Connect

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.

Virtual Services

View the Virtual Services page to see weekly Sunday Services that are recorded for you to watch at your convenience.

Virtual Sunday School

You can visit the Virtual Sunday School page to watch Sunday School videos with Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney.

Important Announcement

Please note that new pages have been created for Tuesday Tunes, Word for the Day Thursday, Family Friday, Saturday Thoughts and the Sunday Message. We are in the process of moving content from this page to each of the other pages. This will improve your web experience because content on each page will load more quickly. This Connect page can remain your “go-to” page because you will continue to be able to link to all the other content.


Saturday Thoughts

“Thankfulness”

November 28

The hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” is often sung during Thanksgiving worship services. The song celebrates the countless gifts we receive from God. Pastor Loren reminds us to live every day in relentless hope and thankfulness to God. God is always present, even during a pandemic. #letitshine
(5 min., 10 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“Siyahamba”

November 27

Family Friday features an African song Jim and Maria used to sing at Luther Point Bible Camp. #letitshine

“Siyahamba”

“Siyahamba ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’,
siyahamba eku khanyen’ kwenkhos’.
Siyahamba ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’,
siyahamba eku khanyen’ kwenkhos’.

Siyahamba,
siyahamba, oooo
siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwen khos’.
Siyahamba,
siyahamba, oooo,
siyahamba ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’.

We are marching in the light of God;
we are marching in the light of God.
We are marching in the light of God;
we are marching in the light of God.

We are marching,
we are marching, oooo,
we are marching in the light of God.
We are marching,
we are marching, oooo,
we are marching in the light of God.”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

“Thanksgiving Table”

November 26

Linda relives memories of Thanksgiving tables when she was a child. She reveals that those holiday tables and guests have changed over the years, yet the experiences remain special. We can be thankful that God continues to bless us, even if we may be celebrating Thanksgiving a bit differently this year. #letitshine
(2 min., 51 sec.)

 


 

Tuesday Tunes

“The Butterfly Song”

November 24

The Ranneys lift their voices in song and perform “The Butterfly Song” for this week’s Tuesday Tunes. #letitshine

“If I Were a Butterfly”
“If I were a butterfly
I’d thank you, Lord, for giving me wings
And if I were a robin in a tree
I’d thank you, Lord, that I could sing
And if I were a fish in the sea
I’d wiggle my tail, and I’d giggle with glee
But I’d just thank you Father for making me me
‘Cause you gave me a heart
And you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus
And you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me me”

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Sacrifice in Our Lives”

November 21

Pastor Loren reminisces about conversations about the Depression, when people worked together to get through hard times. They made great sacrifices for themselves and for their neighbors. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus is the ultimate example of sacrifice. We can use that example to inspire us to sacrifice in our lives. #letitshine

(3 min., 54 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“All Creatures of Our God and King”

November 20

Youth & Family Pastor Jim Ranney sings God’s praises today with the familiar hymn “All Creatures of our God and King. #letitshine

 


Word of the Day Thursday

“Promise”

November 19

Pastor Linda has been thinking about the promises of our faith as never before during the past eight months. She finds strength in remembering that even though the faiths of Old Testament folks like Sarah and Abraham waivered, God’s promises were always fulfilled. Pastor Linda is especially sustained by Jesus’ New Testament promise: “I am with you always.” May we all find comfort in these words today. #letitshine
(3 min., 23 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Morning Has Broken”

November 17

Jump-start your day by singing along to “Morning Has Broken” with Youth & Family Pastor Jim Ranney! #letitshine

“Morning Has Broken”

“Morning has broken
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing
Fresh from the Word!”

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Staying on Track”

November 14

Pastor Loren suggests we need to behave more like Canada geese: working together to stay on track and move forward in God’s love. Sometimes wanting to control gets us off track. It separates us from our community. The gifts each of us have been given help us work together to focus on God’s mission in the world. #letitshine
(3 min., 40 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“The Johnny Appleseed Prayer”

November 13

Youth & Family Pastor Jim Ranney and sons sing a family favorite, “Johnny Appleseed Prayer,” to usher in the weekend!  #letitshine

 

 


 

Word of the Day Thursday

“Radical Love”

November 12

It’s not easy to get along with people we don’t agree with, but Jesus calls us to love no matter what. Radical love is similar to unconditional love and grace, yet it also spurs us to action. Radical love is not something we can do on our own. God will give us the courage and compassion we need to give radical love to everyone. #letitshine
(3 min., 47 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Shake Another Hand”

November 10

The fun and catchy camp song “Shake Another Hand” is today’s Tuesday Tunes selection. Join in with the Ranneys and sing out! #letitshine

 

 


Sunday Message

“Time of Waiting”

November 8

 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for out lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’  And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Matthew 25:1-13

We all know what it is like to wait for something. If it is a scheduled appointment that we know will happen at a set time, we sit and wait.  But it is a little different to wait for something when we don’t know when it is going to happen. I think that waiting is much harder.

What do we do with the waiting time? When we realize that we are not in control of the time, that waiting can lead to a great deal of anxiety and impatience. At least when we wait for something that is scheduled, we can fill the time with magazines, no matter how old, or play games on our phones, or scroll through Facebook posts. But when we have no idea how long something is going to take, we might get tired of what we are doing to fill the time, lose interest in the whole process, or even fall asleep.

Take for example the Ten Bridesmaids in our Gospel reading. They have a role to play when the bridegroom comes for the wedding banquet, and they have all showed up. They are ready. But as I know from having officiated a quite a few weddings over the years, things don’t always go as planned; for we hear there has been a delay. And of course you can’t always expect these things to run smoothly, so the bridesmaids are left waiting. They have no idea how long it will be. And this creates a problem for half of them. When the bridegroom comes they need to have their lamps burning for the procession and half of them didn’t bring extra oil in case there was a delay. So they are labeled foolish and wise. (Where is a good wedding planner when you need one.)

As we hear the story I think our first reaction is to judge them. It is so easy to become judgmental and divide the ten into those who are good and those who are bad. Which indeed is what interpreters of the text have done over the years, saying that those who have good works or greater faith will get into the banquet, aka heaven, and the others will not. What we so often forget is that we are not the judges. It is the bridegroom in the story who has the final say.

In this story we see that a time of waiting can have unexpected consequences. The community that Matthew is writing to has broken with the synagogue, are dealing with a delayed end time, and are getting tired of waiting. What is easy to miss as we focus on the bridesmaids, and the oil is that judgment is confined to only one character – the bridegroom. Even the wise women don’t judge the foolish ones.

After all, they are all waiting for the bridegroom. They all belong to the same community, the same group of friends. They all fall asleep waiting for the bridegroom to come. Within the community it is impossible to tell who has enough oil in their lamps, who has been more faithful. This is not for us to see or to judge. The church remains always a mixed community.

We have many choices in our lives, and as we make them we need to remember that God is the actor and the giver of all life. We are not living our lives toward some “endpoint,” but rather living continuously involved in the community of Christ, living out our baptismal vocation. We live in the light of the cross, in mercy, not judgment. Our lives are about Christ’s continual presence with us through all our waiting.

So how do we cope with it, since waiting is simply the reality of life. We want the wait to be over, but at the same time, we wait trusting that God will show up. We need to keep alert for what is to come. We need to keep alert for the ways in which God enters into our everyday lives to be exactly what we need. To keep alert, awake to what is going on does not mean that God is absent. It means that our need is met by the absolute presence of God on whom we depend.

It is easy to forget this when we are overwhelmed by the mood of division that we see around us. It all really comes down to one question in the end, “Can we leave judgment to the Lord?” The waiting bridesmaids are divided in half, one side wise enough to make sure they have extra oil, the other side foolishly not bringing extra oil. Can we look at both sides and see them as God’s beloved children, or do we judge one side bad and one side good? Perhaps before we answer, we need to think about how each of us falls short. If we find ourselves imagining that God can only redeem those who are like us, are we perhaps, possibly underestimating the capacity of the one who created light from darkness and raised Jesus from the dead?

Theologian David Lose reflecting on this story shares these thoughts, “So at the end of the day, if we cannot see each other as equally deserving of God’s love and redemption and cannot therefore accord each other a measure of dignity and respect, then we have forgotten that at the root of human sin is precisely, the willingness to judge others out of our own insecurity.”

We especially need to be alert and engaged in uncertain times especially if we did not plan for a long dark time of waiting.

May you feel the presence of God who cares for us through all our times of waiting.

Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“The Gap Only God Can Fill”

November 7

Pastor Loren shares some thoughts on perfection and the “tragic gap” that exists between the way our world is and the way it could be and how God is present in that gap. #letitshine
(3 min., 31 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“America the Beautiful”

November 6

The Ranneys perform a verse of “America the Beautiful,” a reminder of our love of both God and country. #letitshine

“America the Beautiful”

“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

“Story”

November 5

Pastor Linda says stories are an important part of who we are and how we understand ourselves. She tells of stories she heard from her grandparents when she was young. They faced difficult times. With faith and love, they got through the Depression and World War II. Consider what stories you will tell about 2020. #letitshine
(4 min., 1 sec.)

 

 


 

Tuesday Tunes

“When the Saints Go Marching In”

November 3

Thanks to the Ranneys for putting a spring in our steps this election day with their rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” a Christian hymn and Black spiritual. #letitshine

 


Sunday Message

“All Saints Sunday”

November 1

Good Morning and Blessings!

We gather today in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118:24

Today is a special day in the life of the church as we gather, remember and celebrate those members of the Body of Christ who have lived and gone on to the next life in heaven. We dedicate this day, an important time on the first Sunday of November, to “All Saint’s Day.”

So, I begin with this thought and question:

Who are those people in your life, that are no longer with us, but you want to take time and thank and remember?

Let us pause for a moment as we remember them on this day….

I have many people in my lifetime to remember and thank, and to take time to recall how they impacted my life. All four of my Grandparents, Earl and Twila Ranney, and John and Jeanette Richard, are now gone on to be with the Lord in heaven, and are now a part of that “Great Cloud of Witnesses.” Their lives as parents, grandparents and hardworking farmers greatly impacted my life, and my family’s lives. It was their faith in God and commitment to Church, and how they lived their lives with helping family, friends and neighbors, that I will most remember and treasure!

So, who are those people in your life, who are no longer here? Who are those people in your life that are now with the Lord in heaven, that you treasure and give thanks to God for the gift and time you had with them?

Today, in our worship service, we will take time in thoughts and prayers to remember them.

In today’s Gospel of Matthew, we once again encounter the Beatitudes. Just prior to this, we learn in Matthew chapter 4, that Jesus had gone throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Jesus has spread all over Syria, and lots of people have gathered for the opportunity to be close to Jesus’ teaching and healing.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, it says that Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciple came to him, and he began teaching them, saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:1-10

Jesus goes on to say, “Blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5: 11-12

How do these Gospel words of Jesus speak to us today? As we are now in our eighth month of this Covid-19 Global Pandemic, how do these words of Jesus speak to each of us today?

