honest part of our faith. God holds our doubts and questions and gives us the space to be honest and open. As we go through this COVID-19 pandemic, what are your questions and doubts? What are your fears? Remember God holds them in God’s heart as well as our hopes and assurances. Don’t ever be afraid to bring them all to God!

In John’s Gospel, Thomas is a pretty complex character. When Jesus goes to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead, at the risk of his life, it is Thomas who courageously declares, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” But when Jesus talks about the many rooms in his Father’s house and asks the disciples to believe in God and in him, an uncertain Thomas replies, “Lord, we not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” And today we see Doubting Thomas.

Just like us, his faith is complex, sometimes courageous, often doubting and questioning. But the Good News of Easter is that, “even in our inability and disbelief, Jesus continues to come to us, showing up, breathing peace upon us.” #letitshine

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Christ’s Voice of Peace”

April 25

Pastor Loren explains that all of us are looking for peace, and even though our lives have slowed, it is difficult to find peace. He reveals that there is peace in the Risen Christ, and his wish for us is that we hear Christ’s voice of peace every day. #letitshine
(2 min., 39 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“You Are My All in All”

April 24

Jim Ranney, Youth and Family Minister, and his sons read a Bible verse and perform the song “You Are My All in All.” Jim learned the song at Bible camp. #letitshine

“You Are My All in All”

You are my strength when I am weak
You are my shelter that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I call Your name
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

 


Word for the Day Thursday

“Time”

April 23

Pastor Linda talks about how time seems different now. We want to do the things we enjoy doing, but we have to stay home to protect ourselves and others. It’s comforting to know that our time is not in our hands, but in God’s loving hands.#letitshine
(2 min., 24 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

April 20, 2020

Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney will brighten your day with this performance. It’s a reminder that God truly does watch over every one of us. #letitshine

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

He’s got the wind and rain in His hands
He’s got the wind and rain in His hands
He’s got the wind and rain in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

He’s got the sun and moon in His hands
He’s got the sun and moon in His hands
He’s got the sun and moon in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

He’s got the little baby in His hands
He’s got the little baby in His hands
He’s got the little baby in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

He’s got you and me brother in His hands
He’s got you and me sister in His hands
He’s got you and me brother in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

 


Sunday Message

 “The Gift of God’s Peace”

April 19, 2020

This Florida beach at sunset offers a sense of peace and calmness, especially in these times of uncertainty and stress. It’s a reminder that as Pastor Linda says, God is with every one of us. He brings us peace, calmness, assurance and hope.

 

A blessed Easter season to you! Though we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus in such a different way this year, the message still rings true, Christ has Risen. He is Risen indeed! And you and I are Easter people.

This is the 3rd of our Sunday Devotions based on St. John’s story of Jesus’ resurrection. (Inspired by the Northeast Synod of Minnesota ELCA.) Please take a moment to read our verses for today:

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” John 20:19-23

In a sense, we find the disciples sheltered in place on this first Easter. It is different from our “Safer at Home” because they are together. But for them, as for us, there is a sense of something dangerous outside our doors. For us it is COVID-19. For them it is fear of the religious and political leaders, the ones who killed Jesus. In fact, this morning finds them not only sheltered behind closed doors but behind locked doors.

For them, as well as us, life has been upended. The Lord they loved and followed for three years was arrested, tried, crucified, and laid in a tomb. Now they are afraid that they might be the next victims.

Suddenly everything changes! Jesus, the Risen Lord, stands among them. Isn’t that a beautiful thought: among them! Jesus is not behind them or in front of them but right in their midst. We read that the disciples were filled with joy.

Then Jesus gives them the gifts they need to move forward: Jesus gives them his Peace and breathes on them the Holy Spirit. That word peace is packed with so much meaning. It is comfort and calmness, assurance and hope, and strength and the courage to go forward in Jesus’ name knowing that he is with us. It is the word we share with one another when we come together in worship, “Peace be with you.” It is a word we can share with each other today!

That same gift is ours today. God’s peace! Loren and I read a devotion each morning from Luther Seminary called, “God Pause.” Lately, I have complained about that it really doesn’t address the situation that we are currently in. But occasionally I still find a gem of meaning. I came across this sentence in one of the recent devotions. “In the face of corruption, tragedy, illness, and disaster, God, in Jesus, moves into the neighborhood to journey with us.”

