Faith Formation - Interim Pastor Marcus Kunz

May 24, 2021

Dear friends at Faith and Grace,

You may remember that I expressed several hopes for my service with you when I began my service as part-time Interim Pastor in January 2020.  I stated some priorities for how I would allocate my time and how I hoped to accomplish some immediate goals related to those priorities.  As we all discovered, the pandemic changed so much.  Rather than move to other tasks, I found myself constantly adjusting how I worked on those initial priorities.

That constant adjustment has included my preaching.  In the last 17 months I have found myself preaching in locations I did not anticipate and using technology I never expected to people in places I’ve never seen, including some people beyond our congregations I’ve never met.  However, one thing I hope has not changed.  You may recall that in the first weeks I explained why I begin preaching by saying “in the name of Jesus.”  I do so because I believe my most important responsibility is to communicate the promise of life and mercy that God makes in Jesus Christ. 

That’s it—the life and mercy God promises in Jesus.  I have many thoughts and ideas of my own about all kinds of things—church life, our life as a community and nation, even what Jesus taught about the two greatest commandments.  But the promise of life and mercy is why God sent the Son to us.  It’s what Jesus died for—“for us and for our salvation,” as we say in the Nicene Creed.  That promise has remained constant, and despite all the changes, it has remained my most important responsibility.

As you know, in my preaching I’ve told you a variety of stories about myself and others, as well as a handful of jokes.  I’ve asked you to memorize some Scripture and sing some songs with me while I washed my hands.  I’ve used some recurring expressions and addressed some topics repeatedly.  In and through it all my hope has been to speak this life-giving, liberating promise clearly, graciously, winsomely.

So, I have encouraged you to add your “Amen” when I say “in the name of Jesus.”  The word “Amen” simply means “Yes.”  “Yes, that’s what we are here for, why we’ve come to worship.  Yes, that is what we will listen for, what we will attune our ears and minds and hearts, even our note-taking hands, to receive.  Yes, that is the measure we will use to make our evaluations and guide our decisions about our shared ministry.  Yes, this promise of mercy in Jesus is our very life and salvation.”

It has been a privilege for me to serve with you in this way in the last 17 months—in the name of Jesus.  I am deeply grateful for your partnership in the Gospel and for the many kindnesses you have shown me.  I am keenly aware that my service has included shortcomings and failings, and so I am grateful that your kindness has included patience and forgiveness.  As I conclude my service with you on June 8, I hold you in my prayers with both thanksgiving and hope.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “I am confident of this—that the God who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Yours in Christ,

Marcus Kunz, Interim Pastor

MARCH 2020

Dear friends at Faith and Grace,

One of my priorities in these first months with you has been to address some of the concerns and hopes you have expressed about confirmation instruction.  One hope consistently expressed is that students know the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as the Small Catechism’s teachings about these things and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

It’s been a pleasure to get to know the students (they’re great kids), and a privilege to give some focused attention with them to the Small Catechism.  But the handful of sessions we’ve had in January and February, even with expanded times, have only provided enough time to touch quickly on these important teachings.  I want the students to have a richer experience of the Catechism’s witness of the God who has chosen to love us in Jesus Christ.

So, I’ve decided to return to the ancient practice of using the season of Lent as a time for renewed attention to these most basic teachings of the faith in the Catechism.  Beginning with Ash Wednesday and continuing through Good Friday, each weekday Lent worship service will take a fresh look at a part of the Catechism. For the students my hope is that it will be a reinforcing supplement to what we have covered in class these past weeks.

At the same time, a review of the Catechism is timely for all of us.  Martin Luther once wrote, “Many regard the catechism as a simple, trifling teaching, which they can absorb and master at one reading and then toss the book into a corner as if they are ashamed to read it again. But I say this for myself: I am both a professor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I still do so gladly.”  We all still have more growing in faith to experience as we move through life.

Moreover, at every baptism we adults re-affirm our shared responsibility for teaching this faith to the children in our community.  We will be best prepared to keep this promise when we continue to refresh our understanding of these most basic teachings. So, already in our Sunday worship I returned to using the Apostles’ Creed—both so that students have every opportunity to have this confession of faith inscribed in their memories and so that these life-giving words and their promise will be refreshed in our hearts and minds as well.

