Responsive Prayer 1 / Isaiah 53 Devotion

COVID-19/St. Andrew - UPDATE - April 1st


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” – Psalm 121:1-8

Psalm 121 is “A Song of Ascents” that pilgrims would sing to pass the time as they made the long journey up to Jerusalem for one of the three annual festivals.  And, indeed, they would go “UP” to Jerusalem…for Jerusalem (the home of Solomon’s Temple) sat on a hilltop. 
When we speak of the Lord today, we speak of One who is “UP” or “Higher” than us.  He never declares everything to us, for there are secrets God has, and will always have (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Yet, when we worship the Lord (while we may not remember every sermon title or be able to recite every Scripture verse) we may know for sure that God loves us, and that the Lord our God is our true source of help and ultimate security.  When you are DOWN to nothing, God is UP to something.  When there is trouble all around, God is still on His throne, and will never leave you.  And thanks be to God that He has revealed to us the way to salvation!
Now, some of you may be like me and are listening in to the daily White House briefings concerning the coronavirus pandemic.  One new bit of information since my last update includes the fact that social distancing has been extended through the end of April.  Although the social distancing has been challenging for many people on so many different levels, I would encourage you to stay the course while noting, once again, that God is in the center of this pandemic (Habakkuk 3:5) and that He will see us through this. 
Outdoor/Drive in worship services with communion will continue as usual at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings.  The distribution of communion is dependent on weather circumstances.  If you have any questions about these worship services, please feel free contact me.  We also have previous updates on the church website that may address some of your questions.  Recently, I have had pastors as far away as the Illinois border calling me up for more information about these worship services.  It seems to be catching on!
In addition to Sunday mornings, we will also be having a Maundy Thursday service with communion (weather pending) at 6:00 p.m. on April 9th, and a Good Friday service at 6:00 p.m. on April 10th.  Due to the popularity of the outdoor/drive in worship services, we are also planning on having two services on Easter Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.  With the exception of minor changes in the spoken liturgy, these Easter Sunday morning worship services should be identical.  There will be no Easter Breakfast on April 12th.  However, I’m thinking it would be a good idea to have a belated Easter Breakfast and celebration once restrictions are lifted and we are able to worship together inside the church building once again.
I’ve been looking into the possibility of starting an online/interactive Bible study through gotomeeting.com.  I have not activated an account yet.  However, as of this writing, I am setting a goal of engaging in such a Bible study on Wednesday, April 8th at 7:00 p.m., and continuing these as long as social distancing is enforced.  If you are interested in participating in these Bible studies, please contact me by phone or e-mail so that I may send you the relevant information prior to that day.  As for tonight, I will have another responsive prayer service posted on my personal blog: jatvierkant.blogspot.com
If you would like to receive a pastoral visit or receive the Lord’s Supper apart from the regular worship services, please do call or e-mail me.  One additional note…food pantry bins will be placed outside of the church entrance on Sunday mornings for those who wish to make a donation.  The April food item is: canned fruit.
                                                           
                                                                                    Yours in Christ,

                                                                                 Pastor Jon Vierkant 

April 2020 - Newsletter Article


God is in the Center of This
           
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.” 
                                                                                             – 2 Chronicles 6:28-31

            There are a couple of things during the time of this pandemic that we can know for sure:  1) God is in the center of it (Habakkuk 3:5), and that 2) God is both just and merciful.  I think back to the ten plagues from the book of Exodus.  The first three plagues (blood, frogs, gnats) struck both Egyptians and Israelites alike.  However, it wasn’t until AFTER the third plague that God prevented further plagues from hitting Goshen, the place where the Israelites lived.  Why is that?  Maybe God wanted the Israelites to realize through suffering that they needed Moses as their advocate and protector.  In the same way, perhaps through suffering, God wants us (and others) to realize our greater need for Jesus as our advocate and protector. 
            Once again, I am convinced that God is in the center of this pandemic.  And I would encourage everyone during this time of social distancing to spend it in the Word and prayer.  I’ve been especially thankful that God has given us the creative minds we need to carry on with public worship services during this little season – albeit in a different format.  Each week we will send you updates via e-mail and the church website.  It is my plan to continue these as long as needed.  I encourage you also to fill up on hope.  God will see us through this!            
As always, dear brothers and sisters, please contact me if you or a loved one is in the hospital, celebrating a milestone, or would just like a visit!  I would love to get to know you better and pray with you.  Also, please see me if you are interested in becoming a member of St. Andrew or would just like to receive a refresher as to what it is we believe.  I am currently offering a four-week class to anyone interested.