Our loving God doesn’t just move into the neighborhood, God moves into each of our homes bringing God’s peace!

St. Paul speaks of Peace often in his letters in the New Testament. We will let his words to close this devotion. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” #letitshine

God Bless You,

Pastor Linda

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Getting Back to Normal”

April 18

Pastor Loren talks about how we may want things to get back to normal. He explains that Thomas and the other disciples may have wanted the same thing after Jesus died on the cross. Jesus changed lives then and He changes them now in a positive way. #letitshine
(2 min., 59 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

Easter Reading and Song “Jesus Lover of My Soul”

#letitshine

“Jesus, Lover of My Soul”

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the rock
And now I know

I love you
I need you
Though my world may fall
I’ll never let You go

My Savior
My closest Friend
I will worship You until the very end

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the rock
And now I know

I love you
I need you
Though my world may fall
I’ll never let You go

My Savior
My closest Friend
I will worship You until the very end

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go

 


Word for the Day Thursday

“Hope”

April 16

Pastor Linda talks about the drastic changes we have experienced in our lives. She explains that the endurance we are building produces character, and character produces hope. Hope does not disappoint us. #letitshine
(2 min., 23 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Blind Man”

April 14

#letitshine

 

“Blind Man”

Blind man stood by the road and he cried
Blind man stood by the road and he cried
Blind man stood by the road and he cried
He cried oh, oh, oh
Show me the way
Show me the way
Show me the way
The way to go home

Woman stood by the well and she cried
Woman stood by the well and she cried
Woman stood by the well and she cried
She cried oh, oh, oh
Show me the way
Show me the way
Show me the way
The way to go home

Jesus stood by the road and He cried
Jesus stood by the road and He cried
Jesus stood by the road and He cried
He cried oh, oh, oh
I am the way
I am the truth
I am the light
The way to go home

Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…

Oh, oh, oh
He is the way
He is the truth
He is the light
The way to go home

Jesus!

 


“The Promise of New Hope and Life”

EASTER

Sunday Message

April 12

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.” Matthew 28: 1-7

Hello Two Steeples Family, Happy Easter!

It’s hard to believe that here we are once again, celebrating another Easter Sunday!

I found myself in moments of awe and wonder; as I think about that first Easter Sunday when the women visit the tomb of Jesus on that morning. I find myself drawn towards a moment of quiet prayer and reflection; as I think about what that moment must have been like, when they feel and hear the rumble of an earthquake and they encounter an angel that appeared like lightning! The angel says, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciple: “He has risen, from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.” Matthew 28: 5-7

The Gospel of Matthew goes on to say, “So the women hurried away from the tomb afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings, he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.” Matthew 28: 8-10

The women have encountered the resurrected Jesus Christ! They have been given a wonderful gift to be the first to see Jesus after his death, and now they stand face to face with Jesus. Jesus gives them a mission, to go and tell the disciples and share the “Good News”! Meet me in Galilee, and there they will see me. Wow, what an amazing and glorious day it was! What an amazing and glorious message and day it still is!

We too, have been given the opportunity to worship Jesus, to give thanks for blessed and wonderful gift and good news. Jesus has won the victory over sin and death! Now we too have been set free from the fears, anxiety and worries of sin and death. This is not a secret to keep to ourselves, but the promise of new hope and life given to all people in our Father’s World!

Here is an Easter prayer with children and family.

“The world reborn sings praises now,
the song ascends to green-leafed boughs.
So shout beneath the sunlit-skies,
To Christ who lives that we might rise!”  

May you all be filled with this new hope and life in Christ Jesus. Happy Easter! #letitshine

Jim ><>

 


“Crown Him With Many Crowns”

EASTER

April 12

This uplifting song was performed in a past year by Paul Elver, Pastor Jeff Jacobs and Doug Slater on vocals, and our dear friend, the late Donna Slater, on organ. The images mark the joy of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. #letitshine

“Crown Him With Many Crowns”

And hail thy matchless King

Crown him the Lord of life
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
For those he came to save,
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die.

Crown him the Lord of love
behold his hands and side,
whose wounds, yet visible above
in beauty glorified,
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou hast died for me,
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
Throughout eternity.