As our country struggles to make sense of what we have lost, what we have struggled with as a nation, as we seek to value lives for all people young and old, race and gender equality and inclusion. People are mourning the loss of lives, loved ones, friends and neighbors. People are mourning today because of hunger, violence, and injustice. I believe all this matters to God, and God brings us a message of hope, promise and love through God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus cared for the people that he lived amongst, of our past generations, and Jesus cares for the people of this present time. Jesus cares for the future generations to come after us!

As called and claimed Children of God, and in the Church Body of Christ, we too can live in that hope and promise. We too, can know that we are called to love and serve in our families, our communities, and the world we live in.

We are called to be salt and light in this world. We do this not in just our own strength and power, but through Christ’s strength and power!

So, let us go forth this day, a little more thankful and grateful, praising God and willing to love and serve in the world, as God has called us to do!

Amen

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Perspective Through God’s Love”

October 31

Pastor Loren recounts his experience as a young child in art class. An art teacher opened students’ eyes to perspective, showing how adding perspective to art transformed a “flat” drawing into a new, three-dimensional view. As we find perspective in our lives, our eyes are opened to the world around us. The source of that perspective has, and always will be, God’s love. #letitshine
(4 min., 09 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Let Us Break Bread Together”

October 30

The Ranneys share a familiar tune as they join together in singing “Let Us Break Bread Together” for Family Friday. #letitshine

“Let Us Break Bread Together”

“Let us break bread together on our knees,
Let us break bread together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

Let us break bread together on our knees,
Let us break bread together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

“What have you learned, Dorothy?”

October 29

Today’s message from Pastor Linda features Words of the Day that revive a line from the beloved Wizard of Oz – “What have your learned, Dorothy?” Linda reflects on what she has learned during the pandemic, and she invites us to consider how our perspectives have changed and how they have stayed the same. #letitshine
(3 min., 26 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Take My Hand Precious Lord”

October 27

Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney performs a solo of the beautiful and comforting song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Jim emphasizes that God is always here, walking beside us. #letitshine

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

“Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light:

Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall:

Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.”

 


 

Saturday Thoughts

“Where Hope Lives”

October 24

We’re living in a time when hope makes all the difference. On the most difficult of days, there is only one source of everlasting hope, and that is God. We are God’s people, and we are loved. God wants to be close to each and every one of us. No matter how difficult our days, we can know that our true hope lives in God. #letitshine
(4 min., 0 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Create in Me”

October 23

The Ranneys join in singing “Create in Me.” Jim reminds us that we can worship God every day, not just on Sundays. This song helps us connect with God and gets us in the right frame of mind for worship. #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 of the Day Thursday

“Quarantimes” – Part 2

October 22

In her second look at “quarantimes,” Pastor Linda focuses on the new and positive things she has learned, experienced and appreciated as a result of the pandemic. What positives have you found during this challenging time? #letitshine #pandemiclife
(3 min., 0 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Go Tell Aunt Rhody”

October 20

Jim Ranney and his sons revive an old tune that Jim remembers learning in school, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.” Have some fun and sing along! #letitshine

“Go Tell Aunt Rhody”

“Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
The old gray goose is dead.

The one she’s been saving,
The one she’s been saving,
The one she’s been saving,
To make a feather bed.

Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
Go tell Aunt Rhody,
The old gray goose is dead.”

 


Sunday Message

 “We Belong to God”

 October 18

 “Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.  

Matthew 22:15-22

 We all like to receive a compliment from someone from time to time. It makes us feel good about ourselves when we are affirmed for doing something. It may have been for working on something that turned out really well, or for helping someone who was in need, or just for being a friend to someone who was having a difficult time. A few kind words can work wonders for our self-esteem.  As a pastor I can tell you those moments are especially appreciated.

Our text this morning shows us that sometimes those nice words can’t be taken at face value, because there might be something dark hiding behind them. In this case Jesus is still in the temple, as he has been over the last few Sundays in our Gospel readings. Now, he is about to receive a real snow job of flattery from the Pharisees and Herodians who we are told right off the bat have “plotted to entrap him in what he said.” So in this case we see it is important to know who is doing the praising, and what might be behind it. Jesus is not fooled by the flattery.

So just who are these groups who approach Jesus? It is important to know what hidden agendas might be behind their words. It would be like the Vikings and the Packers coming together as if they were the best pals. We know they are both leaders of religious and political groups in Palestine, which was controlled by the Roman empire. We hear a lot about the Pharisees as teachers of the law whose religious leadership dominated the Jewish peoples’ lives. We are more familiar with this group than the Herodians, who represent the hereditary rulers of Palestine, who are loyal to Rome under whose power they are allowed to rule. These are two very different groups, but just about the only thing they have in common is that they don’t like Jesus. So sometimes groups that don’t get along or have nothing in common will sacrifice their principles to achieve a common goal. So they start with flattery, since some people just eat it up, but Jesus isn’t going to be taken in by their words. Their well-laid trap is about to backfire on them.

The issue they intend to trap Jesus with is a loaded question on taxation. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” Taxes were both a source of revenue for the empire, but also Rome’s way of keeping the people under their thumb. Both groups are pretty sure they will get Jesus to say something incriminating, which is pretty surprising when you realize that it is the ones asking the question who are deeply entangled with and complicit in the economic exploitation of the empire.

Jesus is about to turn the tables on them. He asks them to show him the coin used to pay taxes. They produce it pretty quickly. Jesus’s pockets are empty but his opponents have no trouble supplying a denarius. An important point we need to remember is that Jesus is in the Temple in Jerusalem, and that Jewish law prohibits false images and idols. Yet here in the temple they produce a coin which Jesus questions them about. As he looks at it he says, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” Of course the image on the coin is that of the emperor Tiberius, and his title is Son of the Divine Augustus, or more specifically son of god. Clearly producing this coin in the Temple shows everyone how much they are a part of the system that is oppressing them, and lays them wide open to an accusation of idolatry within the Temple grounds.

Jesus then says, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Clearly the coin belongs to the emperor because it is stamped out by human hands for human purposes, and the image of Caesar is imprinted on it. We can’t ignore the connection that Jesus is making from the words of Genesis 1:26, when God first stamped out a human being saying, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”

We might imagine Jesus flipping that coin in his hand a few times, and then tossing it causally aside, then looking straight into the eyes of his opponents with an unspoken question hanging in the air:  “And you, my friend:  Whose image do you bear?” His questioners we are told were amazed and went away in silence.

The “coinage” of God’s kingdom is radically different than the few coins we may carry in our pockets with the heads of dead presidents on them. Paying to God and participating in the divine kingdom means we must repent of the ways that we have been taken over by the kingdom of this world. There is one claim on us that rises above any other claims. We belong entirely to God, whose image we bear, and we must never forget to render unto God the things that are God’s. When we do so we bring wholeness, transformation and healing to our communities in such divisive times as these.

Jesus invites us to be thinking regularly and relentlessly about how all of our decisions – what we buy, who we vote for, how we spend our time – should be shaped by the confession that, indeed, the whole world is God’s and everything in it – including us. And that is incredibly tricky business.

God Bless,

 Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Radical in the Way of Jesus”

October 17

Pastor Loren shares that when he was growing up, his father took care of their apple and cherry orchard. He trimmed the branches, kept birds from eating the fruit, and also took care of the roots. Loren reveals that the origin of the word “radical” actually refers to “the root.” Jesus asks us to deal with the root, and to be “radical” in a loving way to move our world closer to God. #letitshine
(3 min., 45 sec.)

 


Family Friday

“God Calling” Devotion #1

October 16

Jim Ranney shares a reading from the devotional book “God Calling,” a favorite of Jim and his wife, Maria. #letitshine

 


Word for the Day Thursday

“Quarantimes”

October 15

Pastor Linda’s daughter, Amanda, calls these days “quarantimes.” Quarantimes have been difficult, and will continue to be challenging in the foreseeable future. You will be able to cope better if you focus on taking care of your soul. Devote time to spiritual things and put aside any anger. Find peace in knowing that God loves you and walks with you every day during these quarantimes. #letitshine
(3 min., 40 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Put Your Hand in the Hand”

October 13

The Ranney Family revives an upbeat song that Jim remembers from his youth, “Put Your Hand in the Hand” by Gene MacLellan. Happy singing! #letitshine

“Put Your Hand in the Hand”

“Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
By putting your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee

Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
By putting your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee”

Gene MacLellan

 


Sunday Message – Outdoor Worship Sermon

“Rejoice!”

October 11

Jim Ranney

Good Morning and Blessings! We gather today in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Today feels like a special day for us at Two Steeples Parish, as we come together here at Springdale Lutheran Church to gather in this beautiful setting and `time of Outdoor Worship! We had the blessings of a wonderful day last month in September at West Blue Mounds; and now we are blessed with another beautiful October day at Springdale!

Since March and the onset of this Covid-19 Global Pandemic, it has been quite a while since we have had the opportunity to gather here at Two Steeples-Springdale for a time of worship. Although, we have still been gathering together in different ways all along these past seven months at Two Steeples Parish, through a virtual platform with our recorded Sunday worship and printed Sunday messages.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is inspiring and reaching out through the masses in ministries all over the earth in these days, into homes and communities, through new and exciting ways of gathering for worship and learning. Pastors Linda and Loren have blessed us with their talents with wonderful Spirit-filled messages on our Thursday’s “Word of the Day” and Saturday’s Faith Message, our Faith Five Weekly Devotions, and our family (Maria, Andrew, Matthew and I) have shared a variety of Worship Camp Songs and Devotions through our recorded “Tuesday Tunes” and “Family Friday” messages.

Our local and global church communities have learned much through these days and times. We have found some new and creative ways to worship and gather together as the Body of Christ!

I want to say a special thank you to our Church Councils and to Kay, Mary, Mike and Fay for all their work in keeping the ministry communications going through our church website, Facebook page, and church newsletters and information being sent out to our church families. Mike has set up and organized our church meetings and communications. Together with God’s help we are a TEAM working in ministry as part of the Body of Christ!

In today’s lesson from Philippians 4:1-9 it says,

“Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Eudia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 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 minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen me put into practice. And the God of peace be with you.“

 This New Testament book of Philippians, and these verses are one of my personal favorite Bible passages! Paul is writing to one of his favorite church communities in Philippi, a letter of thanks and encouragement. Paul uses the words Joy and Rejoice as they are woven into this letter many times. Paul has friends in Christ in Philippi, one of the friends from Philippi, Epaphroditus, traveled more than 700 miles to Rome to be with Paul while he was in prison, and most likely he hand- delivered Paul’s letter to the Christian community of Philippi. Paul speaks to them of rejoicing and to live in a spirit of Joy in a life with Jesus Christ. Paul wants them to find Joy and to rejoice in their journey in a life with Jesus Christ!

I believe these words from Paul speak to us in this time of this Covid-19 Global Pandemic. These are some lessons that I believe we can take away from these Bible verses found in this text of Philippians.

  1. We are called to rejoice in our relationship with Jesus. Always!
  2. We are called to show gentleness to others we meet, and to show gentleness to all our family, friends and neighbors.
  3. We are called to not be anxious about anything.
  4. We are called to prayer and petition about everything.
  5. We are called to give our thanksgiving, and to present our requests to God.
  6. What do we receive in all this? The Peace lived out in our lives in Jesus Christ!

