The holidays are coming!

The holidays are coming!peace-and-quiet-typography-terry-fleckney

The holidays are coming!

The holidays are coming!


Do you feel like that announcement sounds more like a call to action from Paul Revere riding through the streets than a call to greater rest, peace and joy?  If holidays (I believe the etymology is holy-days) are, by nature, times when we rest from our regular work and are meant to make deeper connections with God and with those in our family and community, why do so many of us make them times of frenetic activity and frazzled nerves?

If you read through the Old Testament you’ll see God wove many holidays (feasts and celebrations) into the very fabric of life of the Hebrew people.  Some of these lasted a day, some a week or more.  Besides the many special holidays/feasts, God gave his people one day each week to be at rest and connect more deeply with him and each other.

Sadly that day became the most abused and shackled day of the week by the time Jesus walked this earth.  Instead of the freedom, rest, and joy it was meant to bring, hundreds of extra rules and regulations had made it a burden to conscience, a denier of justice, and and a miscommunication of the nature of God and the peace found with him.  As you read through the Gospels you’ll note many times Jesus directly challenges the popular misconceptions about the Sabbath that had grown up around it.

Those misconceptions remain.  I must confess I have misunderstood and misapplied Jesus’ words on the Sabbath for the majority of my life.  His words, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” were meant to free people to experience the joy of Sabbath once again.  I have often interpreted and used them to the other extreme: rejecting the need for Sabbath in my life and thus depriving myself of one of the most basic rhythms for which I was created in God’s image.

I know I am not the only one.  Busyness, overworking, and overloaded schedules have become pervasive idols in our society, even, and perhaps especially, among Christians.  To slow down, yes even stop regular activity (a “day off” to catch up on all your other business is not a Sabbath), for one entire day each week and extra time on vacations and holidays is often seen as lazy, self-centered, and unproductive.  Don’t believe me?  Have you ever come back from a vacation feeling like you need to recover from your vacation?  I rest my case.

This is not how God made us.  This is not what he made us for.  Jesus was saying that the Sabbath is meant to serve us, refresh us, heal our hurts, restore our weariness, and help us understand the very nature of God’s grace toward us.  As one theologian taught, “To fail to see the value of simply being with God and “doing nothing” is to miss the heart of Christianity.”  He means grace.

You will be greatly tempted during the holidays to just add to your schedule and (once again) miss the purpose of holidays.  I pray you have the power to resist that temptation and take this season to connect more deeply with God, your family, and community of faith.  You’ll note we have plenty of things happening around here during the holidays.  They aren’t meant to be a burden, they are meant to enhance your celebration of the story above all stories: the life and work of Jesus our Savior.  Take them in as they enhance your connection to God and others.  Rest alone with God if you need to.  Above all remember that Christ entered this world in human flesh to save you from your sin, make you a brother or sister in his father’s kingdom, and bring you home to rest and rejoice with him for eternity.  What a holiday that will be.

– Pastor Dan

A note for the Pastor…

     O Come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, 

     Free them from Satan’s tyranny, 

     That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save, 

     and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

So sings the fourth verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel in the Lutheran Service Book.  Originally written in the 12th century, this song has struck a nerve in generation after generation of those seeking hope through Jesus Christ.  It is a call and a cry to be released and delivered from the bonds of the evil one that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.  This song catches the prayers of peoples through the ages as we await, with hope, the salvation of our God.

The great prophecy called the Valley of the Dry Bones found in Ezekiel 37 contains these words, “Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’”  These are words of despair, a constant tempter to all, even to those who have the hope found in Jesus.  For it doesn’t take long in perusing the News to find evidence of dry bones, of broken lives, of shattered dreams, or of hopes dashed upon the rocks of the abyss.

Whether it is terrorism or addiction or abuse or violence or homelessness or (insert your common worry here) it is easy to feel dried up.  The great evil foe, Satan, is a master at lighting and/or fanning into flame these seeds of doubt to the point many fall into despair, apathy, or fear; each of which locks the power of God in our lives.

So we sing the victory o’er the grave.  We ask God to pour out the pow’r to save from Satan’s tyranny.  We implore God to give us eyes that see clearly, not dimly as through a fogged up mirror.

Consider the great stumbling block that is illustrated in the image from the seventh New Testament lesson of the Bethel Bible Series.  To a world shrouded in darkness a baby came.  A carpenter worked.  An itinerant rabbi gathered disciples and walked and talked with them.  A “rebel” betrayed by a friend died a slave’s death, a shamed death, on a cross of wood with a crown of thorns added for good mocking measure.  I’m not sure how much worse things could have looked and felt on that Friday afternoon on Golgotha so long ago.

