The city is of particular interest throughout God’s word. Cities can represent the worst of human rebellion and sinfulness when they turn from God’s will, but also are described as places of refuge, hope, strength, prosperity and security. At the end of Scripture it is a city that represents the radiant bride of Christ and the promise is God’s light will always shine over his bride, so Christians have always felt the calling to bring that blessing into their cities. Think of prayer as the spotlight of God, shining on the people and places that we desire God to pour his blessing.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
He is Risen! How good it is to know Christ has conquered. The victory is His! Death no longer has victory over us. As Jesus promised his disciples in Revelation: Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of everlasting life…The one who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death (referring to eternal judgment).
Let me tell you a story that I hope will encourage you. For over two years now we have been praying the Lord’s Prayer almost nightly with our daughter Ai Lan (Yes, we do The Faith 5 with our kids each night, alternating between a set of more scripted prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, and extemporaneous praying). In over two years she has maybe said the LP a few times with us.
Part of this is a language thing, she has been learning English since we brought her into our home and has much room for growth. Part of this may be an adoptive independence/autonomy seeking reaction. Bear in mind my daughter had at least four very distinct homes/living situations before she turned three. This can create a myriad of actions/reactions in any person, some that can be understood, some may never be. It doesn’t change the love and discipline we give, but makes us ever mindful of the need to build bonds that come naturally to a biological child cared for from the womb but need to be created in adoptive/fostering situations.
Then one of our Sunday School teachers told us that during class, when the little ones were gathered and encouraged to pray, my daughter Ai Lan said the Lord’s Prayer-at least the words she knew. It brought tears to my eyes hearing that. Here are some of the reasons:
• She is learning what prayer is and can associate it across contexts (from home to church to Sunday School class).
• The two years of effort have not been in vain. We need not grow weary in doing good.
• The seeds of faith are taking root. I pray all my children would grow up and be fruitful in the kingdom throughout their lives.
• There are people at this church who love my children and are helping them grow in faith. And I know this is true of all my children who span the range from high school to preschool (and it seems everything in between). I know my kids are supported, encouraged, and prayed for by many others besides myself. This is part of the beauty of the local church.
You and I both know it takes more than two years to raise a child in the faith.
It takes a couple decades at the start and then a lifetime of faithful witness and encouragement as well. Are we as parents each given the responsibility to raise our children in that faith? Absolutely. Parents are and always will be the primary mentors in their children’s lives.
Yet the beauty of the church is that we gather together to encourage, equip, and build up the faith of each other and each other’s children. I’m glad my sons have examples of godly men beside myself here at St. Andrews. I’m glad my daughters have women of faith and godly character to look up to and be encouraged by.
Consider this: in our increasingly fractured culture and society, where can all the generations gather to be valued, learn from each other, and unite in common purpose and mission? The church offers something no one else does, a unified body that rejoices in the contributions and passions of all generations. . . if we do not grow weary in doing good, if we do not give up on gathering, teaching, serving, sharing, proclaiming, caring, and more!
May the victory found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ inspire you to keep on keeping on with your family, friends, work, faith, and life. We will reap in due season-to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.
“4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
He has risen. He is not here.
Those words, and the reality behind them, have changed the world more than anything else ever has, or ever could. Unlike every person you will ever know, Jesus got up from his tomb by his own power and never returned to the grave. And never will. He is not there anymore. Death has no power over him. Death has lost its sting. It lost that battle, and will ultimately lose the war.
Jesus has risen. Indeed. Jesus has risen and ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father, yet is also “with us always, even to the end of the age.” And that’s what changes our lives, not just “the world’s.”
So where are you? Are you languishing at the grave, not experiencing the joy and freedom that comes with his death and resurrection? Are you AWOL, getting too caught up in the myriad of distractions of our present era to live in and live out your faith in Christ’s community? Are you stepping out in faith toward
“Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth,” knowing he is with you always with you? Again, where are you? I know he is knocking at the door of each of our hearts every moment of each day. I know each time we stop resisting him he comes to us, abides with us, revives and reinvigorates and recreates us into his likeness. I know he is always with us to help proclaim his Good News and make disciples (those who follow Jesus and can help others do the same). I know I can trust him to continue and complete the work that he has already begun in me.
He is with us even as he reigns through all eternity. If that’s not an awe-inspiring combination, I don’t know what is. You can trust him to give you life, change your life, work and move in you, and bring about his kingdom and light.
Because he is risen. Not there. Victorious. With us. Allow this season of Lent and the great celebrations of Passion Week and Easter to let these truths not just swirl around in your head, but sink into your heart and move your body, mind, and soul to embrace him, follow him, and live for him each and every day.
He is Risen!
Love is kind…
I want to express my deep gratitude for the kindness given to me and my family at the celebration of my 10 years as your pastor. I was deeply honored and am unable to truly express my thanks for your gifts to me. May the Lord continue to be a light to our paths as we experience life together in Christ and walk together in His mission to the world.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” -Luke 24:5b-6a
Lent is a forty-day season of reflection, repentance, and preparation, running from Ash Wednesday until the day before Easter. During this time Christians focus on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as a means of deepening one’s faith. Often Christians give up something (food, activity, etc.) to remind themselves of the many sacrifices Jesus made for them. Lent is understood to lead to spiritual renewal, culminating in Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Ash Wednesday Worship
February 10th – 12:00pm and 7:00pm
Midweek Lent Services
Maundy Thursday Worship
March 24th – 12:00pm and 7:00pm
Seder Meal at 5:00pm
First Communion Class Blessing at 7pm
Good Friday Worship
March 25th – 12:00pm and 7:00pm
Tenebrae Worship at 7pm
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
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,