 “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

This is a time to give thanks to God for all the wonderful blessings we have been given in our life with Jesus Christ. Our life in Christ has begun in the Baptismal Waters on the day we were called and claimed as one of God’s children into the family of God.

May you find Joy in knowing this wonderful gift! May you rejoice in the day! May you be filled with Love, Joy and Peace as we celebrate together as a family member of the Body of Christ!

 Amen

Jim

 


Saturday Thoughts

“The Light Within”

October 10

Pastor Loren reflects on the Quaker belief that each of us has access to the light of God from within. God has initiated this light through the Holy Spirit. And though we may be feeling darkness these days, we can be first responders to the living Christ within us. #letitshine
(4 min., 42 sec.)

 


 

Family Friday

“3 Ideas for Prayers”

October 9

If you haven’t prayed before or don’t know what to say when you pray to God, Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney has 3 ideas for you. Jim also reminds us that God loves us and listens to our prayers, about both big things and small things. #letitshine
(2 min., 22 sec.)

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Kindness – Part 2

October 9

What is kindness? Pastor Linda explains that kindness not only listens and cares, but reaches out and helps. Christ tells us that each of us is a beloved child of God. We are loved fiercely, and are asked to love each other, including those who have different views. Christ’s call to kindness can change our lives and change the world. #letitshine
(3 min., 42 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“In the Secret”

October 6

Jim Ranney brings back an old favorite from his time at Faith Lutheran Church in Valders, Wisconsin and Luther Point Bible Camp. Join Jim in singing “In the Secret.” #letitshine

“In the Secret”

“In the secret
In the quiet place
In the stillness you are there.
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait, only for you
Because I want to know you more.

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

I’m reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize.
Pressing onward
Pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more”

 


Sunday Message

 “Fruits of the Kingdom”

 October 4

 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves. ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

Jesus said to them. ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

     “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

       this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?”

‘Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.”
Matthew 21:33 – 46

Today I think we all find ourselves at a moment in time when we are asking, “What are the qualities I expect of someone in a leadership role?”

I always thought I knew what the qualities that make up a good leader were. When I was growing up one of the activities I was involved in was 4-H. I remember that leadership training was a part of the learning that was supposed to prepare us all for being good leaders in our world. I confess that I had to google the 4-H pledge with which we began each meeting, since I couldn’t dredge it from the recesses of my memory. We started each meeting with these words, “I pledge my HEAD to clearer thinking, my HEART to greater loyalty, my HANDS to larger service, and my HEALTH to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.” I find even today that that is a pretty good summary of what we should be about as we live a life that can be an example to others, and reflect the qualities of someone who is a leader in our world. I always thought that these qualities were what was expected of someone in that role.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew this morning, we see that Jesus is still at the Temple in Jerusalem speaking to the chief priests and elders in the place where they exert their religious power. These leaders are challenging Jesus, and he once again responds with a parable.

The parable begins with a situation that was business as usual in Roman-occupied Palestine. A landowner established a vineyard complete with a fence, a wine press, and even a watchtower. He then became an absentee landowner, returning to his own country. Tenants were hired to oversee the working of the vineyard, and paid their rent to the owner at harvest time, in the form of a share of the produce. So far, so good:  business was working as usual. Then everything came apart.

Things didn’t work the way they were supposed to. The tenants decided they weren’t going to pay the owner, so when the slaves came to collect they attacked them, beat one and killed another. So the owner sent some more slaves to collect the rent, and they were treated even worse than the first. Now, think about it for a moment. What would you do at this point? Surely the owner would send in troops or some form of armed enforcement to deal with this problem. But that doesn’t happen, and perhaps we are wondering about the decision making process of this owner. Instead he sent his son thinking that these thugs who had abused those he sent before would respect him.

It’s absolutely crazy. Who would do such a thing? No one . . . except maybe a crazy landlord so desperate to be in relationship with these tenants that he will do anything, risk anything, to reach out to them. This landowner acts more like a desperate parent, willing to do, or say, or try anything to reach out to a beloved and wayward child than he does a businessman. It’s crazy, the kind of crazy that comes from acting out of love.

But that too turned out badly because the tenants have gotten the idea in their heads that they could get the vineyard for themselves, when they had only been the ones put in charge of the vineyard. Jesus asks the chief priests and elders, who were the leaders who had been put in charge of the religious life of Israel, what the owner would do when he came. They didn’t have to think twice, for them the answer was obvious, all they can imagine is violence, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Clearly the chief priests and elders see themselves as the landowners and therefore the real victims, and they are ready to exercise their leadership by pronouncing judgment.

If they had thought about it a little longer they might have come to a different conclusion. But they had too much of a vested interest in the brokenness of the world to pay much attention to Jesus who had come to restore the world to God’s created order. They had staked their claim on that which did not rightfully belong to them and they were not going to let go even when the son comes to reclaim what rightfully belongs to his Father. They return to their default setting, which sees Jesus not as God’s will for the world, but as a scandal. Which means that everything he says and does is “fake gospel” in their minds.

 So how are we doing taking care of that vineyard these days? We have been called by God to be examples to the world of leadership that seeks to care for the meek, that works for righteousness, that advocates for peace.

In the parable Jesus doesn’t shy away from indicting leaders who can’t seem to care for their own. So what does kingdom leadership look like?

Professor Karoline Lewis at Luther Seminary commenting on this parable says that, “Central to leadership is the faithful care of God’s people under our charge. A part of that care is to call out leadership that hurts and harms; to call out leadership that is unjust; to uncover leadership that thinks only of itself, and to expose leadership that lets people under their care die.” And, sometimes we have to convince people who need to be set free that they are in captivity in the first place.

May we be the tenants that God needs to exercise justice and to work for a world where all are blessed by God’s grace.

Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Wounds and Our Journey With God”

October 3

It’s not surprising if we feel wounded right now by all that has happened, and continues to happen, in 2020. Pastor Loren points out that suffering is always part of the human growth process. And when we see our wounding as part of the way God is transforming all things, and trust that God is there in the suffering, our ordinary life journey becomes our journey with God. #letitshine
(3 min., 30 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“One Name Under Heaven”

October 2

Jim Ranney performs a song they used to sing at Faith Lutheran Church in Valders, Wisconsin with the youth in their Praise Band – “One Name Under Heaven.” #letitshine

“One Name Under Heaven”

“One name under heaven,
Whereby we must be saved.
One name under heaven,
Whereby we must be saved.

Forgiven of my sins,
Baptized in the water,
Filled with the Holy Spirit,
Washed by the blood of the lamb.
Free,
I’m really free, my friend,
Free by the blood of the lamb.

God’s gonna move this place,
God’s gonna move this place,
God’s gonna turn,
This whole world,
Upside down.
God’s gonna move this place,
God’s gonna move this place,
God’s gonna turn,
 This whole world,
Upside down.
One name under heaven,
Whereby we must be saved.”

 

 

Word for the Day Thursday

Kindness

October 1

In Colossians, Saint Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with love and compassion, and to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. These are stressful times, and we should continue to focus on kindness. Remember that you are God’s beloved child, and anyone you may get angry with is also God’s beloved child. #letitshine
(3 min., 17 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“I Love You”

September 29

Youth and Family Pastor Jim Ranney solos the Bible camp song “I Love You” for today’s Tuesday Tunes! #letitshine

 

 


Sunday Message

“Power in the Love of God”

September 27

  

 Gospel: Matthew 21:23-27

“23When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things! 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “‘Why then did you not believe him?” 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’”

 I am reading a book right now by the historian Jon Meachem. It is a biography of Congressman and Civil Rights icon, John Lewis. It’s called His Truth is Marching On. Lewis has been a hero of mine ever since I read about his non-violent protests in his student days. He was part of a group of young people who tried to integrate the lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. That group was spit on, had food thrown at them, endured cigarette burns and other physical assaults, and were arrested. Lewis and the other students responded to it all with non-violence. At Lewis’ funeral, a few weeks back, we were reminded of his words, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get into good trouble, necessary trouble.”

This morning in our Gospel, we see Jesus, making good, and necessary trouble. A lot has happened in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus has entered Jerusalem before a cheering crowd, throwing palm branches in his path. He has gone to the great temple of Jerusalem, the center of worship, and thrown out the money changers!

One commentator said that now he is occupying the temple. In fact, he is teaching a large crowd when a group of chief priests and elders come toward him.

Now if you are one of the people sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teachings, you might have questioned whether or not it was time to leave the temple. The chief priests and elders are the folks in charge. Not only do they have religious power, but civic power as well. The chief priests had authority over the temple and over the religious matters. Along with the elders, they were cooperating with the Roman overlords to try to keep the peace in Jerusalem. They were the rich and the powerful. And if you had seen them walking toward Jesus and this crowd surrounding him, your first thought might have been to make a quick exit. This could indeed be trouble!

The chief priests and elders question Jesus. What right does he have to teach in the temple? Who gave him authority? Is this itinerant preacher challenging the power and authority of the mighty chief priest and elders? At this point, I might have been skulking quietly away! But Jesus calmly looks at them and asks them a question: “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things! Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”

 I am pretty sure those guys know the answer. But they can’t say. They can’t admit it might have been from God. And they are afraid of the crowd. So, they won’t answer. Then neither will Jesus.

This must have been pretty disconcerting for the powerful. Not many people stood up to them. Not many people challenged their power or authority. To do so would have had dire consequences. But this Jesus did just that. We know the answer to the leaders’ question. Jesus’ power and authority are from God! Jesus the Christ is God. This is a pivotal moment in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus has challenged the religious and civic leaders. This must be stopped. Jesus is in good and necessary trouble. That trouble will lead to his death on a cross. It will also lead to his resurrection.

What kind of power is it that lets itself be crucified? Is this power? When we think about the power of God, what comes to mind is our Sunday School story for last week, the story of the creation. So great is God’s power that God creates with the power of the WORD. Yet perhaps an even greater power is the power of God’s love. That is the power that Jesus will demonstrate to the world. When he is beaten, he remains silent. When he is crucified, he forgives his murderers. When he is killed, the power of love is resurrection.

The world changed a bit when John Lewis and the other civil rights activists were spit upon at a Nashville lunch counter and were beaten at the Edmund Pettis Bridge. The world saw the power of love and we were indicted by the injustice we witnessed. And we were moved to change the world.

Power does not reside with the rich and powerful, no matter how cruelly they try to hold on to it. Power resides in the love of God. This is a power that can change injustice to justice, a power that can change hate into understanding, a power that can change death into life everlasting.

Jesus gets into good and necessary trouble this morning – for us. So that we might realize the power of love! And so that we too might be willing to get into good and necessary trouble in the name of that love.

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Jesus on the Cross”

September 26

Crosses are an important symbol of our faith. The crucifix, which is important in the Catholic religion, shows the crucified Christ. Lutherans focus on the risen Christ, so Jesus is typically not shown on the cross. It seems we avoid that image of pain and suffering.

Today our world appears to be falling apart, but remember that God continues to turn death into life. That’s how we are transformed and life is made new. We can remain certain of that fact, even during these uncertain times. #letitshine
(4 min., 1 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door”

September 25

“Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door” is the song chosen by the Ranneys for this Family Friday. Jim explains that Jesus is knocking on the door, asking you to let him into your heart, and He will change your life. Sing out and sing along! #letitshine

“Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door”

“Somebody’s knocking at your door,
Somebody’s knocking at your door,
Oh, children, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.