And yet, that was the victory over the grave.  Not in spite of it.  Because of it.  Through it.   It was in those ridiculously humble and shameful circumstances that God defeated sin, death and hell.  It was there that the steadfast love of God won the victory of victories.  This is why today, 2,000 years later, we celebrate the advent of our king, our God, born in a manger, died on a cross, resurrected to new life, and sing of the faith that saves lives, the hope that transforms the world, and the love that conquers the power of sin, death, and hell.  It is why we look forward to the next Advent of the King of kings and Lord of lords, when all will at last be well and we can sing the final verse not in expectation, but in fruition:

     O Come, Desire of nations, bind

     In one the hearts of all mankind;

     Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

     Ad be Thyself our King of Peace.  

In this Advent season may our Lord and Savior fill you with faith, hope, and love despite, or maybe because of, the struggles you see around you.  The apostle Paul tells us the greatest of those three is love.  And God is love.  May His steadfast love for you, and yours for Him, pour out through you throughout the holidays and new year as you celebrate his first advent, and look forward to His final advent.

With faith, hope, and love,

Pastor Dan

A Note from Pastor Dan…

Bless.  Blessed.  Blessing.  Bless you (Gesundheit)!  I’m (we’re) blessed.  Common words.  Common phrases.  What do they mean?  In nearly  500 uses in the bible, the word bless has an expansive range (I’m beginning to appreciate my linguistic professor’s instruction that words don’t mean anything until they are put in a sentence in a context).  Some of these include:

Passing on the inheritance, honor, reputation, and divine promise from one generation to another (Genesis 27, also 48-49)

Offering the promises and favor of God to someone (Genesis 14)

As a term or act of worship and praise toward God (Genesis 24:48, Psalms, Revelation 7)

To cause to make prosperous, including but not restricted to material things. Other blessings include family, children, honor, position and authority, security, etc.  (Genesis 24)

God assumes blessings flow through those they have been given to, rather than stop at the first stage.  (Genesis 12, 1 Peter 3)

There is an ancient connection (polarity) to the word curse.  Blessing seeks what is good (most good) for another person.  Cursing seeks to hurt and destroy the other person.   (Numbers 22-24, Deut. 30, Romans 12:14, James 3:9)

As a prayer of thanksgiving before a meal (and the Lord’s Supper).

Especially in the New Testament, blessing becomes almost synonymous with salvation at times.  It is a reference to God’s promises of (ultimate) healing and forgiveness.  (Matthew 5, 1 Peter 4)

Being indifferent, apathetic, uncaring, unloving, and or desiring hurt, struggle, loss, or problems on another is the opposite of blessing.  Desiring what is good and beautiful, seeking health and prosperity, wanting and working toward a full sense of wellness, peace, hope, joy and salvation for another is the essence of blessing.  Blessed be God the Father for blessing us in Jesus Christ!

With such a plethora of meaning and usage, what does it mean for us to bless one another in the body of Christ?  How can we be a blessing to those who have yet to begin following Jesus or are just beginning to understand who He is?  What would it look like for us to be a people that are pouring out blessing upon our community (wouldn’t it be amazing for Christians to be known as those who bless others)?

We recognize that disciples of Jesus bless.  They are both a people of blessing and a people who pour out blessing to those around them.  In order to help give us some ideas (and not create another To-Do list that either causes guilt or makes us pharisaic), we’d like to help the saints of St. Andrews develop the habit of blessing.  Here’s the habit:

A Disciple BlessesI will bless three people each week, one of whom does not know God. 

Here’s some of the ways that can be lived out:

a) Take the time to ask someone how they are doing and genuinely listen to them.

b) Take the opportunity to use one of your skills, abilities or experiences to help someone.

c) Receiving the kindness of others with grace.

d) Ask someone how you can pray for them and pray for them in that moment (this can build off the first suggestion).

e) Let someone pray for you.

f) At some point during the day, bless each other by making the sign of the cross on their forehead and remind them that they are loved children of God (this is tied to the Faith 5, part of Faith Stepping Stones, H2H and Youth Ministries).

You may already be doing some (or all) of them.  You probably recognize there are many more ways to be a blessing.  You also know it’s easy in the daily grind of life to forget how powerful it can be to be a people of blessing that offers blessing to those we come in contact with.  As God’s hands and feet, beloved and treasured as His children, what a blessing we can be to our friends, coworkers, and community as we intentionally live as those blessed to be a blessing.  

So during the next couple of months, pay attention to how God is blessing you to be a blessing to others.  Celebrate that with your small group or bible study.  Give thanks to (bless) God for what He has done!