We begin on Ash Wednesday with the most basic message of all—that first of Ten Words from God that is both a commandment and a promise:  “I am the Lord your God. You will have no other gods.” As a sign of our repentant dying with Christ, our worship will include the imposition of ashes, which will be done as worshipers arrive and come into the sanctuary in the 15 minutes before worship begins at 7:00 p.m. at Faith Lutheran in Evansville.

I look forward to this time of renewal in Christ with you.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Marcus Kunz


Dear friends in Christ at Grace and Faith,

It’s a privilege for me to serve alongside of you during this time of transition in pastoral ministry. Even though I am with you on a half-time basis and only temporarily until your next pastor is called, I am committed to the central tasks of pastoral ministry and to all members. I may not be able to do everything as quickly or as often as we all hope. But I will attempt my best to do the ministry for which you need a servant of the Word.

I use that expression — servant of the Word — deliberately. The apostle Paul wrote, “Think of us this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4:1). That second servant word — steward — signals that out of the treasury of God’s love there’s an incredible gift for you in the “mystery” of who God has chosen to be for you in Jesus. So, when I preach, I begin and end with the words “In the name of Jesus,” and I invite the congregation to respond by saying “Amen.” I do so for three reasons.

The first reason is that when I am preaching I believe my responsibility is to speak a message that can be rightly spoken in Jesus’ name. It may be a fresh articulation of a promise of mercy that Jesus made. It may be a message of comfort or hope that can be rightly spoken on Jesus’ behalf because of the mercy he promised. In any case, it’s a message from Jesus. I’m not there to give you my opinions about moral disputes or public policy debates, my parenting advice, or any of my other opinions. (If you’re curious about my opinions, let me know, and I’ll treat for a conversation over coffee and pie.) I know that only the promise that Jesus makes is going to sustain your faith and the life that flows from it. And I invite you to respond by saying “Amen” (that is, “Yes, let it be so”) as your way of saying, “Yes, that is why we are here and that is what we are hoping for — a message that can be rightly spoken in Jesus’ name. That’s what we want: Jesus’ word of promise.”

A second reason is so that we all know that speaking and hearing God’s Word is a shared responsibility among us. As a preacher I come to speak in Jesus’ name as best I can — prepared, rested, as healthy and alert as I can be, ready to use all my abilities and all I know about your lives to proclaim Jesus’ promise to you clearly and well. And you also come prepared to listen as best you can — present, rested, attentive and expectant of a life-giving word from Jesus.

So I encourage you (all of you) to take notes, because I know from experience that even from the worst sermons the Holy Spirit has a word from Jesus for you. You will more readily hear it when you have taken responsibility for listening as best you can. Taking notes will also give you something to say. The apostle Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an account of the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15). I know we all struggle with finding ways to share the message of Jesus with others. I do also. I have discovered that when I take notes, I have something to say to my family, friends, and coworkers. “This is what I heard the Spirit say to me last Sunday.”

The final reason is reminder to all of us that speaking and hearing the promise of Jesus is the heart of our life. It’s the reason why we can live in him, and it’s the reason why we exist as a community of faith. So let this — our speaking and listening for the Word that can be rightly spoken in Jesus’ name — be the primary basis for any evaluation or judgment that we make about our service of Christ together.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve with you in Jesus’ name.

Pastor Marcus Kunz

January, 2020

Dear friends in Christ at Grace and Faith,

It’s a privilege for me to serve alongside of you during this time of transition in pastoral ministry. In the monthly newsletter I want to say a bit more about my service with you. Right now I simply want to share a bit of who I am and how to contact me.

I live in Fergus Falls with my wife, Martha Halls, who just retired as an ELCA pastor last fall. We moved here from Chicago in the summer of 2017, partly so that we could live closer and give more attention to Martha’s mother, who lives at the Glenwood Village Care Center. We have two sons and a daughter-in-law: Daniel and his wife Kyle, and Andrew. We love them deeply and visit them as often as we can (as we did earlier this month).

Currently I also continue in a part-time position on the ELCA churchwide staff. I do most of my work as a telecommuter, although I make 3-4 trips a year to Chicago. My previous service includes a variety of calls in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, most recently as supply pastor for Peace and Grue Lutheran of Ashby and, prior to that, interim pastor at First Lutheran in Fergus Falls. Those calls have included regular parish ministry, interim ministry, development of a new congregation (in Cold Spring, Minnesota), and service on the Southwestern Minnesota Synod staff. I also taught a New Testament Introduction class as an adjunct instructor at St. Cloud State University for 10 years. I am a graduate of Valparaiso University (BA), Luther Seminary (MDiv), and the University of Chicago (PhD).