Jesus is knocking at your door,
Jesus is knocking at your door,
Oh, children, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.”

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Life

September 24

Pastor Linda discusses the value of life for everyone. We as Christians have a voice and can use it for good. We are called by Jesus to support and value the lives of all people, and share His love with our fellow human beings. #letitshine
(3 min., 12 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“I’ve Got the Joy in My Heart”

September 22

This song is sure to put a bounce in your step! Join in with the Ranneys for Tuesday Tunes and sing the uplifting song “I’ve Got the Joy in My Heart.” #letitshine

“I’ve Got the Joy in My Heart”

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay

I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus
Down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay.”

 


Sunday Message

“Generosity to Others”

September 20

 

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning
to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual
daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go
into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he
went out again about noon and about three o’ clock, he did the same. And about
five o’clock, he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them,
‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has
hired us.’ He said the them, ‘You also go into the vineyar d.’ When evening came,
the owner of the vineyard said to his manage, ‘Call the laborers and give them their
pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily
wage. N ow when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of
them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled
against the landowner saying. ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have
made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching
heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not
agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go’ I choose
to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose
with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last
will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1 16

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus once again challenges his listeners to grasp a
vision of the kingdom of heaven. He puts before us a parable of a landowner and day
laborers in his vineyard. Such stories invit e us to see something in a new way, and to
pull back the curtain that too often hides the way our own world works. The challenge
is to see ourselves in a way that we normally would not without a little shove in a new
direction.

When I was growing up, I remember reading fairy tales and Aesop’s Fables, which got
my child’s mind to think beyond the story to a greater meaning found there. It seems
there was always a moral or something to learn from the story which related to how we
live our lives in the world and what matters to us. And often they revealed a darker
hidden side to who we are as human beings.

Jesus is a master at revealing what is hidden behind the curtain. Take this story. On face
value it is just an account of an ordinary day in the life o f a landowner who has a
vineyard which needs workers. So he goes to the marketplace, were he finds laborers
waiting to be hired. He hires them for an agreed amount and when he needs more, he
goes and finds more. When the day is done, he pays them and sends them back home.

A pretty straightforward account of an ordinary day’s work. But we can’t forget that Jesus is not talking about our ordinary life, but rather the kingdom life. He is trying to get us to think in a new way and free ourselves from the influences of our culture and those things that keep us focused only on ourselves. In this way, he pulls at us and tugs at us until we see more clearly how God is working in the world.

So as we think about this story, we see a tension between fairness and generosity that comes to the forefront. The landowner treats the workers with equality, which provokes a reaction of envy on the laborers’ part. It’s really a setup, because some of the workers worked all day, others a shorter time and the last ones only one hour. Now what were they supposed to think when the first hired saw that they were all paid the same wage? The parable is really a set up to bring out the true nature of people, which often turns out to be the worst.

I think we are all born with an innate sense of fairness, which can lead to a strong and life-giving sense of justice. But not always. We all have egos that place each of us at the center of our universe, and of course we want things to be fair to us and for us. So the center of our universe, and of course we want things to be fair to us and for us. So we measure fairness in terms of our own wants, needs, hopes and expectations, and don’t think about the wants and needs of others.

Everyone should get what they have earned, and if you didn’t earn it, you shouldn’t get it. And then we look around and see others receiving something we feel they don’t deserve, and pretty soon our feelings of envy have set up a battleground between us and them. The system only works when I do something for you, and you do something for me. There are always expectations attached to what we receive. If we deserve it, it is our right, and after all, isn’t that fair?

But hiding behind the curtain is Jesus’ vision of a changed world in which generosity comes to the forefront in our dealing with one another.

In some ways, we are resistant to receiving generosity. We don’t know what to do with it. If it’s the result of something we did for someone, then we deserve it, it’s our right and it’s fair. If we see someone getting something we think they don’t deserve, we become resentful and raise the cry, “It’s not fair.” Like a child ready to throw a temper tantrum. We don’t really know how to respond to true generosity.

We live in a culture where who we are, and our sense of worth, are too often shaped by constantly comparing ourselves with others. We want fairness and equality when it serves our interest, but not if it means we all get the same prize in the end. I remember serves our interest, but not if it means we all get the same prize in the end. I remember one member of an early morning men’s Bible study once expressed the feelings that it didn’t seem fair that a person who in his view wasn’t living a good life could turn to God on his deathbed and get to heaven, when the man at the Bible study had been faithful all his life and deserved salvation more than he did. Too often we find ourselves at odds with others and not in solidarity and compassion, but rather in competition. We can’t be grateful and envious at the same time.

Jesus has a vision of another way of being in the world which flows out from his inclusive, boundary-breaking generosity and reveals the envy and competitiveness of those in power who are out for themselves.

We need to ask ourselves if we would rejoice with everyone if we were all treated the same way, experienced justice, and received all the same benefits of care and love.

Generosity can’t be measured, counted, or calculated. There’s no asking, “What’s in it for me?”, “What will you do for me?” All we can do is extend generosity for the sake of the other who might then get to see into the eyes of God and get a glimpse of God’s very heart and soul.

May God’s generosity open our eyes to see the face of Christ in all our neighbors.

Pastor Loren

 

 

Installation Service and Coloring Activity for New Bishop

Children and adults are invited to pray for bishop-elect Joy Mortensen-Wiebe as she begins her transition to her call as bishop of the South-Central Synod. **We invite children and adults to color a downloadable coloring sheet. There are simple, intermediate and advanced versions of the coloring sheet:

Simple-Coloring-Sheet

Intermediate-Coloring-Sheet

Advanced-Coloring-Sheet

Please pray for the bishop and the synod as you color these leaves. Think of us as the veins of the leaf as we offer life to each other and to the body of Christ. Then mail or email your coloring sheets to arrive before September 30 to:

Mail:
Springdale Lutheran Church
Attention: Secretary
2752 Town Hall Rd.
Mt. Horeb, WI 53572

Email:
secretary@springdalelutheran.org

These creative representations and prayers offered up will become a visual element of the worship celebration at the Bishop-Elect’s installation.

 


Saturday Thoughts

The First Step to Healing

September 19

Pastor Loren shares a personal story of how when something hurts, he tends to put it off dealing with it. Because of that tendency, Loren ended up having emergency open heart surgery. It is human nature to avoid what makes us uncomfortable or concerned. The challenge is that we can’t address a problem or begin healing until we acknowledge it. Loren quotes author James Baldwin, saying “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” Hurt doesn’t disappear on its own. It must be spoken of and named in our hearts and minds. Speaking the hurts will help us start the healing process. #letitshine

 

 


Family Friday

“Step by Step”

September 18

Jim reminds us that God is with students as they go back to school. The journey isn’t easy, but He’s there every step of the way. The Ranney family performs “Step by Step” to encourage students as they learn remotely or in their classrooms. #letitshine

“Step by Step”

“Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
Step by step You’ll lead me
I will follow You all of my days
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You”

 


Word for the Day Thursday

Wilderness

September 17

Wilderness is an important part of the Bible as a place of danger and uncertainty. Pastor Linda acknowledges that we find ourselves in a wilderness too, uncertain of when the pandemic will end and what the future holds. She reminds us that we’re not alone – our loving God is beside us. Linda also tells of an experience she had as a pastor in Amery, Wisconsin, when confirmation students interviewed older adults about the history of their Church. They recounted how when they built the church, they made the steeple as high as possible so anyone who was lost could use it as a guide and find their way home. Being part of the church of Christ is our steeple on the hill, and our path ahead is clear. #letitshine
(3 min., 39 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

September 15

The uplifting and memorable “Our God is an Awesome God” is today’s musical selection from the Ranney family. Jim provides encouragement, explaining that God will be with you for every step of your journey in life. #letitshine

“Our God is an Awesome God”

“Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God”

Rich Mullins

 


Sunday Message

“Power to Forgive”

September 13

Matthew 18:21-22

Good Morning and Blessings! Today we gather together in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Today feels like a special day for us at Two Steeples Parish, as we come together here at West Blue Mounds to gather together in this time of an Outdoor Worship! Since March, and the onset of this Covid-19 Global Pandemic, it has been quite a while since we had the opportunity to gather together in person for a time of worship. Although, we have still been gathering together in different ways. We have gathered these past six months at Two Steeples Parish, through a virtual platform for Sunday messages and worship times. I believe that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us and reaching out through the masses in ministries all over the earth in these days, into homes and communities, through new and exciting ways of gathering for worship and learning. Pastors Linda and Loren have blessed us with their talents with wonderful Spirit-filled messages on our “Thursday Word of the Day” and “Saturday Thoughts” faith messages. We also have Faith Five Devotions, and our family, Maria, Andrew, Matthew and I, have shared many “Tuesday Tunes” and “Family Friday” messages along this journey.

Our local and global church communities have learned much through these days and times. We have found some new and creative ways to worship and gather together as the Body of Christ! I want to say a special thank you to both of our Two Steeples Parish Church Councils and to Kay, Mary and Fay for all their wonderful work in keeping the ministry communications going through our church website, Facebook page, church newsletter and information sent out to our church family. Also, a big thanks to Mike for his setting up and managing all of our church meetings and communications. Together we are a TEAM working together in ministry, and serving as a part of the Body of Christ!

In the life of the church year, the second Sunday in September, is typically known as “Rally Day” Sunday. It kicks off the education season in our church year, and it seems quite fitting for us to be gathering together today on this “Rally Day” Sunday!

In today’s Gospel message, we hear Peter ask Jesus a question about forgiveness. It says in Matthew 18: 21-22, “Peter Came and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.’” 

Jesus goes on to share a parable story about a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed a tremendous debt of ten thousand talents and could not even come close to paying this debt. The punishment would cost him everything he owned and his family, and he would be sent off to prison. The man begged for his life and time to pay off his debt to the king. And the king had pity on him; he released his servant and forgave his debt.

Jesus goes on to share that this same servant sought out another fellow servant that owed him a much smaller amount of 100 denarii. The servant did not show his fellow servant the same compassion and kindness, and he had him thrown into prison until he could repay his debt.

So, of course the king learns of this mistreatment and he has the first servant, the one he had pardoned, brought before him. The king is now angered and reminds this first servant of the grace he was given in his enormous debt that had been pardoned, and he has committed a great offense by not treating his fellow servant with the same level of kindness and compassion. He says, “’Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.”
Matthew 18: 33-34

Jesus goes on to say, “So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 35
So, from this conversation and parable we can learn much about how God values forgiveness. God cares about our relationships with our families, friends, neighbors, communities, and all people in this world! God cares about how we treat one another in life. God cares how we show forgiveness through kindness and compassion to one another.

So, let me ask you a few questions:

When was the last time someone showed you forgiveness?

How did they express that forgiveness to you?

Was it what they said or did, that showed you that kindness and mercy?

How did that feel after someone told you that they forgave you for the wrong or offense you had committed against them?

To show forgiveness can be a very powerful and healing moment for both people! The person who is “sincerely sorry” for their part in the offense, and for the person who has been hurt or wounded to say “I forgive you.”