                                                     Let’s Connect! (while staying six feet apart)

                                                                      Pastor Jon Vierkant 

COVID-19/St. Andrew UPDATE - March 25th


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

We all need a good laugh now and then!  I recently heard a story about a car that sputtered to a complete stop near a field filled with cows.  The driver, getting out to see what the matter was, noticed one of the cows looking right at him.  “I believe it’s your radiator,” said the cow.  This startled the man, and so he ran to the nearest farmhouse and said to a farmer there, “A cow just gave me advice about my car!” he shouted.  “Did the cow have big black spots on it?” the farmer asked.  “Yes, it did,” the man replied.  “Well, that’s just Ethel,” said the farmer, “Don’t pay any attention to her.  She doesn’t know a thing about cars.”
As mentioned before, we all need a good laugh.  Laughter is strong medicine!  However, we could also use a good dose of wisdom.  For in these trying times that we are living in today, there are so many who are at their wit’s end, and who are seemingly unclear as to what is the best policy moving forward.  And so, we pray for wisdom with the simple trust knowing full well that we have the assurance of God’s help.
            Many of you undoubtedly read the governor’s “Safer at Home” order, which lists religious facilities as an essential place.  In my view, it offers nothing new regarding religious facilities and gatherings, apart from a timetable being added.  It is therefore the (tentative) plan to resume the outdoor worship at 9:00 a.m. this Sunday in the same manner as the previous Sunday, albeit with some changes and clarifications that I will shortly indicate in this letter.  As before, parishioners will be asked to stay inside their car and listen to the service broadcast on their FM radios.  Communion will be offered car by car at the end of the service.  An offering basket will be available.  There will be no need to leave your car, however the church building will be open in case anyone needs to use the restroom.
            Some of the changes and clarifications…

·         During the distribution of Communion, please indicate whether you prefer wine or grape juice. 
·         A basket will be provided to deposit communion cups and to dispose of them in a reverent manner.  NO trash cans.
·         If you desire to pray after receiving Communion, you may park in the back of the church parking lot or in the ECC parking lot. 
·         You are NOT required to receive Communion or give an offering if you attend on Sunday.  You will be directed by the ushers toward the exit at the end.
·         Worship will go on even on rainy days.  However, we may have to hold off the distribution of Communion on those days.
·         The FM station will likely change on Sunday morning.  We will keep you informed.
·         We will have someone sing along with the pianist’s playing so that you will know when to sing during a particular hymn.  We will also try to select hymns that are more familiar to everybody.
·         We will give instructions in the bulletin how communion will be served.
·         We will send out a copy of Sunday’s worship bulletin and the Communion/Attendance card by e-mail if you would rather print them out at home.

Some of these changes and clarifications come from my own evaluation, the evaluation of our elders, and from a number of you who have communicated your thoughts.  While we had heard many favorable things about last Sunday’s worship service, we are also aware of shortcomings.  We will definitely address them each week so to prevent them from falling between the cracks.  Overall, these are unusual times and circumstances that we are facing, and it is important to let grace prevail.
            We will keep you informed each week of changes.  As of right now, Sunday morning Bible study, Sunday School, and Midweek services remain cancelled.  Next week, however, I will be sending out information concerning plans for Holy Week and Easter.  I am looking into the possibility of having Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services online either through an interactive medium or by video tape.  In addition, if you are interested in participating in an online/interactive Bible study/Sunday School lessons, please let me know.  I have a personal blog at jatvierkant.blogspot.com where I publish devotional writing and videos.  Finally, I would also refer you back to last Friday’s update (3/20/2020) for additional resources and help.
            Please call or e-mail me at any time if I may serve you.  I also appreciate your suggestions going forward.