Early in life I lived in Texas, Tennessee and Missouri while growing up in a Lutheran pastor’s family. In my younger years I was an enthusiastic baseball and basketball player, and I’ve tried to stay active in a variety of sports and activities to this day. I also love to read, play games, and work puzzles. And throughout my life I have found great joy in music, especially singing in church, school, community and regional choirs.

I look forward to learning who you are as well, and I will be looking for times when we can get better acquainted. If you have a matter to discuss or some other reason to contact me, please feel welcome to contact me by email (better for longer information), text (better for a quick contact or to set up a meeting) or in person (best for talking about a personal concern).

Pastor Marcus Kunz
847-431-4654 (mobile)

Thank you for this opportunity to serve alongside you in the name of Jesus!

December 2019, Pastor Sarah Resigned as pastor of 

"Grace through Faith Ministries Parish"

October 2019

This post was shown to me by a friend who received it on their Facebook feed….I have looked at it and reflected on its meaning for many days.  I am curious as to what you think of it? Is there any truth to this picture?

As I look at it I am reminded of many of the topics that have been brought up during our sermon series on Evangelism.  Jesus is the foundation for our ministry as a church, after all we are the body of Christ here in this place. Each baptism we are reminded that we are marked and sealed with the cross of Christ FOREVER.  Of course we tend to live as though the cross appears at our need or calling, but the reality is that once a child of God always a child of God, and therefore we do the best we can each day living out that call and ministry.  The trouble arises when we lose our foundation…when things other than Jesus become our “why” for doing things, may that be tradition, ritual, or because we have always done it that way. The church, I believe, needs a reformation.  We are in need of a realigning with what Jesus is doing TODAY in our lives and in our world, God knows that each member of the body is needed to continue this ministry. The gathering of disciples Jesus began long ago continues today, will you follow Jesus?

 God’s Peace,

Pastor Sarah

September 2019

“God’s church does not have a mission.  God’s mission has a church.” (Dave Daubert)

This statement I heard recently at a learning event hosted by the synod.  Dave Daubert has written a couple of short books such as “The Invitational Christian” and “Lutheran Trump Cards”.  Since I heard Dave say these statements at the event I cannot help but continue to reflect on what they mean. So often we think that we, as a church, need to have fancy campaigns, slogans, and programs.  Yet what I believe we are really called to do is to share our faith stories, and help others make sense of their faith and how they fit into God’s story. We are all part of God’s story. Humans, created in the image of God, given abilities, knowledge, and responsibility to care for all of the other components of creation that God made.  God has a mission. We are called to respond to that mission. What is that mission you may be asking? Well, according to Matthew 28:18-20, it is “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Pretty simple, right?  Hardly. In fact when Jesus sends the disciples out it actually gets more difficult.  Why? Because he doesn’t let them take anything with them, no purse or bag or sandals.  I encourage you to read Luke 10. Those first disciples were sent out to seek and find hospitality and peace.  There was no building that Jesus designated them to utilize for evangelism…for sharing the Word of God, only just people with their feet and voices.

So how do we today, in 2019, evangelize?  How do we talk to others about our faith – and how God is active and involved with our daily lives?  Martha Grace Reese, in her book “Unbinding the Gospel” did a four year study on evangelism and found those churches, lay persons, and pastors that were successful with evangelism have a “vivid relationship with God”.  These people and church leaders believe so strongly in their own relationship with God that they truly feel other people would benefit by having that same relationship with God, so they share their faith and God stories.  In other words people who are growing in their faith and which God is central in their understanding of life and themselves cannot help but tell others about what God is up to in their lives. For these individuals there is no such thing as coincidence, but rather God at work.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.”

Why do I share all of this?  Beginning in September I will start a sermon series on evangelism.  This often-feared word simply means, as described above, as sharing our faith, or taking part in the mission God has called each of us into.  As we move through the series it is my hope and prayer that you will be reflecting on ways you already do talk about your faith as well as those situations that you may have avoided.  Recently someone reminded me that during the Affirmation of Baptism service with the confirmands I asked the congregation if they had written a faith statement. This person said she had been thinking about that and was not sure if she would be able to write one.  Let me make it easier for you….as I think others felt the same way…if someone asked you in 60 seconds to talk about your faith what would you say? How would you describe God? This simple (or difficult) task is evangelism…and the goal of the sermon series is to equip you with the tools needed to do real life evangelism!

