This weekend, we begin a new sermon series called “Us and Them,” based on a book by Brian McLaren called The Seventh Story. McLaren is a widely read Christian theologian looking to help move the church into new paradigms of ministry. Through fables for adults, The Seventh Story looks at six repeating themes in human history and posits a more loving and caring approach to human interactions.

We are fortunate that our newly elected bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod, the Reverend Amy Current, will be our preacher as we open this series. To prepare for her sermon, you might want to read our Scriptures for the weekend, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and Luke 18:9-14, in preparation for worship. Thank you, Bishop Current, for bringing us the good news of Jesus Christ this weekend.

Breaking down the barriers between us and them is something that many in the congregation do without realizing it. Ministries like the Bread Basket ministry and acts of kindness to your physical neighbors help show the world the love of Christ. One of your neighbors responded to the love of Christ that you showed in your daily interactions with her with a gift for the ministry of this congregation in your honor. Public acclaim is not the goal of our acts of kindness; our goal is bringing other souls to Jesus that they might find healing and love. Thank you for all you do!

In the announcements below, you will see other opportunities this week and in weeks to come in which we share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Please consider how you will respond. Last weekend, the blood drive collected 11 pints of love for our neighbors. Think out of the box in these trying times to share the love of God with others. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Dear Friends,

If I start out saying "This message is all about love," what comes to your mind, especially this weekend when the stores and online sites are abundantly filled with flowers and chocolates as gifts of affection?

I love a great mystery story; but honestly, I am more likely to watch or read a story about a relationship – a love story. I want to see the puppy saved from the cavern in the mountains. I like to see the people get together and save their downtown, parks, or schools.

There are other kinds of stories of love that are unlike mine. These stories stir my heart. I can watch movies of prejudice or personal triumph. I can watch historical movies that provide a life-changing view of the world. February is the month of Black History, an opportunity to embrace one another with openness for one another.

When it comes to a love story, I want to hold in my heart the promise that our God does not merely show up in glory and then remain on the top of the mountain. No, the Son, Jesus Christ, comes down the mountain and walks along side of us in our everyday breathing in and out. This is God’s love story of grace to you and me. It is our story of grace with one another.

In our passage from the Gospel of Mark 9, we listen to God speak. God reveals that Jesus is the beloved Son of God, who is fully human and fully God. How can this be? We do not understand. This is when faith in a God who loves us transcends (rises above) the need for perfect understanding or explanation. We have FAITH Jesus is the fulfilment of the promise of God to God’s people that we are to be loved and forgiven forever. This weekend we will talk about transfiguration(changes in outward form). Jesus is fully human and fully God. It calls to us to be transformed (changes in thoughts and actions inwardly) so that our witness and our actions are different, merciful, and compassionate.

This is our last week to dig deeper into what it means to be called into a deeper relationship with God and a more fulfilling relationship with one another. This work never stops, even when the building may be closed. The work of the church in 2020 was vibrant, meaningful, and engaging. We are working to post a special thank you created by Laurel Hibbard on the church website.

Beginning next week with our special visit with Bishop Amy Current, we will dig into a conversation on growing in our relationship with the “other.” You are welcome to check out the ELCA’s statements of social justice. You are encouraged to join in one or more opportunities listed below. However your heart is stirred, begin with prayer for one another as Jesus taught us to pray…

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen

Blessings to you always,

Pastor Katie

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Our winter wonderland continues! Now if I could just find a place to put all that snow in the driveway… Perhaps your appreciation for the white blanket over our community has continued to blossom. Maybe you’ve found yourself feeling a bit grumpy about a forecast of yet another 5” coming tomorrow; but personally, I have to recognize and give thanks for the ability to work largely from home in this season, such that on mornings like this, I can pick away at that fresh dumping on my driveway as I have opportunity. In other words, I didn’t have to be among those neighbors out working after midnight last night nor counted among the “blower community” that was actively working at 5:30 a.m.

This week’s sermon text reminds me that plenty of others don’t have that luxury. We’re exploring the brief story of Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Simon Peter, a woman who quickly rebounds from her illness to serve them without so much as missing a beat. While I won’t go into the potential offense one might feel when reading this, I do want once again to commend the many “service workers” upon whom you and I depend. They often don’t have the choice of whether or not they will wander out into the 40 mph winds to do the essential work that keeps our community humming. It’s not just the snow plow drivers, of course, but every grocery employee, food deliverer, nurse, store manager, and technician whose wage depends on the hours they spend outside of their abode. Let’s each make a point to thank them for their work as they have been doing so amid a COVID environment for a year now!

I hope that you will also pause to give thanks for Kim Behr and Bryce Henson who are stepping away from their respective roles on our Visioning Council. They have each been gifts to our community during this challenging year in ways you likely can’t begin to appreciate! I hope that you will be praying for those who have answered the call to serve in coming months – Ben Meyer, who will assume the president’s role, Marcy Duncan, serving at-large, and those who have been re-elected, including Jack Fratzke, Steve Roe, and Gretchen Warkentin. Their willingness to step up at this time inspires me. I hope that it encourages you to ask where you are being called to serve.

I am humbled by the bold step to approve our $358,000 proposed budget this year, which will greatly help us to sustain ministries and further them in ways that we have yet to discover and imagine! Many, many thanks for your generosity and willingness to invest anew in the causes of Christ.

Hope that you can be present with us this weekend and to give thanks in whatever way you can!

Pastor Tim

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