Although it can be a difficult and challenging process in relationships, it can often be only through these moments of mercy and forgiveness that a relationship/friendship can grow and move forward from hurts and wounds.

In our Old Testament story in Genesis 50, Joseph offers forgiveness to his brothers. His brothers were mad with a jealous anger and they threw him into a well. They later sold him into slavery and told their father, Jacob, that Joseph had died.

Many years later, during a famine, Joseph has risen to the second in command of all of Egypt. Joseph’s brothers show up during a famine and they are in fear of their life, as they realize that they are speaking to their brother Joseph.

They say, “’What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did to him?’ So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.”’ Joseph says to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.”
Genesis 50: 15-21 

Definitely, when we show kindness, mercy and forgiveness through acts of love, this is powerful and healing for all!

Truly, we are blessed to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! When we do not know how to ask for forgiveness or to show forgiveness, when our hurts and wounds run deep and leave lifelong scars, we only need to ask Jesus for the help and strength to do these things. Without His love and forgiveness, we cannot do these things through our own power, but only through the power of being called and claimed as a child in His Kingdom and Family.

Through Christ’s victory over sin and death on the cross we are saved by His Grace, Mercy and Love!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. That whoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
John 3:16-17

 May each of you walk forward, having been touched and changed by the waters of Baptism, knowing fully the Grace and Forgiveness found in your identity in Jesus Christ. Freed from sin, we too are called to share Love, Kindness and Mercy to all people we encounter in this day and on the journey of life!

 Amen

Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Justice as a Healing Ground for All”

September 12

Pastor Loren explains that justice in Western culture and even some churches has centered on sin and punishment. He suggests that justice grows out of our relationships with each other. We are human, so there always will be actions people take that result in hurt or pain. Our focus should be on the healing of all involved – those who are harmed, those who harm, and our communities. He expresses hope that we can begin seeing justice as a healing ground and not a battleground. #letitshine
( 4 min., 10 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Be Bold, Be Strong”

September 11

A favorite song from Bible camp, “Be Bold, Be Strong,” is today’s selection for Tuesday Tunes. The Ranneys also read a Bible verse from Isaiah and acknowledge that our journey in life can be difficult, but God will give us strength for the day if we ask Him. #letitshine

“Be Bold, Be Strong”

“Be bold, be strong
For the Lord Thy God is with thee
Be bold, be strong
For the Lord Thy God is with thee
Be not afraid, be not dismayed
Walk in faith and victory
Walk in faith and victory
For the Lord Thy God  is with thee”

 


 

Word for the Day Thursday

“2020”

September 10

The word – or number – Linda focuses on today is “2020.” This has been a difficult year, with difficult experiences, but as followers of Jesus, we see reasons to thank God. We’ve seen selflessness, heroism and perseverance. Connecting with others as Christ’s people has changed in wonderful ways, including digital outreach. We will carry on as God’s church and remember that Christ walks with us, giving us hope and inspiration. #letitshine
(3 min., 51 sec.)

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Jacob’s Ladder”

September 8

Today, Youth & Family Pastor Jim Ranney and sons share “Jacob’s Ladder,” a nostalgic song that Jim and brother Steve learned from a favorite teacher, Fern Frame, back in vacation Bible School at West Blue Mounds. #letitshine

“Jacob’s Ladder”

“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
Soldiers of the Cross.

Every rung goes higher and higher
Every rung goes higher and higher
Every rung goes higher and higher
Soldiers of the Cross.

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
Soldiers of the Cross.”

 


Sunday Message

“Listen With Your Heart”

September 6

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Jesus tells us in this Gospel, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” I have found that statement by Jesus to be of profound strength and comfort as a pastor. Praying with a patient and family during a hospital visit. Praying with a small group of mourners at a funeral home right before visitation begins. It is an assurance that Christ is present with us, at all times. The community does not have to be gathered together in a church for a worship service to have Christ among us. That is especially good news in this time when we can’t be together in church. Christ is present in our virtual service, in our phone calls to each other, and as we do Bible Study.

But, like so many times in our Bible, these simple and beautiful words can be seen as a two-edged sword. Our Gospel from Matthew 18 is all about how we are to be in Christian Community. The chapter begins with a tone deaf question from the disciples about who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus answers by talking about the need for humility. About the need to be as humble as a small child.

Jesus then talks about divisions in the church. Conflicts. Disagreements. If you have been a member of any church for very long you know that church members don’t always agree with one another. In fact, I have heard the statement that where two or three parishioners are gathered, there is bound to be disagreement!

But that is the very thing I was talking about when I said that Jesus’s words could be a two edged sword. As comforting as it is to think about Jesus being with us whenever we gather as community, we have to remember that Jesus is also there with us when we disagree, argue, pout, and talk badly about others. I want Jesus there when I need him. But I don’t necessarily want Jesus there with me when I am angry and thinking bad thoughts about my neighbor.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus talks to us about being in community with each other. Take a look at how many times Jesus talks about listening in our Gospel. How would listening more change how we react to one another in our churches, our communities, and our world? It seems as if we live in a time when we just don’t want to listen to another’s point of view. We seem to be expressing our point of view louder and louder.

What happens when we do not listen? Let me use myself as an example. If I have a disagreement with someone, often, I don’t really want to go to that person and try to sit down and hear their point of view. Why? Well, what if they are right? I want to be right. What if they have been hurt by me? I don’t want to think about myself as a bad actor in this scenario. So, what is the easiest and most human thing to do? Well, I go to the people I know will agree with me. I can tell them how unreasonable someone else is. They will believe me.   They will support my point of view and tell me I was right. Has that ever happened to you? The truth, now!!!!

What Jesus is reminding us in these verses is that Jesus is there when I am gossiping or complaining about someone. Jesus is there when we use Facebook as a weapon against others. Jesus is there when we nurse our resentments and do not even try to find common ground. Jesus is there when we fail to love our neighbor and listen to our neighbor. Suddenly, that makes us uncomfortable.

I have a former parishioner who is a very nice person. She is caring, usually smiling, always pleasant to talk to. But the stuff she posts on Facebook is pretty terrible. It is full of hate and fear and just plain ugly. In fact, she got kicked off Facebook for a while because of her posts. This just is not the person I knew. I wonder if she realizes how many people she makes uncomfortable with her posts? I wonder if she knows others are listening? I wonder if she is willing to listen to others?

As Jesus talks to us about being together in community, we are reminded that Jesus came to us to reconcile us. Through Christ, I know that my sins are forgiven and I have the promise of newness of life. I have the assurance that Jesus is with me as I am with others in community.

That Good News comes with an invitation to resolve our differences in light of our new life in Christ. It comes with an invitation to listen to others and really hear what they are saying. It comes with invitation for me to be humble. It comes with the understanding that if someone disagrees with me, it doesn’t mean they are wrong or evil. It comes with the responsibility to for all of us to model what it means to be the Body of Christ.

Remember, Jesus promises us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Pastor Linda

 


Saturday Thoughts

“More Than a Building”

September 5

Sometimes we have a deep personal connection to a building, like a house or a church. Pastor Loren discusses the meaning of the word “church,” which the New Testament describes as those who gather in community. His message reminds us that some church buildings may be closed temporarily, but the Church is never closed. We are the people of God at all times and in all places, sent out in the world to love our neighbors and share God’s love. #letitshine
(4 min., 31 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Just As I Am”

September 4

Billy Graham was one of the most well-known and respected Christian leaders of our time. Jim Ranney and his sons sing the familiar “Just As I Am,” which was a staple of the Billy Graham rallies that brought countless people to Christ. The Ranneys also read verses from Phillipians. #letitshine

“Just As I Am”

“Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Listen

September 3

Pastor Linda talks about how listening is a problem in our world. It is important for us to listen to the voices of black women and men who have been marginalized. She emphasizes the need to be allies to those who are hurting. Let’s listen more. #letitshine
(3 min., 37 sec.)

 

 

 


Sunday Message

“Bearing a Cross”

August 30

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying. ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them it they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’”

Matthew 16:21-27

Peter has a problem. Now you wouldn’t think that getting the answer right would be a problem, but sometimes it can be. When you get the answer right it means you have to go on from that moment living your life with all the consequences of what that answer means. For Peter, this moment has become a real roller coaster ride for him, with quite an unexpected sharp turn and long drop that he was not expecting. He goes from the high of confessing that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and being told that on that rock solid confession Jesus will build his church to plummeting to the low of being called “Satan.”

What’s happening here? I think he has been caught in the loop of his own expectations and the reality of what Jesus ministry truly means for him and ultimately for all of the disciples. The expectations of the disciples become clear in this moment. They have been following Jesus, listening to his words and parables, seeing his healings, experiencing the conflict with the religious leaders, and hoping for that time when the Messiah who was promised would take control of their world and rule positively. This is the hope that echoes through their minds when Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Messiah.” And I suspect they see themselves riding into power on the robe tails of their “Messiah.”

But a warning bell sounds for Peter when Jesus says that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. This hits Peter like a ton of bricks and sends him reeling into a scary place. What is Jesus saying, these influential religious or community leaders with whom he has had conflicts will inflict great violence upon him and kill him.

This isn’t what Peter wants. Clearly Peter has got to put a stop to this kind of talk. He pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”  (And by association to me.)

Jesus came into a world which was controlled by the might of the Roman Empire which oppressed people and demanded allegiance at all cost. Into this moment in time Jesus called for righteousness and justice for all. He spoke of a love for the neighbor that was motivated by God’s love. He clearly is not tempted by wealth, position and authority. He does not dream of becoming Rome’s puppet king, or of occupying an earthly throne. Instead he tells his disciples that his disgraceful death will be coming soon.

Clearly Peter has no intention of going with Jesus in this direction, so he pulls Jesus aside and scolds him, as if Jesus is the one who has got it wrong.

How quickly Peter takes on the role of someone who is opposed to the direction in which Jesus is going. It is not surprising that in this moment, Jesus calls him Satan which literally means an “adversary.” Jesus, as the Messiah that Peter confessed him to be, is obviously a threat to the status quo and the expectations of Peter. Jesus accuses Peter of being a stumbling block (not a rock) and of focusing on “human things” rather than “divine things.

Peter had just received a blessing, but now, he is putting his own thoughts ahead of the ways of God, which makes him a stumbling block—a hindrance to Jesus’ mission. Nevertheless, Jesus does not break his relationship with him. Instead, he reminds Peter of the proper place for a follower.

God’s power is revealed not in walks through the places of power, but through the dusty alleys of weakness and misery. That is where Jesus walked. That is where he leads us to walk. That is where he strengthens us to bear the burdens of discipleship. It is his burden we take upon our shoulders. It is his strength that bears the weight. We do nothing on our own, but he can do much through us. Without him, Peter was no rock, but a stumbling block. With him, Peter was the church. With him, we are able to deny ourselves, and to bear all he may give us.

Like Peter we too have a problem. The problem is we are pretty poor at cross bearing. The disciples wouldn’t have thought themselves any better. They had seen crosses and knew that they destroyed life. For them, the thought of carrying a cross was a life and death matter. For us, to bear a cross is a way of describing our Christian life. No one really expects to die in the process. But, even to deny ourselves often seems too much to ask. We aren’t much good at that either. Here is both the challenge and the good news in this text:  if we follow Jesus, we will be seriously called to bear certain crosses and lose hold of our lifestyle, if not our life. Yet, in all our weakness and human thinking, it is Jesus’ own death on the cross that enabled Peter and enables us to do what we cannot.

