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'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 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.