 God’s Peace,

Pastor Sarah

Sermon Series for October will be Stewardship and for November and Advent it will be prayer.

August 2019

“This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

~Psalm 118:24


This verse has become my mantra.  Even on the days when it seems there is not much for which to rejoice.  Simply being here, in this place, on this earth, and alive, with Christ as our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit as our guide and strength is a reason to rejoice.  Life is hard. Not only are people struggling, but families, businesses, and churches are facing challenging times and circumstances. At our July council meeting a letter from the NW MN Synod was read to the council stating the financial shortfall they are facing…and how they are trying to play “ketchup” during these summer months.  After much discussion the decision was made to address this within the newsletter in order to let you as the congregations know. Please pray about the needs of the greater church at our synod level, and if you feel called to give a bit extra, please note the address at the end of this writing. On the same note, I urge you to be informed about the current financial standings of Grace Lutheran and Faith Lutheran.  Both local congregations could also benefit from additional support….and it doesn’t always require writing a check or putting cash in the offering plate. There are SO many ways that we as God’s children have been gifted. We are called by God as followers of Jesus to share the gifts we have been given. Maybe that gift is time, maybe it is a skill, hobby, or interest…whatever it may be please know the church community, or dare I say the Kingdom of God, could be served better with all of us sharing our gifts and knowledge.

Gifts.  As I have asked each of you to reflect on the gifts you have been gifted by God, I also urge you to take note of the gifts each congregation, location, and building has within this parish called Grace Through Faith Ministries.  Over the past couple of months I have been talking with Tiffany and Alicia and others who are involved with our youth programs and praise services. Last year the confirmation year was split in half with each church location hosting the students.  While we had wonderful participation by the youth we noticed some logistical challenges during our time at Faith Lutheran. On average 60-70 students would show up for God Squad and Kid Konnection as well as for Confirmation. Faith Lutheran is a beautiful building, however, classroom space is limited and tight for certain grade levels.  These challenges led to conversation about Grace hosting the youth activities Wednesday evenings for the entire school year. Feedback was positive and both councils agreed. For the 2019 and 2020 school year ALL Wednesday evening youth activities will be held at Grace Lutheran. More information about class times, ages, and complete schedule will be mailed out and on the website mid-August.


Conversation with musicians and Jake Pavia, organizer of the first Sunday praise services, centered around instruments, space, and sound.  The conversation has led to a strong lean towards having Faith Lutheran host all of the first Sunday praise worship services beginning in 2020, with the time of worship set at 10 a.m. Faith Lutheran currently has the drum set, keyboard, and the space for all of the instruments and the leaders and at the same time because of the design of the sanctuary, allows them to be seen by most in the congregation.  While a formal decision has not been made, the councils have discussed it at the July meeting and plan on finalizing the decision at the August meeting.

This past year there have been many successful changes as we move to becoming a stronger parish.  The intent behind these ministry modifications is to strengthen the overall ministry and be able to do more of God’s work in God’s kingdom.  I recognize change is not easy, and by no means are we looking at doing things that have ever been done before here between these two towns and congregations, and actually that is part of the reason I feel it needs to happen.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 speaks of there being a time for everything, … “ a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew….” (6-7a) and there is a time for change and growth.  I applaud both congregations for being open to new ideas and willing to embark on a time of change. God is always calling us to stretch ourselves, to be ready for new ventures, new ministries and new callings. None of which is for our glory but for the glory of God.  As we enter into fall with a new school year, kids another grade older, it is my prayer that we can rally together as two congregations that are ready to strengthen their partnership in the parish agreement and step out as God calls to ministries that may yet be unknown, ready and willing to share our gifts and talents.  THIS truly is the day that the Lord has made, and may we step out rejoicing in all that God has done, is doing, and will do within our lives and parish.



JUNE 2019

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:19-20 NIV)

A few months ago Faith Lutheran hosted a First Communion class.  This class was open to 5th graders and any student older or younger that would like to be able to take part in the Lord’s Supper.  I know for some families there was a conflict with schedules and so I would like to offer another class in June.  Mark your calendars for June 11th, 12th, and 13th.  The classes will be held at Grace Lutheran from 5:30-6 p.m. on the 11th and 12th which is before Vacation Bible School, and from 7:30-8:30 on the 13th, following the potluck and VBS program.   A special Communion service will be held at each church on June 23rd so the students who have taken the class can have Holy Communion for the first time.  Again, this class is for all students that would like to take Holy Communion, that means 5th graders, students who may be older that have not taken the class before, and those younger (that have parental permission).  Parents are welcome to attend these classes as well. We will be talking about the Passover, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, and also on the last night baking bread which will be used for the service on June 23rd.