                                                                                                Your in Christ,


                                                                                            Pastor Jon Vierkant     

COVID-19/St. Andrew UPDATE - March 20th


Friday, March 20, 2020

Greetings Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It seems that this tiny virus has sent the entire world into chaos.  All of our plans are up in the air, markets are going crazy, entire countries are shutting down, and we have no clue what the future holds.  …Or do we? 

In Psalm 31:7, the Psalmist writes, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul….”  If there is one thing I know for sure about times of trouble is how often God works through these to draw our attention away from ourselves and back to Him.  And although the devil may attempt to use this tiny virus to discourage and disrupt our regular “meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25), the “Word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9).  In fact, through these trying times, God gives us the tools and resources we need to think outside the box as ministry continues.

Question 1: What about Worship and Church Activities?

Church activities inside the church building will be very limited because of the state mandated restriction that no more than 10 people meet inside at a time.  Starting this Sunday, March 22nd, we will be having an outdoor service at our regular time of 9:00 a.m.  Parishioners are asked to stay inside their car and listen to the service broadcast on their FM radios. Communion will be offered car by car at the end of the service. An offering basket will be available. There will be no need to leave your car, however the church building will be open in case anyone needs to use the restroom.  Sunday morning Bible study, Sunday School, and Midweek services are cancelled for now.  If you are interested in participating in an online/interactive Bible study, please let Pastor know.  

Question 2: What about Holy Week and Easter?

We will address this question in a later update.  The recommended restrictions and status of the pandemic are everchanging.  However, as Holy Week and Easter approaches we will continue to evaluate the situation and keep you updated.

Question 3: What about the Preschool/ECC?

From Sandy Ruback, Director:

I, along with the leaders of St. Andrew Lutheran Church and our ECC board members evaluated the recommendations by the state and our Washington County Health Department in regards to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and school closings. The decision was made to close our campus from March 16 to April 14 (15 school days and 5 days spring break). This was not an easy decision and my heart was heavy, but in order to do our best to protect our children, our families, and our community we felt it was necessary.  We want to do our part to not overwhelm our health care facilities due to the spread of the virus.   It is my sincere hope that our school doors will once again be opened on Tuesday, April 14th.  

I will be extending our school year by adding 3 weeks/12 days in order to continue the education time that was lost. This extension of days was approved by my Licensing Specialist 2 days ago. The last day of school will now be June 5th.  I sincerely pray that this will be possible.  The teachers and I want to finish the school year on a positive note giving our students our very best.

In the past week things have changed minute by minute. Our families have been informed that if I cannot extend our school year, I will at that time, reimburse our families for payments given for field trips and for those that paid in full their tuition.

Please keep our teaching staff in your prayers, for a loss of income and employment is most certainly stressful and can be a hardship.

May God's will be done,

Sandy Ruback
Director

Question 4: Where do I send my Tithings and Offerings?

They may be dropped off at St. Andrew during normal office hours 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Mondays – Fridays.  They may also be mailed in or received during regular outdoor worship services. Lutheran Church Extension Fund offers a program called Joyful Response that allows a tithe to be automatically sent from your bank account. If you are interested in enrolling, please see Pastor for a packet or you can download one for the electronic offering program at https://lcef.org/joyful-response/. Further details about this program will be available soon on the church website.

Question 5: Help!?

Pastor Jon is available and willing to make home visits if you would feel more comfortable with that during this time! Also, if you have a need for anything (toilet paper, food, ride to the doctor, someone to talk to), please let Pastor Jon know—we have members who are ready to help! If you have health questions or need simple medical help (ex. blood pressure check), Jodie Falk has offered her nursing assistance.