One commentator summed it up this way, “We say, ‘But, Lord, I cannot.’ And God says, ‘I’m glad to hear you say that. Through you, I can.'”

May God direct us to be cross bearers in these challenging moments of our lives.

Amen

 

Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Life-Giving Breath”

August 29

Sometimes we need to be reminded to take a deep breath. It keeps us physically and spiritually alive. Pastor Loren’s words reveal that God gives breath to all living things. Taking a deep breath allows us to find a sense of calmness and feel the presence of God. #letitshine
(4 min., 09 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“This Train is Bound for Glory”

August 28

Trains are the theme of the day in this Ranney family video. Jim and his sons have fun singing “This Train is Bound for Glory.” Jim reminds us that we are following God and should remember to stay on track on our journey with Him. #letitshine

“This Train is Bound for Glory”

“This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory,
Don’t carry nothing but the righteous and the holy.
This train is bound for glory, this train.

This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory,
Don’t carry nothing but the righteous and the holy.
This train is bound for glory, this train.”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Peace

August 27

Jesus gave the the gift of peace to the disciples before his death on the cross and after his resurrection, and he also gives this gift to us. God’s peace is a reminder that we’re in God’s hands. As we navigate through uncertain and difficult days, take time to do what gives you peace, whether it’s watching the beauty of a sunset, enjoying nature or going for a walk. The gift of peace sustains us and gives us the strength to carry on. #letitshine
( 3 min., 31 sec.)

 

 


Sunday Message

“The Living God”

August 23

Matthew 16:13-20

“13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”

I have to tell you that I really like Jesus disciple, Peter. I don’t always admire him. But I do like him. He is so impulsive. He is so ready to be the first to answer any question or take any action. He is kind of a big mouth. I am afraid that I can identify with that. I have never been shy about expressing my opinions or voicing my thought, as my family would be quick to tell you.

Anyway, today we come to a pivotal moment in Matthew’s Gospel. And Peter is right in the middle of it. This is the moment that will change things. From this moment on, Jesus will be moving toward his death on the cross and his resurrection. The setting for this pivotal moment in Matthew’s Gospel is important. Jesus and his disciples are in the district of Caesarea Philippi. That is not so much a geographical detail for us, as it is a theological one. Caesarea Philippi is not only a political symbol of Roman rule, but a theological symbol of the collusion of church and state in Jesus’ day.

And it is here that Jesus asks his disciples the pivotal question. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Now, these disciples have watched as Jesus healed and fed the people. They have heard his teachings. They have traveled with him. But their answers are pretty generic, even disappointing. Well, some say that you might be John the Baptist, come back to life. Or one of the Old Testament heroes like Elijah or Jeremiah or another one of the prophets. All dead, we might add. Then, Jesus turns that question into one for the disciples and for us.

I like to think that at this point, Jesus is looking right at his disciples, and then turns around and looks at each of us. “Who do you say that I am?” The answer to that question makes all the difference. Our answer makes all the difference. Peter, of course, is the one who speaks up, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Our impulsive friend got it right, of course. And Jesus blesses him for it. But in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reminds Peter and all the rest of us, that Peter did not answer that question because he is the quickest, smartest, or cutest of the disciples. Jesus points out that God has revealed that answer to Peter.

I have often told you that one of the things that I find amazing in studying the Bible is that I so often notice something that I hadn’t noticed before. It happened again, as I prepared my message. I have preached on this lesson many, many times before. It is one of may favorite stories. But for the first time, it really struck me that Peter does not just say that Jesus is the Messiah but he says,

‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

The Living God! When the other disciples answered Jesus’ question about who people thought he was, they mentioned great Biblical heroes, but people who were dead. Peter confesses that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. That says so much about our faith. We don’t just worship what was. We don’t just believe in wonderful things that happened long ago. We worship and come into relationship with the Living God who is active in the world and in our lives now. Now, in the midst of COVID-19. Now, in a day when we are beginning to recognize in new and powerful ways the many injustices in our country and our world. Now, when we need the love and comfort and guidance of our Lord, more than ever before.

How do we answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” That answer makes all the difference in how we live our lives and how we order our days. Peter confesses and we are called to follow a God who is active in our world and in our lives. May we say with Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Pastor Linda

 


Saturday Thoughts

“The Renewing Power of the Spirit”

August 22

It’s easy to get down these days, and wonder if things will ever be the same. Pastor Loren reveals that the promise of the Spirit is not to keep everything as it was, but to provide renewal. The Spirit leads us and moves us into the light of truth and transformation. #letitshine
(4 min., 15 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

August 21

On today’s Family Friday, the Ranneys explore how we can live our lives closer to Jesus. They read a selection called “The Way” from a family devotion and sing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Their words remind us that we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. As we walk with Jesus today, he’ll guide our path. #letitshine

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Perseverance

August 21

Perseverance is something we all need in our lives. Pastor Linda explains that perseverance is a steady persistence in spite of difficulties, and laying aside the things that weigh us down and we can’t control. Many churches important in Linda’s journey of faith have had a long history of overcoming adversity. With faith in God and each other, they persevered. May God grant us the strength to persevere as well. #letitshine
(3 min., 52 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Fill My Cup”

August 18

Some days we feel like we’re running on empty. God’s love can bring light into our lives and give us strength. This Ranney family sing-a-long revives the song “Fill My Cup” from former days at Luther Point Bible Camp and Crossways Bible Camp. May this uplifting song and God’s love brighten your days. #letitshine

“Fill My Cup”

“Fill my cup and let it overflow,
Fill my cup and let it overflow,
Fill my cup and let it overflow,
Let it overflow with love.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me,
Once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.

Fill my cup and let it overflow
Fill my cup and let it overflow,
Fill my cup and let it overflow
Let it overflow with love.”

 


Sunday Message

 “Compassionate Mercy”

 August 16

“Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting. ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

 Matthew 15:21-28

 As our passage begins Jesus is once again on the move. He is traveling from the regions where he has been teaching to the district of Tyre and Sidon. This is one of his moves which may surprise us, when we realize that he is entering a territory where gentiles live who are not people of the Jewish faith. He is intentionally crossing boundaries into an unexpected place where people were, at face value, outsiders to Jesus message. He is entering a place where the boundaries of God’s mercy will be tested.

And sure enough as soon as he gets there a Canaanite woman starts shouting at him, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” This is not what one would expect from a Canaanite woman who would have no reason to address Jesus in this way. She was not a Jew. She was not of the house of Israel. Yet here she is asking for mercy from Jesus. And with that an interesting dynamic is set up. We see that Jesus remains silent at first. We may start to feel a little uncomfortable as we see what is unfolding. Jesus doesn’t interact with her at first, as he stands between the disciples and this woman. On one side she persistently cries out for God’s mercy. This foreigner, this Canaanite woman, speaks in the language of a true Israelite. And on the other side her pleas are met by the shouts of the disciples, “get rid of her!” They know this is not someone who Jesus should be interacting with. They are on their guard in case the mercies of God might be wasted on the unworthy.

Are you feeling a little uneasy as we wait for Jesus to respond? And respond he does, but not to the woman but to the disciples, saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Not to be deterred, she comes to him and kneels before him, an action befitting a king, showing him that she knows who he is and recognizes his power, and she says, “Lord help me.” Could this outsider, a woman no less, become more of a lost sheep pleading for the mercy of the master shepherd? Now Jesus finally speaks to her directly, with what we hope is a word addressed to meet her need, but instead it is a troubling word about the injustice of throwing to the “dogs” what belongs to the children.

To us this challenge to the woman from Jesus seems uncomfortable and unexpected, but she does not give up, but challenges Jesus with the words, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Having had several dogs I can identify with this image as I suspect many of us can. There was always a faithful companion laying beneath the table waiting, or sitting beside a chair gazing up with those soulful eyes. And suddenly there is an astounding reversal. Jesus says to her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

This wondrously-strange and persistent faith stands its ground against all opposition. She persistently seeks the Lord’s help, even if it is only to be in those meager crumbs that might fall from the “master’s table.” And in the wonderful surprise that is the miracle of faith she meets the gracious healing power of God. No sooner are the words spoken than it is done. The woman’s daughter is healed instantly.

And what of us who hear this story? The Canaanite woman, an outsider, judged as unworthy by the disciples, was told she had “great faith” and Peter, walking on water, was told he had “little faith.” What is the measuring stick for faith? What made her faith great and Peter’s little? Faith is as individual as the woman in this story. The woman’s story is not about what faith is, but what faith looks like in action.  Faith is dynamic. Faith is not a fixed collection of beliefs, but lays claim on how you are in the world, how you choose to be, how you decide to live, in each specific moment of your life. Your faith is great, not because of what you do, but because of who you are.

God is at work transforming our lives, opening us up to see just how far God’s mercies reach. So we find ourselves on our knees clinging for mercy with that same persistent faith that turns us around and plants us shoulder to shoulder with this woman, side by side with all the outcasts, the wounded, the hungry, the lonely, the homeless. We receive from the compassionate mercy of God a meager morsel, a few crumbs that become for us the gift of finest bread, a saving Word of hope and renewal and life.

God bless and keep you,

 Pastor Loren

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Let Go of Hate”

August 15

Strongly disagreeing with someone else’s viewpoint can sometimes lead to hate, but Pastor Loren reminds us that harboring hatred makes us prisoners. Sometimes we are unable to listen or understand because of hate. Jesus told us to love our enemies, which may sound like a tough task. Yet, when we let go and turn negative feelings over to Jesus, He will free us to love. #letitshine
(3 min., 55 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“If We All Said a Prayer”

August 14

The Ranneys share a message about how loving one another would make the world a better place. They read from Psalm 100 and invite you to sing along to “If We All Said a Prayer.” Jim remembers joining in with other youth to sing the tune at Luther Point Bible Camp as they sat around a campfire at night. #letitshine

“If We All Said a Prayer”

“If we all said a prayer for each other every day,
what a wonderful place this would be.
I ask God to bless you and keep you every day,
knowing you’ll do the same thing for me.

If we all said a prayer for each other every day,
what a wonderful place this would be.
I ask God to bless you and keep you every day,
knowing you’ll do the same thing for me.”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Generosity

August 13

God has given so much to us. During the isolation brought on by COVID-19, it’s more challenging for us to respond to God’s love and generosity with our own. Yet, there is a lot we can do. We can call others to check on them, send cards, or give financially to our church or a charity. God loves to see us show generosity. #letitshine
( 2 min., 38 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“I’ll Do My Best”

August 11

Good memories are revived as Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney and his family perform “I’ll Do My Best,” a tune that Jim sang often at Luther Point Bible Camp and Crossroads Bible Camp. Jim reminds us that God doesn’t ask for perfection, He just asks us to do our best. #letitshine

“I’ll Do My Best”

“Love
I’ll love
I’ll love you, Lord forever

Love
I’ll love
I’ll love you, Lord forever

I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you
Oh, oh, oh
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you

Praise
I’ll praise
I’ll praise you, Lord forever

Praise
I’ll praise
I’ll praise you, Lord forever

I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you
Oh, oh, oh
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you

Serve
I’ll serve
I’ll serve you, Lord forever

Serve
I’ll serve
I’ll serve you, Lord forever

I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you
Oh, oh, oh
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best
I’ll do my best for you”

Jeremy Dalton

 

 


Sunday Message

“Comfort in the Storm”

August 9, 2020

Matthew 14:22-33

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

I have questions! I have questions about this Gospel story. Last week we shared the story of Jesus, wanting to get away to mourn the death of John the Baptist, heading out to the countryside. But the crowds and the disciples follow, and out of compassion, Jesus heals the sick and feeds the large crowd with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread. He instructs his disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake. Now, at last, Jesus has peace and a time to pray.

