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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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Dear Friends,


Here's a simple question: “Who has the authority in your life?”


I want you to imagine that I have a bull horn or a huge megaphone in my hands. It is the kind used to encourage a football crowd. Now imagine we are at a place like a school, a library, or a church and you hold up a book to read. But every time you say a word, I scream and shout in the bull horn. What is your reaction?


In our scripture from the Gospel of Mark, just as Jesus speaks, he is interrupted again and again by a man who is yelling. The man eventually asks, “…who are you? Are you here to destroy us?” Then this man says, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”


How does Jesus respond? He tells the man, “Be silent.”


I have a quick activity for your household to try! I invite you to have everyone pause at the same time and be silent. Turn off the TV, put down phones, devices, food, or whatever you are doing at that moment that keeps you from experiencing the fullness of the gift of silence. Maybe it is attitude, fear, anger, disappointment, or another feeling that you just need to put on pause for a moment to listen. The challenge is to quiet your household down and one person counts to 10. Then ask everyone "How did that feel?" Try it a second time. Ask the same question. Or another question could be: "How many things did you have to turn off or quiet down so that you could listen for all of 10 seconds together with each other and with God? How much noise do we have going on around us?"


I was in a meeting somewhere and an individual said, “Our decisions, how we live in our lives today, is creating a story of history for generations to come.” I wish I could remember who said that, but I’m adding that I wonder what generations yet to come will say about our willingness to create, to listen, to be merciful, to be kind, and to be graceful. Our history of grace could say that we were willing to proclaim that God has authority in our lives and we shout out, “We love all our neighbors.”


While I was preparing this message, I was looking at the tree stumps in my back yard and the orange plastic snow fence that holds up my deck on the backside of my house ever since the August 2020 storm. What I see is loss, absence, and disappointment. When I pause and listen to God, when I join God’s mission of healing and welcome joy in what could be, I hear the message, "Katie, plant some new trees." Planting a tree is not meant to re-create, reopen, nor will it reclaim the land AS IT WAS. The land has forever been changed. We listen and pause while giving thanks for the gift of land as it once was. We plant trees together as we respond to the gift of grace now for generations to come. We are part of a God-sized story of hope that will grow and grow.


Honestly, I want to work for Jesus. I want to be part of the solution in the here and now. Here are some challenges that everyone in your household can try today!

  1. SMILE, especially behind your mask! Your eyes can’t smile unless your whole face smiles.

  2. STOP if you cannot say something on social media that is God-honoring, trustworthy, or merciful. Reconsider how you respond to things that raise your dander!

  3. PRAY and be silent so that we can listen to the call to be compassionate and merciful.

  4. SURROUND yourself with people who are willing to be real, who are willing to create, build, and grow, and who dare to change in order that more people will experience the love of God.

  5. SHARE the message of a God-sized hope that God has, is, and will forever love us, God’s people.


Peace,

Pastor Katie

Dear Friends,


What a joy it is to connect with one another in this very moment in our story of grace.


I have always steered clear from digging deeper into the story of Jonah. I stumble over the question "did a large fish really snarf up Jonah as he lived inside it for days?" Our lectionary, the passages from the Bible selected for us to hear this week, invites us to read from none other than the Hebrew story of Jonah. It is exactly the story we need to wrestle with today. The Book of Jonah is about looking inside ourselves and our neighbors at the definition of what it means to have a national image and/or set of values. It calls us to discern what it means to be Christians in a time such as this.


Christian theologian, Dr. David Lose (an ELCA pastor), invites us to acknowledge our national crisis as step one. Then we boldly take on the hard work to have confidence that there are solutions to every crisis but that each of us are to personally commit to and respond (not react) with compassion and kindness. I would go a step farther and connect the dots with Jonah to our moment right now. I believe God is calling us, not because we want to take on the hard work of transformation, but because the mission of God invites as well as demands each to join in a God-size message of hope. We are transformed inside so that together, we have the strength to profess to the world that all of creation is loved and forgiven, now and for all times.


During the recent inauguration of our president, I was inspired to hear what I believe is at the core of our understanding of our relationship with God and with one another. Speakers invited each of us to listen to one another’s personal stories as well share our own with a sense of humility and mutuality. It is in the listening, learning, and growing that we are transformed as individuals and transformed as a nation, just like Jonah and the people of Nineveh.


God knew Jonah’s story and God knew the story of the people of Nineveh. God encouraged and nudged Jonah to pause and acknowledge his fear and heartache in both the story of the fish and in the story of the tree. Jonah’s story is God’s story of grace for all people.


What is on your mind, in your story, or part of the here and now that makes you want to run or hide, strike back, or give up? What is stirring your heart to be closer to God and closer to others? Jonah didn’t want to be transformed inside nor did he want to share that message with others. God saw that Jonah was exactly the person who not only could be transformed but would stand up and step into God’s story of grace for all of God’s people.


It begins with the gift in the here and now that you and I confess that we have turned our back away from God. "We have sinned by thought, word, and deed by what we have done and what we have left undone. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves" (ELW Confession, page 95 ). God responds with a forever grace - you are forgiven.


What has you distracted, overwhelmed, or simply stuck and can’t move forward?


God invited Jonah to pray. God invited the people of Nineveh to pray. To spend time with God in the quiet is an opportunity to open our hearts to prayer and reflection. We listen and are still so that we can respond and be God’s hands, feet, and voice to a broken world.


This is indeed the days that the Lord has made. How will you and I live, rejoice, and do the challenge work to speak justice and compassion, to act with mercy for all people throughout the hours of each day of life?


Overwhelmed? Or are you and I, the church, our homes, our communities, or are nation on the edge of inspiration because we are ready? I invite you to begin with prayer. I invite you to step up and step into worship. I invite us to imagine, create, grow, and serve one another with God-size acts of love.


Oh, Lord, we are humbly ready for your holy nudge to engage, encourage, and grow as we love, live, and share Christ in this day and the next. Amen


Blessings to you all,

Pastor Katie

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