As we move into summer, with hopefully warm temperatures, I am well into a couple really good books.  One is of course a theological book, the other is not. I would like to share a couple of quotes from the book entitled “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World”, which is written by Andy Stanley.  The title caught my attention which is why I purchased the book. I’ll be honest, I have not read many books by Andy Stanley, although I have listened to some of his sermons. While I am not in complete agreement with all that is written, Andy certainly does emphasize Jesus’ purpose on earth, from his ministry to his mission….stating “While Jesus was foreshadowed in the old covenant, he did not come to extend it.  He came to fulfill it, put a bow on it, and establish something new”. (p. 96) I agree. According to Mr. Stanley we, the people, tend to focus on the old and the new…meaning we remember the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament yet we try to insert Jesus into the old covenant God made with the people. Jesus even tells us “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.  No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (NLT) In Jesus the old law was made complete. The entire Old Testament is the chosen people doing their best to keep the law and God’s commands, and we all know how well that went. It didn’t. So, Jesus came. And in doing so fulfilled the old law and gave us a new command…. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (NLT) In doing this one commandment, loving each other, we express our love for God.

Mr. Stanley offers a great illustration to make his point.  He writes of a cell phone. If a person buys a new cell phone you do not continue to use the old one.  Why? Because you have a new one, you have no need of the old one. Same with the covenant. He goes on to say, “God’s covenant with Israel was made obsolete the moment Jesus ratified the new covenant.” (p. 139)  The book goes on to talk about how all of those other commandments are wrapped up in the one Jesus gave us, love one another. If we act, speak, and think with love surely we will not covet our neighbor’s items, we will not steal, we will honor our parents and so on. 

I share this idea with you because the church has been around for hundreds of years now, and so often we get stuck.  We want to hold on to what we had, what we know, our old cell phone so to speak…especially if it’s a flip phone because those smartphones are a bit over our heads.  Jesus calls us to love one another as he has loved us. What does the church look like when we live out this new commandment? What do our relationships look like when we speak with love to our friends, partner, significant other, or spouse?  How can the ministry of this congregation expand beyond the walls of the building and the confines of this community if we imagine and think with love? A few things to ponder as we enter the summer months when families are traveling, spending time together, and we enjoy all that the warm weather brings.  As a new summer approaches may you be reminded of the new commandment given by Jesus, one that he lived each day he was on earth, and made extreme in his crucifixion…LOVE. Love a little more with your words, thoughts, and actions this summer and beyond, all for the glory of God and honor of Jesus.

Summer Blessings,

Pastor Sarah

May 2019

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” ~1 Peter 1:3

I would like to begin by saying “Thank you”.  Thank you for the prayers, cards, encouraging words, and support as I navigated my way through a cancer diagnosis and surgery.  The good news is the cancer was contained and was completely removed in the surgical process so no further treatment is needed. As with any major surgery the recovery has been slower than I would like, however, I feel blessed that I was able to lead the Good Friday and Easter services.  I also want to thank everyone who stepped up and filled in leading worship and making sure activities continued as scheduled. I am fortunate to be part of two wonderful congregations. Thank you.

As I move back into full time work May will begin with the 9th graders affirming their faith.  This past confirmation year has been a learning curve for both the students and I as we navigated a different classroom style than they were used to.  Much was gained by both the students and myself these months together and will result in some changes and modifications for next year’s confirmation classes.  Congratulations to those students affirming the faith they were baptized in, and on May 5th they will be sharing a bible verse that is meaningful to them and why they chose that verse.  Attending this service is a great way to show your support for our young people as they continue to grow in their faith.

Moving into the summer months we will be working through two different sermon series.  One on the book of Hebrews and the other on the book of Psalms. Both will offer a more in depth look at these books and invite discussion and learning.  I am looking forward to preaching on these two books and hope you will join us this summer in worship!

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! I encourage you to live the resurrection daily.  We are a people of hope because of the risen Jesus Christ. No matter what challenges we face in life, we can be certain that because He lives we shall live also, and that hope of eternal life fuels our light while we live and serve on this earth, and in this time and place.  May you be encouraged this Easter season and beyond to shine the light of Christ.