Crown Him with many crowns
The lamb upon His throne,
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity
Through all eternity.

 

Michael W. Smith

 


Saturday Thoughts

Empty Spaces Are Now Filled

April 11

Pastor Loren talks about empty spaces in our lives, especially during these times when we are separated and may be lonely. He explains that when Jesus rose from the dead, the tomb was empty, and it brings us together. Empty spaces are now filled. #letitshine
(3 min., 1 sec.)

 


Family Friday

Good Friday Reading, and the Song “The Outlaw”

April 10

Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons share a reading for Good Friday about Jesus’ death on the Cross. Jim also performs the song “The Outlaw.” #letitshine
(6 min., 12 sec.)

“The Outlaw”

Some say he was an outlaw that he roamed across the land
With a band of unschooled ruffians and few old fishermen
No one knew just where he came from or exactly what he’d done
But they said it must be something bad that kept him on the run

Some say he was a poet that he’d stand upon the hill
That his voice could calm an angry crowd and make the waves stand still
That he spoke in many parables that few could understand
But the people sat for hours just to listen to this man

Some say he was a sorcerer, a man of mystery
He could walk upon the water, he could make a blind man see
That he conjured wine at weddings and did tricks with fish and bread
That he spoke of being born again and raised people from the dead

Some say a politician, who spoke of being free
He was followed by the masses on the shores of Galilee
And he spoke out against corruption and he bowed to no decree
And they feared his strength and power so they nailed him to a tree

Some say he was the Son of God, a man above all men
That he came to be a servant and to set us free from sin
And that’s who I believe he is ’cause that’s what I believe
And I think we should get ready ’cause it’s time for us to leave

 


Word for the Day Thursday

“Maundy”

April 9

Pastor Linda explains what the word Maundy means to Christians. She shares that we are told to love others as God has loved us. Even though we are apart and cannot have Communion together this Maundy Thursday, nothing can separate us from the love of God. #letitshine
(2 min., 27 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Lord I Lift Your Name on High”

April 7

Our Youth and Family Minister and his family bring us a performance of the popular song written by Rick Founds. The lyrics are of particular significance during Holy Week and as Easter approaches. #letitshine

“Lord I Lift Your Name on High”

Lord I lift your name on high
Lord I love to sing your praises
I’m so glad you’re in my life
I’m so glad you came to save us

You came from heaven to earth, to show the way
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky
Lord I lift your name on high

Lord I lift your name on high
Lord I love to sing your praises
I’m so glad you’re in my life
I’m so glad you came to save us

You came from heaven to earth, to show the way
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky
Lord I lift your name on high

Rick Founds

 


“I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Sunday Message

April 5

This is the second of our Sunday devotions using the Easter story in John’s Gospel. We will again use as our inspiration, devotional materials from the Northeast Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.

Have you noticed that for most us, what we do and say is now filtered through this experience of living in the time of a worldwide pandemic? It not only changes our day to day routine, but we find ourselves reminded of our own fragility. We can experience times of anxiety and stress.

Today is the second part of our 4 part series on the Easter story in John. Take a look at our verses for today:

John 20: 1-18

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.”

Reading through that story today, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I notice things I never noticed before. Before it was always just a beautiful story about Mary realizing that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. It’s still about that, of course. But did you notice how long it took Mary to figure it out? I never thought much about that before. For heaven’s sake, there is the empty tomb, and two angels dressed in white, then Jesus himself! And she still doesn’t get it. She is too lost in her grief, too shocked by the week’s events, too anxious about what will happen next to notice that Jesus, the risen Lord, is standing right next to her. She is so stressed out, she can only think that he must be a gardener.

It is only when Jesus calls her name that she realizes it is really Jesus.

When we served at Zion Lutheran Church in Cloquet, Minnesota, we had a banner that we put up for baptisms and funerals. The banner had a place to Velcro the letters of the person’s first name and this quote from the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1b

 What beautiful and comforting words those are for us!

Mary’s story is a reminder to us that our loving Lord walks with us in times of hope and fear, walks with us when we are stressed and hopeful, walks with us when we hear bad news and good. Our Lord walks with us even when we can’t always recognize or realize our Lord’s presence.

Isaiah’s words are a reminder of the promise of our loving God to always know our name and always walk with us. “I have called you by name, you are mine.”