But what might have been a pleasant night’s journey on the boat has turned into a rather nasty storm-tossed adventure. Remember, some of these disciples are fishermen and they know the water well enough to not be frightened without reason. Things go from scary to downright terrifying when they see a figure walking toward them in the early morning hour. Walking toward them on the water. It must be a ghost! But Jesus immediately tries to calm them down by telling them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Here comes the part where I have questions. Peter, our impulsive friend, and leader of the disciples, replies, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Why would Peter ask Jesus such a question? We know that he often acts and speaks before he thinks, but why would he ask Jesus to command him to get out of that boat and walk to our Lord? On the water? Think about it! If it really was a ghost, as the disciples feared, it would not have been a smart thing to ask. And if it were Jesus – well there was still all that wind and those waves. What was Peter thinking?

I don’t know if I can answer that question. We really don’t know. And we are not told what Peter was thinking when he asked Jesus. But we do know that Jesus told Peter, “Come.” And Peter did climb out of the boat and walk on the water toward our Lord. It went fine until Peter suddenly became aware of the wind and the waves and he began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus reached out his hand and saved Peter. He chides Peter for his “little faith.” But the wind does calm down and the disciples do confess, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

But why did Peter ask that question of Jesus? One commentator suggested that what was foremost in all the disciples’ minds was that they were alone in that boat. Jesus was not with them. When they see the figure approaching, perhaps Peter was so anxious to be with Jesus that he asked Jesus to let him walk on the water to him. That is a beautiful and comforting thought.  Right now, especially. It feels like we have been on high alert for months, tossed about by this dreadful pandemic that has taken so many lives. How comforting to know that Jesus is with us!

That answer is undoubtedly true. And for that I am thankful. But I still have questions. Was that the only reason? Why is Matthew’s Gospel the only one who mentions Peter’s attempt to walk on water? Why does the Bible so often lead us to more questions than it answers?

I guess that I will have to sit with my question. Think about it and pray about it. Unlike some Christians, I’m pretty sure we don’t have all the answers. The poet Ranier Maria Rilke once said, “Try to love the questions themselves… Don’t search for answers which cannot be given to you now.” And I am okay with that. Sometimes the mystery is part of the wonder!

Pastor Linda

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“In Search of a Lonely Place”

August 8

Sometimes we need a place where we can find solitude. We may need a bit of loneliness as Jesus did when he was overcome with weariness and grief. It enables us to experience refreshment and restrengthening as we center ourselves in prayer. May you find a lonely place so you can be renewed with love, joy gentleness and other gifts of the Holy Spirit.#letitshine
(3 min., 43 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Garden Song”

August 7

The Ranneys sing about a topic that’s music to our ears during this beautiful summer – gardening. The entertain with a description of their own vegetable gardening experience and the tune “Garden Song” by David Mallett. #letitshine

“Garden Song”

“Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless the seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
‘Til the rain comes tumblin’ down

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless the seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
‘Til the rain comes tumblin’ down”

David Mallett

 

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Teacher

August 6

Teachers were held in high esteem during Biblical times. Today, they seem to be more disrespected. Pastor Linda explains that most teachers are dedicated and care deeply for their students. They have to prepare for many teaching scenarios due to the pandemic. They’ve had to adapt to change quickly, while continuing to educate and nurture their students. Please take a moment to thank God for the dedication of our teachers. #letitshine
(3 min., 31 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Oh, Susannah”

August 4

Youth and Family Minister Jim Ranney and his sons bring a smile to our faces as they sing the fun and familiar tune “Oh, Susannah.” Join in and sing along! #letitshine

“Oh, Susannah”

“Oh, I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee
And I’m goin’ to Louisiana
My true love for to see

Oh, Susannah
Oh. don’t you cry for me
And I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee

It rained all night the day I left
The weather it was dry
The sun so hot I froze to death
Susannah, don’t you cry

Oh, Susannah
Oh, don’t you cry for me
I come from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee”

 


Sunday Message

 “Focusing on Abundance”

 August 2

 Matthew 14:13-21
“13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16 Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17 They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18 And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Takg the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.“

It always amazes me that even the most familiar Bible story can offer new insights for me. And this is certainly a familiar story. In fact, the story of the feeding of the crowds with just a few loaves and fishes is recorded in each of our Gospels. But today we focus on the story as told in the Gospel According to Matthew.

Let’s begin by setting the stage. In our very first verse we discover that Jesus has just received news that caused him to take a boat to a deserted place where he could be alone. What was this momentous news? It was the tragic news of the death of John the Baptist. No wonder Jesus wanted some alone time. What did it mean that John, the man sent by God to announce Jesus’ coming, had been senselessly murdered?

But Jesus is not left alone. The crowds and the disciples followed him on foot to the deserted place. I wonder how Jesus felt when he saw them. I suppose that many people, myself included, would have reacted in anger and frustration – can’t we even get a few moments of peace and quiet? But what really struck me this week was how Jesus did react. We read, “He had compassion on them.”

What a comfort to realize that Jesus sees the needs of the crowd even over his own need for peace and solitude. Jesus sees in that motley crowd that followed him, people who lived on the margins of society. They were poor and some of them were sick. They see in Jesus someone to give them hope.

So, Jesus cured those who came out to him and who were sick. But the disciples see that there is another problem looming. This lonely and deserted place has no food for the people. (Not a McDonald’s in sight.) And even if someone was around to sell food to the crowd, many of them, if not most of them, could not have afforded a meal. When the clever disciples point out the obvious facts to Jesus, they ask him to send the people away. But Jesus refuses to send hungry and hurting people away. For that, you and I can be eternally grateful!

You have to feel just a bit sorry for the disciples when Jesus tells them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” How? They must have wondered. They only had a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.

We know what happened next. Five loaves of bread and two fish feed a crowd that numbered over 5,000. Where the disciples could only see scarcity, Jesus could see abundance.

This week, the Miracle of the Feeding of 5,000, made me think about the churches I have served. Why is it that we, followers of the Lord, who said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” so often only see scarcity. Churches are so good at scarcity. We don’t have enough members. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough volunteers. Now, I am not saying that those things are not true. Churches have watched membership decline. Especially in this time of pandemic, churches, including ours, are hurting for money. And it can be very difficult to get volunteers.

But maybe we are focusing on the wrong thing. Ours is a God of abundant love and grace. Jesus came to us so that we might know abundance. Maybe our thoughts should not be on scarcity but on the abundance God provides. The folks who followed Jesus to that lonely place that day did not have all their troubles taken away. They did not leave there with riches. But they did encounter a God whose compassion was real and abundant. They were healed and they were fed. And they were loved. And that gave them the strength to return to their normal lives.

Dear Lord, may we look beyond the scarcity we so easily see. And may we focus on your abundant presence and love. May we know that you are with us and that your abundant love is stronger than the scarcity we fear.

Amen

Pastor Linda

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Seeing Repentance in a New Light”

August 1

St. Paul wrote in Romans 2:4 that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. The verses reveal a new way of looking at repentance, through God’s kindness rather than through fear. Pastor Loren defines repentance as a complete turning around and going in a new direction. It means we have a change of heart and mind, and a clearer understanding of God in our world. God’s kingdom is reflected in our daily lives. Let us be repenters and repairers in our world. #letitshine
(3 min., 47 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Trust and Obey”

July 31

Trust and obey is the theme of this Ranney family video. They read from Psalm 27 and lead us in singing the mellow tune “Trust and Obey.” #letitshine

“Trust and Obey”

“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Incarnation

July 30

We don’t use the word “incarnate” much in our daily lives, and we may not know what it means. Pastor Linda explains that as it says in the Gospel of John, Jesus lived among us. In everyday terms, Jesus moved into the neighborhood. He walked with people as a human and understands how we feel. The fact that Jesus is always there for us can provide comfort and strength, especially during the pandemic. His love for us never ends. #letitshine
(3 min., 09 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”

July 28

Youth & Family Minister Jim Ranney explains that God is our strength and refuge, even when we experience ups and downs in our lives. The Ranneys sing the old favorite “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” as a reminder that God is always there for us. #letitshine

“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”

“What a fellowship, what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Leaning, leaning
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning, leaning
Leaning on the everlasting arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Leaning, leaning
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning, leaning
Leaning on the everlasting arms”

 


Sunday Message

 “The Kingdom of Heaven”

 July 26

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

 He told them another parable:  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 “Have you understood all this?”  They answered, ‘Yes.’  And he said to them. “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

 Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

If we had any trouble in the past understanding how something so small could produce overwhelming results, we certainly can’t say that now. Our country’s experience with the COVID-19 virus makes clear to us that something so small that it is invisible to the eye can grow rapidly and spread in this case into a destructive force that consumes all our attention and resources, as individuals, communities, nations, and as a world.

In the parables which Jesus shares with the crowds, the disciples and us in our text this morning, he speaks of the power of something small and offers a powerful image to counter this destructive force. Through this series of parables he is giving us a glimpse into how the kingdom of heaven emerges from something almost invisible to the eye and grows and multiplies, offering us security, a treasure worthy of all our attention and resources.

I realize that the kingdom of heaven is a somewhat abstract idea that is not easy to grasp. Which I think is why Jesus gives us so many images to try and understand it. We each come to our faith from different places in life, and Jesus is trying to get the point across to all of us at different places in our lives with different ways of thinking. We never know what might click for us, or when the connection will happen, or just how. So Jesus’ words are directed to people at different places in their lives who are looking for different things. There is the sower/farmer, then a woman/homemaker, a fortune seeker/financial investor, a merchant/business person and a commercial fisher/laborer who all come from different places and have different priorities in life.

Jesus uses these short parables to try and reach as many people as possible using common images that they could identify with. We see each individual going about their work and in the ordinariness of the tasks there are signs of the kingdom of heaven in their day-to-day lives. How we imagine it depends a lot on what we need the kingdom to be, and less about what the Bible says, but more about what’s at stake for us. They open our eyes to see that the kingdom is near us and in our very midst. So we should practice opening ourselves up to seeing God’s work around us.

Over the years I have seen the image of the mustard seed displayed in many people’s lives, either on a wall plaque or as a necklace worn around the neck. The mustard seed proclaims the message of God’s kingdom loud and clear. So what is that message? First of all the seed is a small seed, yet within it, it carries incredible potential. As Jesus tells us when it grows it becomes the greatest of shrubs. It is a marvelous image of the growth of the Kingdom.