Pastor Sarah

April 2019

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

1 Corinthians 12:20 (ESV)

This Lenten journey, for me, involves time spent in the dictionary and in scripture.  I recently looked up the word “potluck” and came to the North American definition as “a meal or party to which each guest contributes a dish”.  So often we attach our own meaning, or add on to the meaning of a word. Yet, simply stated a potluck is a party in which those that attend bring a dish to share.  This simple definition was the intent behind the creation of the potluck meals after the joint worship services. There has been some confusion….and I write this article not to offend, hurt, or dishonor anyone….but rather as a way to provide information.  Coming together and gathering around a table was often done in Jesus’ time, and still is today. I often wonder if the disciples made those meals as complicated as we tend to make them….or did they just hope for a variety of good food and excellent conversation.  Did they even have expectations when they came together? Or maybe they were simply excited to sit down, rest their tired feet and bodies from their travels, and listen to the wise words of Jesus….and share their own tidbits about the events and people they encountered?  It is my hope and prayer for each of us, that every potluck and church meal may be a time when we can sit down, take time out of our busy days and hectic schedules...gather around a table and enjoy the company of each other and the conversations that ensue; all expectations and rules set aside.  After all, the world beyond the church has enough social rules about who should do what, when, and how. May this Lenten journey be a discovery of new meaning on some ordinary words, and a time of gathering, trusting that although there are many of us, together we are the one body of Christ. Amen.

Pastor Sarah

March 2019

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”.  John 20:21

This verse is a great summary of our calling as congregations.  We are called and sent out into the world to proclaim the good news, to shine our light, and be examples of God’s grace and mercy. Recently Pastor John Peshek led a retreat for staff and council members.  In covering a variety of topics and concerns facing the church today Pastor Peshek stressed the importance of being a congregation centered on mission and embodying Christ in God’s kingdom today.  Often churches become focused on reduced attendance and membership, thus changing the focus from outward and mission driven to inward and survival driven.  The concerns are significant and attention needs to be given to them.  One major concern is the lack of attendance due to the decline in smaller farms and households in the rural areas.  Another concern is clergy.  Pastor Peshek recently read a study that stated in the year 2020 there will be a shortage of over 1,000 pastors in the ELCA (United States) alone.  There is cause for concern regarding both of these statistics.  With that said, we need not panic but remain faithful to God’s mission and calling for this parish.  In order to do that successfully and truly embody Christ, Pastor Peshek discussed the importance of change and trust.  To put it bluntly, we must change or we die.  In order to change there needs to be significant trust and relationships built and established.  There must be trust between the pastor and people, going both ways.  The pastor needs to trust the people and the people need to trust the pastor.  Just as important the people need to trust each other.  It is these basic foundational blocks and the focus on mission that will keep this parish strong as we head into uncharted territory and times for the church as a whole.  We are sent.  We have all been sent with the same mission, serving the same God and the same Lord Jesus.  As we move forward in this year let us continue to discern God’s mission for us as a parish, and grow together in trust, faith, hope, and love….ready to change and move out of our comfort zone for the sake of God’s Word.

Pastor Sarah

February 2019


The season of Lent is just around the corner, and worship planning has begun for the mid-week services.  As in the past, the Wednesday services will alternate between Faith Lutheran and Grace Lutheran each week, with a meal hosted prior to worship.  The focus this year will be on the following: “Jesus came to earth in humble means for a distinct purpose…to be our Lord and Savior. God in the flesh.  His life, death, and resurrection was courageous, unique, and radical and displayed true honor.”

Each week we will focus on a particular word to describe Jesus and his ministry.  The weeks/words are: March 13 – Purpose; March 20 – Courage; March 27th – Humility; April 3 – Unique; April 10 – Radical.  I am looking for individuals who would be willing to share their faith story as it relates to one of the following words.  Please be in prayer and if you feel God is placing it on your heart to share your story or would like more information please contact Pastor Sarah at 320-808-8772.

At the conclusions of each service families will be able to take home a wooden block with the word of the week printed on it.  Once we reach Good Friday you will have made a cross through the collection of each block.  This word cross can be a reminder of Jesus, his ministry, death, and resurrection as well as our call to continue Jesus’ ministry today.  By displaying in your home the cross also invites faith filled conversation as people inquire about the words on the cross – this becomes a great way to minister and share personal stories of how God acts today in our lives.  I look forward to hearing your faith stories and moving through the coming Lenten season.