Please contact Pastor Jon and your elder if there is any way we may serve you.

During this time of state mandated restriction, office hours in which Cathy will be present include: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to noon. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Yours in Christ,
          Pastor Jon Vierkant

Coronavirus/St. Andrew Update - March 16th


Monday, March 16, 2020

Greetings Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During the past few months, I have begun each sermon on Sunday morning by saying, “Good Morning, Church!”  And the usual response that I have received from you is “Good Morning!” or “Good Morning, Pastor!”  We say it is a “Good Morning” because every day is a day of the Lord’s making, and a day where we are given opportunity as children of God to come together in fellowship around God’s Word.  However, in recent days we have heard about the Coronavirus and its spread, and this has caused concern and panic among many people.  Public and private institutions have closed, and social distancing has become the trend promoted by health experts and policy makers.  While it is certainly good to take preventive measures in connection with this virus, I would encourage everyone to replace “panic” with “prayer.”  For “panic” produces “paranoia”, but “prayer” produces “peace.”  
Paul invites us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6).  God also asks us to be wise, too (Proverbs 8:14).  The Elders and I are prayerfully keeping watch regarding the latest coronavirus (Covid-19) developments and the latest CDC guidelines.  We value your safety and health!  As of this writing, it has been decided to cancel the church supper and worship service for Wednesday, March 18th.  However, in the coming days we will determine whether or not to continue future services and educational activities at St. Andrew (beginning with Sunday, March 21st) during this time of social distancing. Please check in with the church website, (www.standrew-westbend.org) and your elder as we make further information available to you.  I will also post updates on my own personal blog at jatvierkant.blogspot.com.
We ask that you take care of yourself and stay healthy with frequent handwashing and by keeping contact with others to a minimum.  Also, we encourage you to stay home if you are feeling ill or experiencing symptoms of any illness.  As we determine the status of worship and education at St. Andrew beyond this Wednesday, March 18th, we will keep you updated about the plans of the church.  Feel free to contact me and your elder if you have any questions. Additionally, if you have any needs that the church can assist you with during this time (food and supplies, a ride to the doctor, a home visit from Pastor to bring communion, or even someone to talk to), please let us know. We are here to serve you.

                                                                                   Yours in Christ,
          
                                                                                Pastor Jon Vierkant

Coronavirus/St. Andrew Update

Greetings brothers and sisters!

We have heard from many of you that you were excited to attend the game day at our home this coming Sunday! We have been looking forward to hosting the afternoon of fellowship as well!  However, as Katie and I have been monitoring the developments regarding the coronavirus and general recommendations to limit social gatherings to small numbers, we have decided it may be best to postpone the game day until a time in the near future. We are guessing that everyone will welcome the chance to get out in a few weeks! We will keep you updated once we reschedule in a few weeks.

As of right now, church services for Sunday will still continue as planned. However, if you are more comfortable remaining at home on Sunday to limit your exposure, we fully understand!  Certainly, if you are feeling ill or symptoms of a respiratory illness, please stay home and rest. For those who attend church, we ask that you practice good hygiene and hand washing and consider placing some space between family groups in the pews. We will ensure that surfaces in the church (backs of pews, door handles, etc) are sanitized prior to worship on Sunday (if you would like to help with this on Saturday, please text or call Katie. We will announce further measures at church on Sunday morning. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions or concerns. 

Blessings,

Pastor Jon

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany/Lutheran Schools Sunday - 2/16/2020

ECC Pastries and Prayers




Hoping to continue doing this once a month until the end of the school year.  I am encouraging ECC parents/families to stop by the table for a pastry treat and coffee.  Also, if anyone has a prayer request, they may write it down on a piece of paper and slip it into the prayer jar.  With permission, prayer requests will be said in church the following Sunday.  Otherwise, they may be delivered to me personally, and we will pray at that time. 