When I was growing up on the farm, one of the jobs my father gave me was to pull up mustard plants that seemed to multiply without end and were impossible to get rid of. So there’s another aspect to this image that I had never considered from the Bible story. The man who planted the single mustard seed may have had no idea that his land would soon be thick with invasive plants. Maybe he thought he could keep the mustard contained. But the seed blown on the wind results in the transformation of a cultivated field into a wild and leafy bird sanctuary. Once God’s kingdom takes root it will do its thing without regard for what we might want. This good news has the potential to reorder everything when it sinks its roots, and then an overwhelming impact results.

The parables about the kingdom of heaven promise that even when the kingdom is not seen, it is near. So how might it be present today, here and now? We need to be reminded that it is here even when it seems so painfully absent. In fields of sorrow, God’s Kingdom is present, and awaiting joyful discovery. Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as diverse and inclusive.

Professor Michael Chan at Luther Seminary sums up Jesus’ parables on the Kingdom in this way, “The kingdom of heaven, while invisible and hidden, grows into a sheltering and life-giving plant for God’s creatures. It spreads throughout the dough, transforming everything it touches. The kingdom of heaven does not produce cowardice and retreat; it electrifies people with abandon, courage and joy. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t close us to the world – it opens us to it.”

So after all this parable talk, I invite you to come up with your own parable that speaks to your present thoughts and feelings in the world today, and how it helps you to feel that even when the kingdom is not seen,  it is near.

“For me the Kingdom of Heaven is like . . . . . .”

God’s blessings,

 Pastor Loren

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Our Superpower”

July 25

Pastor Loren says he was fascinated with superpowers as a child. In today’s world, we may sometimes feel helpless and wish we had a superpower. He reveals that humans actually do have a superpower, and he explains how we can use it to help one another. #letitshine
(3 min., 57 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“Beloved”

July 24

A campfire song from Luther Point Bible Camp in northwestern Wisconsin was the inspiration for this Ranney family sing-along. The reading is from 1 John, Chapter 4, Verses 7 and 8. The tune, “Beloved,” is based on the reading. #letitshine

 

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Courage

July 23

Congressman John Lewis showed courage in peaceful protests to end segregation and stand up for civil rights. He was a man of great faith who said people should hold only love in their hearts. Pastor Linda encourages us to be strong in our faith and show courage, with inspiration from John Lewis as well as health care workers who are risking their lives for others during this pandemic. #letitshine
(3 min., 32 sec.)

 

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“Kids of the Kingdom”

July 21

Jim Ranney reminisces about hearing the song “Kids of the Kingdom” on local Christian radio station 102.5 FM when he was growing up. Jim and his sons sing it out and invite you to sing along! #letitshine

 

 

“Kids of the Kingdom”

“Kids of the kingdom, that’s what we are.
Kids of the kingdom, that’s what we are.
We love Jesus. We love the Lord.
We love Jesus. We love the Lord.

My name is ___________, I love the Lord.
My name is ___________, I love the Lord.
We love Jesus. We love the Lord.
We love Jesus. We love the Lord.

Kids of the kingdom, that’s what we are.
Kids of the kingdom, that’s what we are.
We love Jesus. We love the Lord.
We love Jesus. We love the Lord.”

 


Sunday Message

“Planted in Good Soil”

July 19

Matthew: 13:24-30, 36-43

“He put before them another parable:

‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’… Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

I am not a great gardener. I have no idea what is a weed and what is a plant. I volunteered to help with the garden at our church in Cloquet. But I made it very clear that I would need detailed instructions in weed recognition. Even then, I was pretty sure I would get the instructions backwards and pull up the plants.

Jesus is telling parables again this week. And this parable is pretty important in understanding Matthew’s Gospel. The podcast we listen to said that it is a parable that underlines several of Matthew’s main themes. There is a sense of anxiety and a sense of judgment. But like all of Jesus’ parables, it is not exactly as simple as it appears to be.

The parable is about a landowner who plants good seed in his field. But, unfortunately, someone comes along and plants weeds. That one is described as an enemy. The servants of the landowner come to him with no little anxiety. What should they do? Should they try to pull up the weeds right away? The landowner tells them to let the weeds and plants grow up together. And then at the harvest time, they will be separated, and the weeds burned.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus then needs to explain the parable to his disciples. So after a break of a few verses, Jesus talks about the parable. The landowner is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the kingdom. The enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil. At the end of the age, “The angels will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers and they will throw them into the furnace of fire.”

Sounds pretty easy, Jesus. There is us and there is them. Naturally, we are the good guys and those others are the bad guys. Wow, are they going to be in trouble!

But Jesus’ parable teaches us, “Not so fast!” How do you know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy? (That Jesus is always complicating our lives!) Not so fast! Jesus makes us wait. And it will be God’s judgment and not ours that will determine the wheat and the weeds. As my podcast said, “We need to stop, lean in and listen to what God is saying.”

Maybe this is our time to consider our place in our world. How has COVID-19 impacted our lives? Our actions? How can we be allies to the cause of fighting injustice and systemic racism? How have we been a part of the problem? Can we truly say if we are weeds or wheat?

The Good News is that this is all in God’s hands and not in our hands. How we judge others and ourselves, luckily, does not come into play. We are called to live our lives in the light of God’s love. We are called to trust in that love and mercy as we consider judgment – for ourselves and others.

May our prayer echo the hymn:

Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your word.
Lord, let my heart by good soil, where love can grow, and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard, break the stone away.
When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost, lead me on your way.
Lord let my heart, Lord let my heart, Lord let my heart be good soil.”

(Lord Let My Heart Be Good Soil – Evangelical Lutheran Worship # 512)

Pastor LInda

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Thy Will Be Done”

July 18

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave us The Lord’s Prayer. The prayer includes the words “Thy will be done.” God’s will for us is not the suffering, pain or loneliness many feel in these times, but Heaven’s promise for a loving connection to God. A close relationship with God also brings us closer to each other and His beautiful creation. #letitshine
(3 min., 45 sec.)

 

 


Family Friday

“King Jesus is All”

July 17

The Ranneys bring back fond memories of 4-H and Bible camp by singing the old favorite camp song, “King Jesus is All.” #letitshine

“King Jesus is All”

“King Jesus is all
My all in all
You know He’ll answer
Me when I call

Walking by my side
I’m satisfied
King Jesus is all
My all in all

Well, I went out to seek the Lord (oh yeah)
I got down on my knees (oh yeah)
I prayed my last prayer (oh yeah)
And the Holy Ghost met me there
I stepped on the rock
The rock was sound.
Love of God came a tumbling down
The reason that I know
That he saved my soul
Was I dug down deep and I found pure gold

And He’s all
King Jesus is all
My all in all”

 

 


Word of the Day Thursday

Laughter

July 16

Laughter is a wonderful tool God has given us. Its value cannot be denied, even during these difficult times. Research shows laughter provides health benefits such as improving the immune system and stimulating the heart. Keep the gift of laughter in your toolbox, and celebrate the joy it brings to your life. #letitshine
(3 min., 32 sec.)

 

 


Tuesday Tunes

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

July 14

The Ranneys bring a smile with their energetic performance of the old traditional tune “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” #letitshine

 

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

“I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.

Though I may wander, still I will follow,
Though I may wander, still I will follow,
Though I may wander, still I will follow,
No turning back, no turning back.

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.”

Leslie B. Tucker

 

 


Sunday Message

“A Harvest of Compassion”

July 12, 2020

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’

Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew is the Parable of the Sower, which is one of the most familiar of Jesus’ parables. We hear about a farmer who is planting seeds that should grow and produce a good harvest. But for any of us who have ever planted a garden, this is not the way we might do it. This farmer is sowing the seed very recklessly. There is no plan, no strategy, no technique to ensure a good placement of seeds. There was no preparation of the soil. No plowing, disking, dragging of the field and then spreading fertilizer to ensure a good crop as my father would have done. Yet that is not the point of the parable. This seed is scattered, like “helicopters” from maple trees, the fluffy junk from cottonwoods, or the seeds from dandelions. The seed just goes everywhere.

That’s kind of the way it is with the parable itself. We can go in so many directions to try and understand what Jesus is saying, which is probably why he takes the time to explain the meaning to the disciples. But let’s just take some time to stand at the lake shore with the crowds who have heard the parable, and see how we might find our way through it.

First there is the sower who is responsible for the planting of the seed. Then there is the seed which he scatters somewhat carelessly into the air over every type of ground in the field. Throwing seeds anywhere, trying everything to see what sticks. Then of course there is the fate of the seeds which depends on the type of soil they happen to fall on. There is so much we can latch onto to make sense out of what Jesus is saying.

But for me, since I grew up helping my mother plant the garden, I have a special appreciation for the soil that produced such marvelous plants as well as the thriving weeds it was my job to pull. When we were setting tomato plants my mother would always send me to the barnyard for a bucket of manure to add to the soil where the plants were to be placed. So, while the parable of the sower appears to be about the seed even though it says nothing about gardeners I suggest it’s really about the soil. This means that the parable is really about us. We are the soil.

Soil, like human beings, is shaped by the conditions that surround it. So, if soil is walked on over and over again, beaten down so that it becomes packed hard, it is no longer fit for the planting of seeds. We see this in the human community too. People who have been walked on over, and over, and over again often become hardened just to protect themselves. Rocky soil, says Jesus, describes those of us who lack the staying power to deal with what we might call rocky ground. When the going gets rough, we go into retreat. We can easily see that the soil filled with thorns is like our overcrowded lives; there is no room in an already over planted plot for anything more.

And then there’s the good soil, which any gardener knows takes years to cultivate. It must be fed, worked and reworked, and it must be replenished as seeds grow. And as Jesus tells us the harvest is not always the same, sometimes more and sometimes less.

So as we reflect on what kind of soil we are, and what shape it is in, let us remember that no one is only one type of soil. While we set about cultivating good soil, we are not without hope. It is true that seeds landing on hard or rocky ground stand less of a chance of gaining root and thriving but it does, sometimes, happen. I’ve seen trees growing out of rocky cliffs of Door County over shores of Lake Michigan and flowers that push up through cement pavement. These tenacious plants offer signs that the word of the kingdom will continue to find a way to grow even on the days when we feel beaten down, or overcome by thorns, or at our rockiest.

So let’s think about the kind of soil we are today, and what kind of soil we will be tomorrow, as we nurture the gospel message.

May God enrich our lives that they may yield a harvest of caring and compassion in our world.

Pastor Loren

 

 


Saturday Thoughts

“Hearing With Our Hearts”

July 11

In the Parable of the Sower in the Bible, Jesus asked the crowds to listen. It seems that instruction shouldn’t have been necessary because the people came to hear Him, but there are different kinds of listening. Hearing words isn’t enough. We need to hear with our whole heart and spirit, and listen with compassion and intention to act. We should open our hearts to those who are vulnerable. God’s Word is always with us, always working, and God promises our acts of faithfulness will not return empty. #letitshine
(3 min., 26 sec.)

 

 


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

 


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.)

 


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.)

 

 


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.

 


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.)

 


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.)

 


 

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.)

 

 


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

 


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.)

 


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.)

 


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.)

 


“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.)

 


“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.)

 


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.)

 


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.)

 

 


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

 


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