#letitshine

 


A New Way of Living

Saturday Thoughts

April 4

Pastor Loren talks about the similarity between living during these unexpected times and how Jesus lived. Jesus led people to a new way of living and He continues to do so today. #letitshine
(2 min., 38 sec.)

 


Family Friday

The Palm Sunday Story and “Messiah” Song

April 3

Jim, our Youth and Family Minister, explains why the Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday. Jim and his sons also perform the song “Messiah.” Feel free to sing along! #letitshine
(4 min., 38 sec.)

Word

“Messiah”

Someone’s shouting from the desert
Someone’s shouting from the sea
Someone’s shouting from the mountains
Someone’s shouting from the valley

Chorus:
Messiah, come and be our King
Messiah, come and be our King

Someone’s shouting I am broken
Someone’s shouting make me whole
Someone’s shouting come and change me
Someone’s shouting save my soul

Chorus:
Messiah, come and be our King
Messiah, come and be our King

 


Word for the Day Thursday – Patience

April 2

Pastor Linda talks about how patience is a gift from God, and some of us have been given more of that gift than others. During this uncertainty we face, we are encouraged to be patient both with those we love and ourselves. #letitshine
(2 min., 6 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“When the Saints Go Marching In”

March 31

We hope this fun family performance brings some extra “shine” to your day! Join in and sing along! #letitshine

“When the Saints Go Marching In”

Oh, when the saints go marching in
Oh, when the saints go marching in
Dear Lord, I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

Oh, when the light begins to shine
Oh, when the lights begins to shine
Dear Lord I want to be in that number
When the light begins to shine

Oh, when the saints go marching in
Oh, when the saints go marching in
Dear Lord, I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

 


God’s Presence is With Us

Sunday Message

March 29, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I am just ready for some Easter, some good news. Now, I know that Easter is not for 2 more weeks, but let’s take a peek at it anyway. For the next 2 Sundays I will be sharing a devotion that uses some of the ideas from a posting of the Northeast Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. It uses the 4 parts of the Easter Gospel from St. John to help us think about how we can use the Bible to consider the anxiety we might feel at this time. (On Easter Sunday, Jim will bring us an Easter Devotion, and I will conclude this series the next two weeks.)

Here is the first part of that Easter Gospel:  John 20:1-10

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.”

We can be so familiar with the Easter story that we don’t really think much about this first part.  We know that when Mary and John and Peter see the empty tomb, that Jesus had Risen! The resurrection has happened! But what was Mary thinking? What was Peter thinking? John, we read, “believed,” but did not understand. It must have caused considerable anxiety for all three of them! It must have caused uncertainty! ‘What now?’ they must have thought.

I think we all can identify with those feelings of being anxious and overwhelmed at this time. Was Mary thinking, where was her Lord? Where was God in all of this? Was Peter wondering what in the world had happened? John believed but did not comprehend or understand.

Honest feeling at an uncertain time! There is nothing wrong with our feelings of anxiety and worry. There is nothing wrong with wondering and questioning. But the good news, the Easter news is that we know the answers to the questions that Mary and Peter and John were asking. The Lord was no longer in the grave. Jesus had risen from the dead. You see, the Easter Good News reminds us that God’s love is so strong that even death cannot overcome it. God’s love and God’s presence is with us in the midst of our worry and uncertainty. And that is the truth that will see us through this time!

In the weeks to come, Mary and John, and Peter, will see the light of Jesus’ resurrection shine ever brighter.

As we go through this time of uncertainty, may we remember that not even suffering or pain or death could destroy God’s love for us and God’s presence with us. Keep your light shining! #letitshine

May God bless you!

Pastor Linda

 


Time is a Precious Gift

Saturday Thoughts

March 28

Pastor Loren Schumacher talks about how time is a precious gift, and that when our lives slow down, we are drawn closer to God and find peace in a renewed connection with Him. #letitshine
(2 min., 39 sec.)

 


Christ’s Light in Your Life

Family Friday

March 27

Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney talks about light and Christ’s light in your life. Jim and his son Andrew perform a verse from the popular camp song “Pass It On.” #letitshine
(2 min., 25 sec.)

“Pass It On”

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it.
You spread His love to everyone,
You want to pass it on.