Christus mansionem benedicat: "May Christ Bless This House"

             

                               From the Twelfth Night Party at St. Andrew on January 5th.

Sermon Series Ideas


I've always enjoyed taking part in a good sermon series.  The photo above includes worship bulletins from my series on Samson last November.  I had invited the congregation to take part in drawing scenes from the life of Samson for the bulletin covers.

What kind of potential sermon series topics interests you?  Let me know sometime! 

During previous Advent/Christmases, I've especially enjoyed taking part in the sermon series theme involving old classical Christmas movies including: "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street."  Taking on a sermon series featuring the Beatles Greatest Hits was a particularly interesting task.

Shrinking Faith



I do not wear a clerical collar (or clergy) shirt as often as I once did.  However, after wearing the one that I currently possess usually once or twice a week for about a year now, I’ve noticed the collar has gotten a bit frayed.  So, I ordered a new shirt this past week and, after finally arriving in the mail, I tried it on.  But lo and behold!  No amount of sucking in my gut would get me into that shirt.  It was the same size that I was always used to wearing!  However, it looks as if my wife’s wonderful cooking had done a number on me.  The long and short of it is that I cannot wear the new shirt I purchased, and I had to exchange it for a different size that fits me. 
In thinking about it…we don’t live in a “one size fits all” sort of world.  How about matters involving faith?  We experience varying levels at different times in our lives.  For example, a person who is strong in his or her faith may have more power to resist temptation and greater feeling of peace, totally confident of eternal life.  However, 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  Faith can shrink.  And it can even shrink down to unbelief.  This occurs for a number of reasons.  However, one underlining reason for it involves spiritual thirst or starvation.  We become like empty water bottles with the water of life drained out of them.  And the remedy for this is to NOT neglect those means by which faith is preserved, strengthened and nourished, but to study God’s Word, attend worship, and receive the Lord’s Supper.
A shirt has a limited life span.  In time, the shirt begins to become frayed, then thin and holes appear, and we get rid of it.  Faith can be like that too, if we do not water it and feed it.  As mentioned before, we experience varying level of faith at different times in our lives.  And in every congregation there are some who (at the moment) are strong in their faith, and some who are weak in their faith.  Yet, God has brought us together that we might encourage one another.  WE NEED EACH OTHER!  And together we point to Jesus who has stretched out His arms on the cross to save all people, taking our place in death.  And rising to eternal life, He gives the same thing to anyone who would believe in Him.

Sermon: “Predictably Unpredictable” Based on Proverbs 25:2-10. 9/1/2019

Weenie Roast


A walk around the church property last evening prior to the roast.

Thanks to those who came for the outdoor games and weenie roast/s'mores at St. Andrew last night!  Everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time.   

Great Sermon, Preacher?

I came upon a story this past week that I found a bit amusing (and that I shared with St. Andrew).  The story involves a visiting minister who had been invited to preach at a particular congregation.  After a few hymns were sung, the visiting minister went up to the pulpit to preach.  However, the visiting minister's sermon ended up being very long-winded, and he spent almost all the time talking about himself to the near exclusion of the Bible and its application.    

And there's more!  Every time the visiting minister seemed to make a good point during his sermon, a member of the congregation would encourage him on by responding with an enthusiastic “Amen!” or “That’s right preacher!"  But that would only give the visiting preacher the needed fuel to go on preaching.

Well, after a while longer of this, the senior pastor of the church had had enough, and he finally joined in...not by standing up and shouting “Amen!” or “That’s right preacher!” to the visiting minister...but by saying "Amen...Pharaoh."  

Now, the visiting minister didn’t know what to make of this, and after the service concluded and all the people had gone home, he asked the senior pastor what he meant by saying “Amen, Pharaoh” during his sermon.  And the senior pastor replied, "Your sermon was going soooo long…I was trying to tell you to 'let my people go'." (HA!)