January 2019

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

–Romans 15:13, NIV

 Blessings to all of you this New Year!  This verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans is my prayer for all of you as we enter 2019. These first few months of my call with Grace Through Faith Ministries have been filled with much learning and relationship building.  I look forward to the coming year and would like to take a moment to thank you for the cards, gifts, treats, and all of the prayers and support you give to me and to my family these first months.  Please know all is greatly appreciated!  I feel truly blessed to be part  of a wonderful ministry and am excited for the ministry opportunities in the coming year.

~  Pastor Sarah

November 2018

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more….” Revelation 21:1

You may have heard this verse from the book of Revelation read at a funeral of a friend or loved one.  Offering words of hope and promise through a revelation given to the writer of the book of Revelation by Jesus these words speak of a new time.  Reading further in this chapter we find this new heaven and new earth to be part of a time and place where there will be no more pain, suffering, or sorrow.  Although these verses offer words of hope and beauty, there is much of the book of Revelation that seems to be quite the opposite.

Beginning in November we will be starting a sermon series on the book of Revelation based largely on the book “Revelation and the End of All Things” by Craig Koester.  Each week we will be exploring a few chapters and verses in more detail.  The study will also unpack some of the larger themes of the book.  Hopefully through the sermon, outlines, and your own study and reading the book will become less confusing, and will show God’s love and promises. 

The following is the outline for the sermon series, feel free to read ahead and prepare for the sermon discussion.

Week 1: Chapter 4 verses 1-11

Week 2: Chapter 5 verses 1-13

Week 3: Chapter 6 verses 1-8 & Chapter 7 verses 9-17

Week 4: Chapter 21 verses 1-6 & Chapter 22 verses 1-5

Blessings to you as you begin to look at the book of Revelation.

Pastor Sarah

 October 2018 

Did you know?....“In the United States, as many as 2.8 million kids run away from home every year.  Within 48 hours of being on the run they will be approached by a pimp, trafficker or perpetrator looking to sexually exploit them.”  (Terebinth Refuge email)

Hard statistic to swallow….we don’t want to believe that we live in a world like that, a world where someone chooses to sell children for money and use them for sex.  And yet, the reality is the illegal profits made from trafficking or sexual exploitation is $99 billion dollars or 66% of the trafficking pie, which also includes forced labor and domestic servitude.  These statistics are from the International Labour Organization, the World Economic Forum.  The Bible is clear in telling us how important children are to God.  Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing.”

 A phrase that seems to always be on my mind is that it takes a village to raise a child.  Today, however, society has created walls instead of a village.  People are disconnected from each other, replacing face to face conversation with text messages and leisure time with electronic games.  The result is staggering.  Young people are finding connection in unhealthy ways, seeking companionship and love in a virtual world.  What they are finding is not love but abuse, drugs, and a great deal of danger.  Look on facebook.  You will constantly see posters of missing youth, often with comments about how they met someone online.  These perpetrators are good.  Good kids are falling into the trap of being groomed by these people, often right under the nose of school teachers, counselors, parents, and friends.  I believe it is time to rise up as a community.  No longer can we think that because we live in Brandon or Evansville, MN that it cannot happen here.  I have noticed even in this area that people on facebook are reporting suspicious people and vehicles that seem to be canvassing the area…and this IS what it takes to be that village.  People need to pay attention, to pass the word, to educate themselves and children….. to get INVOLVED in the lives of young people.

 On Sunday, October 14th Grace Through Faith Ministries is going to team up.  There will be a joint worship service at Grace at 9 a.m. which will talk about this very issue.  Laurie Kallevig who works on a global scale with her ukulele ministry will share her passion and call.  Others from the community will share what is going on in our area around human trafficking and what we can do to be that village to support and nurture our youth.  This will be an ongoing conversation with other opportunities for education and awareness.  Curriculum will be presented during confirmation touching on this topic with the students and any parents that want to attend. Self-defense classes will be offered empowering young girls and women to stand up for themselves, giving them the tools to keep their bodies safe.  Please plan on attending this worship service, it will be difficult, but I feel very necessary as we work to keep our young people safe.  I look forward to this service as well as the opportunity to serve both congregations as your pastor….and feel very blessed by the welcome I have received.  Thank you!


Pastor Sarah