Verse 1

Kurt Kaiser


Word for the Day Thursday – Gratitude

March 26

Pastor Linda Schumacher discusses the word for the day this Thursday, which is Gratitude. She explains how gratitude is important to keep in mind, even when we are experiencing challenging times. #letitshine
(3 min., 51 sec.)

 


“Seek Ye First”

Tuesday Tunes

March 24

Enjoy more uplifting music from our Youth and Family Minister, Jim, and his family! #letitshine

“Seek Ye First”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Man does not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, alleluia

 


Guided by Our Lord

March  22

Dear Friends in Christ,

Since we got back to Madison, I have noticed that when each day dawns I feel as if the pace of life has changed dramatically. Things that I would normally do each day no longer are the norm. Our daughter, Amanda, asked the question of Linda when we were with her, “How is Dad going to do when he can’t just get in the car and go to the store?” Of course I said I would be fine, but perhaps they know me better than I know myself. This time in history is one where we all need to take a long look at ourselves and how much we have been defined by the ability to do all the things we do.

As we all know change is hard, especially when it is change that is so totally out of our control.  I thought about the uncertainty of each day. What will the new reality be tomorrow in the face of COVID-19?

As I thought about this, the image of the Hebrew slaves who set out from Egypt into the Wilderness came to mind. They were uncertain of what they were getting into or where they would end up. But they were not going it alone. We read in Exodus 13:21-22:

“The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” 

So too is our assurance in these times of stress and anxiety, when we are asked to meet new challenges that we never expected to be placed before us. We too are guided by that every presence of our Lord.

Linda, Jim and I have met remotely over our phones to talk about how we can best be a ministry presence to each of you and hold up the word of God which is actively leading us all through these days. We will be utilizing the resources of Faith Inkubators’ Faith5™ as a daily devotion which will be posted to our website and Facebook daily. Each devotion will focus on a scripture passage or a hymn, and then present some questions for thought that families or individuals can focus on in their homes each day. In this way, we can come together in our hearts and minds for a time of reflection and sharing that will center our lives in the presence of our Lord.

To continue spreading the “light” to everyone, we will share a special message on Sundays. Jim is working on bringing a musical selection to post as “Tuesday Tunes” and a youth and family message on “Family Friday.” We will share the content on this Connect page and on the Springdale Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/springdalelutheran1/)  and West Blue Mounds Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/westbluemounds).

Check your email, this webpage and Facebook to keep updated on our continuing ministry outreach to all our family in Christ.

As we gather in spirit, the continuing work of the church goes on. Please remember to send your offerings to the church office or make use of the online giving option so that we may continue to reach out to all in need at this critical time in our world. To give online, go to the homepage and click on “Give” in the upper right.

God’s Grace, Peace and Blessing be with you all,
Pastor Loren

 


Let Your Light Shine!

March 19

“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of the light.”  Ephesians 5:8

 

Dear Two Steeples Brothers and Sisters:

So much has changed so quickly! Loren and I got back from visiting our daughter in Georgia yesterday. When we left, almost two weeks ago, things were pretty much normal. Oh, we had our hand sanitizer in the car and tried to stay away from large crowds. But by the time we got to our daughter’s, last Wednesday, things began to change so quickly. Her university announced that it would go online after break. More and more cases of the coronavirus were being reported. By Thursday, we were talking with Jim R. and leadership about canceling church services and activities. By the time we were driving home, motels were taking extra precautions and most restaurants were only doing take out.

This new normal seems a bit scary and we worry, not only for our own health and the health of our loved ones, but for a world dealing with a pandemic. There is so much uncertainty.

But, in the midst of, this we are reminded of who we are and whose we are. We are God’s own beloved children and God is present with us. Loren and I watched, with joy, delight, and thanksgiving, Jim and his boys singing for us, “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going Let it Shine.” What a reminder that God’s light shines on us and through us.

The verse from Ephesians, at the top of this letter, is a part of the Second Lesson for this Sunday. And, just like the song, it reminds us that through the love of God we no longer live in darkness (even in the midst of a pandemic!). We are light! And we are called to live as children of the light!

So what can we do to be light at this time of global emergency? Take time to pray and read your Bible. That will help to keep our light burning brightly! Just like people of faith have always done, remember all that our Lord has done for us. And know that God is with us as we journey through this difficult time.