Question for you!  How would you characterize the vast majority of today’s preaching?  While there are many sermons today that seem to do a good job in articulating the Word of God and by making it very much applicable to those in attendance...there are also sermons that seem to fall off the tracks.

As the Lord says in Jeremiah 23:28, "...Let him who has My word speak my word faithfully."  

Let us recommit ourselves to faithfully speaking God’s Word.

So...You Want to Be a Chaplain?

I commend individuals who wish to enter into the field of chaplaincy.  In fact, whenever I arrive at a hospital that I haven't been to before, I would usually inquire as to whether or not they have any chaplains on staff.  I also explore whether there is a chapel on the premises, for spiritual care is especially crucial within such an environment.

The decision to explore chaplaincy for myself started back in 2005.  I became a resident CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) student from 2007 to 2008 at Trinity Mother Frances Health System in Tyler, Texas (since renamed) under the supervision of Rev. Robert Grigsby.  Receiving four units of CPE is necessary for anyone pursuing a career in chaplaincy.  As a resident CPE student, you receive a stipend.  However, after the year is completed, there is no placement process or guarantee of a position.  So, you will need to apply for a position.  BUT WAIT...there is more!

Most healthcare chaplaincy positions require you to be a board certified chaplain (though some organizations may, in fact, hire you with the understanding and expectation that you will be certified within a certain time frame).

My journey toward certification was not an easy one.  Presenting myself before the certification committee in Chicago, I did not obtain certification immediately.  I did, however, receive encouragement to continue on in my effort.  And less than a year later (in 2013), I obtained certification after presenting myself before the certification committee again - this time - in Indianapolis.  I confess that I probably would not have made it without the help of a mentor!  I have also been on certification committees reviewing candidates (twice in the Chicago area).  And throughout the process, while sitting with the committee and asking questions to the respective candidates, I became cognizant of my own shortcomings.

Since that time I have mentioned the challenge that some LC-MS ministers face in pursuing a career in chaplaincy.  Part of the challenge has to do with the fact (in my opinion) that we are not effectively trained for such a potential career in chaplaincy.  With that being said, I’m of the mind and opinion that requiring an initial unit of CPE for seminary students would go a long way.

Now, if your goal in being a chaplain is to convert people to the Christian Faith and/or to show that you know your Bible...you've picked the wrong field.  The ministry of a chaplain is different from the ministry of a parish pastor in so many ways.  Instead, some key points to consider in being an effective chaplain is to LISTEN...to show a curious mind in asking questions without hijacking the story of the person or persons whom you are ministering to...and to provide for them appropriate cultural and spiritual accommodation.

An additional encouragement for those seeking a career in chaplaincy is to be grounded in who you are and what (who) you believe in.

If you have any questions about entering the field of chaplaincy in a healthcare setting, feel free to ask me.    

VBS 2019




Another fun VBS (My third with St. Andrew).  THANK YOU to our volunteers and kids who made it happen.  

St. Andrew is currently looking for someone to direct next year’s VBS.

June 6, 2019 - 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg

                Never forget the sacrifice that was made.

St. Andrew Sermon Series for May 26th - July 28th


Mystery Box Challenge is Back!

It's that time again!  Where Pastor Jon takes a break from perusing the Dollar Tree for object lesson ideas.

Starting this Sunday (5/26) and lasting through the end of summer, the mystery box challenge is making a comeback!  At the end of each children's message on Sunday mornings at St. Andrew, a youth will be invited to volunteer to take the box home and fill it with a mystery item.  On the following Sunday, the pastor will open the box during the children's message and give a message tying the Scripture reading and its application to the mystery box item.

See if you can stump the pastor!

Rest In Worship

It was a common occurrence as a young boy growing up in east Texas.  My parents would wake me up at six in the morning to get us ready for church.  Why so early?  Because the church we attended at the time (Trinity Lutheran in Tyler, Texas) was approximately 40 minutes away from our home in Jacksonville...and we just had to be on time for the 8 o'clock service.