Blessed to be a blessing,

Pastor Dan

Mission Grants Available Now

Mission Grants Available Now
Once again we are excited to offer Mission and Ministry grants to the people of our congregation.  Last year we had several groups apply for grants including a group that made blankets with residents of a local shelter program, a backpacking trip for middle school youth, distribution of hygiene items and “Why Pray” books at a local family shelter and more.  So get a team together (your small group, Bible study, coffee group, ministry group) and consider how you might be able to serve and reach out with the love and hope of Christ into our community.  Check the bottom of our Mission Page for a copy of the Grant Guidelines.  Contact the church council through our main office if you have questions (

Northern California Wildfire Donations

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The Butte and Valley Wildfires have destroyed nearly 1,000 residences combined and also resulted in death and injury. Pray for those who are suffering.

Amidst this suffering, our God suffers as well. We acknowledge this every time we confess “He suffered, died and was buried.” As part of that confession we also acknowledge that suffering accomplished our redemption, buying us back for a better future.

While physically among us He gave us clues as to various ways to be about the business of better futures through feeding, clothing, ministering, visiting. Your donation in support of those now suffering as a result of the Butte and Valley Fires is a part of that mission. Simply click here and complete the donation form on the LSS-NorCal Website indicating you wish your donation to help those affected by the fires (See the button near the bottom of the donation page.)

LSS-NorCal is part of Tri-LERT (Tri-Lutheran Emergency Response Team). Tri-LERT is a collaboration of the CNH District, Sierra Pacific Synod, and LSS-NorCal.

Click here to donate now!


LCC K9 Comfort Dog Fund

Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs were requested and then deployed on Wednesday, September 16, to Middletown, California to join Comfort Dog Aaron and the team from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Napa, California, who have been serving the devastated community since Sunday, September 13. They arrived safely after a long trip on Thursday, September 17.

The LCC K-9 Comfort Dog team has been requested to serve at the evacuation center at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga by The Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Napa County. They will serve today through Sunday and will visit first responders at the CAL Fire Command Center in St. Helena.

Help Support the LCC Comfort Dog Ministry which uses dogs to bring the Mercy and Compassion of Christ to those in need. For additional information contact 866-455-6466 or visit our website at

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Click here to donate now!

A Message from Pastor Dan…

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. . .  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  – John 15:1,4,5 

How are you connected?  You’ve no doubt heard before it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.  This is usually used in frustration or an excuse regarding why someone advances farther and quicker than we are in sports, career, politics, etc.  But being connected is deeply rooted to the very nature of faith.

The word “Connected”is not used much in Scripture, but the idea of connectedness is everywhere.  The Greek word used in the New Testament, koinonia, can be translated as fellowship, participation, contribution, share(ing), and more depending on the context.

God desires a deep and abiding connection with us.  In John’s gospel Jesus explains this in a myriad of ways, from describing himself as the Good Shepherd, the door to life, the bread of life, and much more.  He speaks about our need to come to Him and allow Him to be with us; to abide in Him, the vine, and even eat of his flesh and drink of his blood (a graphic and poignant description of our utter need to not just do stuff for God, but have God be in us).  God made us for, and keeps trying to create, connection between Him and us.  He has torn down the walls of separation through the work of His son Jesus and sends His Spirit to daily and richly draw us to Him.

We see over and over again in God’s word the call to connect to each other.  There are dozens of encouragements in Scripture to love, serve, forgive, care for, teach, guide, encourage, comfort, and do good to “one another.”  Indeed, coming into the kingdom of God makes you part of the “body”of Christ, implying a deep, necessary, abiding and vital connection with others.  As frustrated as people can make us, as hurt as we can become by the sin of others, and as hard as it is to build deep and transforming relationships, we are called over and over to be transformed so that we can connect deeply with others.

The followers of Jesus Christ are to connect deeply with the world, having “His kingdom come”into all the wide opens spaces and nooks and crannies where God’s light has yet to penetrate.  Christians don’t avoid the surrounding struggles but plunge headlong into them to bring the marvelous light of Christ into the darkness of the kingdoms of this world.  Those who have let God connect them to the deeply broken parts of societies and cultures throughout history have created the most inspiring stories and institutions of the Christian faith that have fought poverty, disease, violence, slavery, addictions, and oppression.

That is why we desire to connect all who come to St. Andrews first and foremost to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is why we’ve adjusted our Sunday schedule to allow for more opportunity to connect to each other (and want to encourage even more connection amongst our people; those here and those yet to come).  And it is why we want to excel all the more in our service to each other and our community.  These connections work to transform us into the image and glory of Christ.  They make us, and the community around us, better.  These connections create the stories and events the transform hearts, minds, souls, and whole communities.  Connect with us.

God’s love to all of you,

Pastor Dan