And let your light shine! Follow the guidelines that are there to keep us safe. Show love and compassion to all. Call friends and neighbors and check to see how they are doing.

Please know that as your interim pastors, we are here for you. We will work with Jim and our leadership to stay in touch and use our social media to be together. Please know that you can call us, or text us, or email us!

Loren – 715-523-0422     zionloren@gmail.com

Linda – 715-529-2110     ljschumacher51@gmail.com

May God bless you all!  And let your light shine!

 

Blessings,

Pastor Linda

 


“This Little Light of Mine”
Performed by Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney and his family

March 17

We hope this video brightens your day and brings a smile to your face!

“This Little Light of Mine”

This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Ev’rywhere I go,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Ev’rywhere I go,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Ev’rywhere I go,
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Jesus gave it to me,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Jesus gave it to me,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Jesus gave it to me,
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Harry Dixon Loes

 


National Day of Prayer

March 15

Recently, our President Donald Trump declared a National Day of Prayer. He called for the people of our country to take time today on Sunday, March 15 for a collective time of prayer.

He says, “As your President, I ask you to pray for the health and well-being of your fellow Americans and to remember that no problem is too big for God to handle. We should take to heart the holy words found in 1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your cares upon him, for he careth for you.” Let us pray that all those affected by the coronavirus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time. With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.”

President Donald Trump goes on to say, “I now encourage all Americans to pray for those on the front lines of the response, especially our Nation’s outstanding medical professionals and public health officials who are working tirelessly to protect all of us from the coronavirus and treat patients who are infected; all of our courageous first responders, National Guard, and our Federal, State and local leaders. We are confident that God will provide them with the wisdom they need to make difficult decisions and take decisive actions to protect Americans all across the country. As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words of Psalm 91, “He is my refuge and fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

So, let us take a moment to pray today:

Dear Lord, guide us all across this great Nation and Global Community, during these challenging times and days. May we seek to put our worries and fears in your hands, as we ask for your holy wisdom and grace in these times. Guide the work of our leaders, doctors, first responders, National Guard and all people in places of serving others. Guide us as a Global Community, as we work through all these health challenges in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Give us strength and peace as we seek to follow you and to show kindness, care and love to our neighbors in their time of need. Powerful and loving God, guide our paths, and teach us your ways, O Lord.

In Jesus Christ we pray!

Amen

Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney


 

 


 

A Message from our Youth and Family Minister

March 14

Dear Two Steeples Family,

I wanted to take a moment to say hello and let you all know that you are in our thoughts and prayers at this time. Together we need to take courage, be patient, consider those that are vulnerable among us and press onward while finding ways to love our family, friends and neighbors.

We have found ourselves in a situation none of us have been in before. The news is fluid and is changing day by day. Like the rest of the world, we are trying to make sense of it all, as we discern all the information and media reports regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). We find ourselves sifting through much shared information so we can better respond in times like these.

I offer this Bible verse to meditate on for the strengthening of your faith.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Although it was not in our plans to deal with this coronavirus that has become a global pandemic crisis, we have been called as a Nation and Global Community to slow down, create social space, be more hygiene-aware and seek ways to care for our own health and the health of our neighbors. Although this virus will continue to cause disruptions in our lives for a time and it may get worse before it gets better, we should live with the hope that this too shall pass. We should live with the hope and promise of God’s love and care for each us on this journey. As a family of faith, we are called to pray for our family, neighbors and world. We are also called to show love and kindness to others.

During this season of Lent with extra time at home, I would encourage you to take time for reading your Bible and devotions like Christ in Our Home. Take time for prayers. Pastors Linda, Loren and I will be working together to continue to find ways to reach out and minister to you in this time. I am including a portion of our Sunday morning worship bulletin for March 15 for you to read through and reflect on.

I also wanted to remind you that there are various Sunday morning worship programs available. Bethel Lutheran Church has a wonderful opportunity for Sunday morning worship on WKOW Channel 27 from 10:00-10:30 a.m.

Please feel free to reach out to us if you need someone to talk or pray with. For now, let’s take it one day at a time, putting our hope, trust and faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Peace, Love and Joy in Jesus!

Jim Ranney ><>

 

Worship Bulletin – Third Sunday in Lent
Gospel and Hymn
Confession & Forgiveness and Prayer