I will confess that as a young boy, even up until my teens and early 20's, I was not always excited by the idea of going to church on Sunday mornings.  And perhaps there are those of you who feel the same?  Or maybe you have a young son or daughter who feels that way?  Yes, there were days I would have rather stayed in bed or else do ANYTHING besides go to church.  However, I am grateful that my parents did not give in to my less than ideal church-going attitude.  Though they could have.

Why do we go to church?  Well, the Third Commandment calls for us to rest in worship.  Not only do we need physical rest and renewal for the week ahead each and every time, but we also need spiritual rest and renewal through worship, fellowship, and devotion to God's Word and promises.  Also Hebrews 10:25 says, Do "not neglect(ing) to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  Let me say how personally encouraged I am to see you on Sunday mornings!

Now, why did my family drive a long way to get to church on Sunday mornings?  Because Lutheran congregations in my neck of the piney woods in east Texas were generally 40 to 50 minutes apart.  How very different the situation is in this part of Wisconsin!  In my 5 mile journey from the house to St. Andrew each weekday, I pass by two other Missouri Synod congregations (not to mention the other Lutheran branches, including the ELCA and WELS).  Unlike those congregations located in the heart of West Bend, St. Andrew is out in the country off of state hwy 144 N. (approx. 7 to 10 minutes north of downtown West Bend).  St. Andrew is a small congregation, BUT with a big heart.  We are always eager to greet new people, and we would love to see you here!                       

The Real Thing

"But whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected." - 1 John 2:5

On April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola announced that it was changing its 100-year old formula by introducing "New Coke."  There was a firestorm of consumer protest over changing a formula that was thought to be tried and true.  Protesters at a Coca-Cola event in Atlanta were seen carrying signs that read, "We want the real thing."  Ultimately, the folks at Coca-Cola brought back classic Coke.

Many people find excitement in things that are brand new.  Yet there is value in something or someone who has been around for a while.  The older we get, the more "mileage" or "experience" we have to share in shaping lives.  Pointing to our experiences (including our errors), we then point to the love of God in Christ Jesus who comes to us in His Word and forgives our sins.  The love of God never goes out of style.

I Have an Opinion!


Having traveled to Lafayette, Indiana following Easter services this past Sunday, I'm enjoying some time with family in the town that, throughout the years, has become a sort of second home to me.  I also find myself spending a bit of time reflecting on two favorite things starting with the letter "B.": Bible and Baseball!



A couple weeks back, I shared a story about Major League Baseball umpire, Babe Pinelli (1895-1984).  During his rookie year as a baseball umpire in 1935, he was told NOT to call a strike on a certain other Babe (Babe Ruth), who was in the process of finishing off his baseball career with the Boston Braves.  Well, Pinelli did not see it that way and, calling Ruth out on strikes during a game, Pinelli was loudly booed at.  And that's not all!  Babe Ruth turned to him and said, "There's forty thousand people in this ballpark that know that was a ball, tomato-head!"  Yet, through it all, Pinelli kept his cool, and he responded to Ruth by saying, "Perhaps--but mine is the only opinion that counts." 



James 1:19 says, "...Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger..."  I will confess...I have not always been quick to hear (listen).  Perhaps some of that has to do with having wax in my ears.  However, a large part of it has to do with being "self-centered," rather than being "other people-centered."  And in the process, I find myself missing out on opportunities to represent Christ and minister to the needs of others.  Yet, in being "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (displaying the fruits of the Spirit in my life by God's grace), I'm presenting a kind of love motivated by God's greater love for me that opens up the door to minister to the needs of others.  For where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts about - to Satan's perverse delight.  We see a lot of this today already?  Don't we? 



Of course, in a world where everyone seems to have an opinion...God's TRUTH is what matters the most.  In Luke 24:6 the women who approached Jesus tomb where told by the angels, "egerthe" - "He is Risen!"  The most miraculous thing captured in a single Greek word!  And because Christ has risen from the grave, as Christians we have the promise of new life in Him.