Noter fra Presten (Notes from the Pastor)

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for  “Notes from the Pastor)

Why does Pastor Dennis call his column, “Noter fra Presten?” 

My last name sounds very much like the Norwegian word for “the pastor,” which is “presten.” (For all you Swedes at Faith, it believe it is similar in Swedish.) “Prest” means “pastor or priest” and the “en” on the end means “the.”

For a year, from June of 1994 through June of 1995, I served in Norway as an exchange pastor. My name sounds funny in Norway, because to address me as “Prest Preston,” (Pastor Preston), sounds to a Norwegian like one is saying “pastor, the pastor.” So, Noter = notes, fra = from, and Presten = the Pastor.

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

May 2017

WHAT DO WE DO WHEN WE DISAGREE 

The Evansville and Brandon communities have an important discussion and question that we are facing concerning the schools: Remodel or build new. If new, where?

These are very important decisions to make for the future of public school education for the children in our communities. The choices are difficult. Emotions and worries for the future are involved. Whatever is decided will cost money. I can’t imagine that we would all agree as to what is the solution.

Most important is the willingness to listen to each other.

We can better understand ourselves and our own point of view by listening to a different point of view.

When someone says something that really rubs against your grain, or goes against what you believe to be true on the evidence you have on hand and you believe what the other has said  to be false, rather than responding, “but that is wrong,” which will only shut the door to the other person hearing anything you have to say after that, do this instead:

Ask these questions.

· Tell me why you think that.

· Tell me what you are worried about.

Evansville and Brandon as sister communities have been working hard together to provide quality education for our young people. The communities need each other. I hope we can listen well to each other as we express our hopes and dreams as well as our concerns. We pray for the school board, the administration, and all of us in these communities in figuring this out.

We also give thanks for the teachers, the students and the parents and pray for them all!

When we face difficult issues with our neighbors, it is important to keep in mind Luther’s explanation to the 8th commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Luther wrote: “What is this? What does it mean?”

“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” 

TAKING FAITH HOME 

If you have not had an opportunity to do so, check out the resources at:

http://vibrantfaithathome.org/

On their website, it says this: 

We seek to equip and empower families and individuals of all ages and stages to:

· TALK with each other about their faith

· PRAY together in ways that are comfortable and comforting

· RITUALIZE their important moments

· REACH OUT in service and support of others. 

These devotions are not just for families. Yes we demonstrated one today that is family focused, but when you look at what is available there are activities for adults and couples, young adult, young family, teen family, and parents and grandparents.

And it is all free. If you don’t have a computer, perhaps either a friend who has one or here at church we would be glad to help you find some activities that speak to your life and where you may be seeking to grow in faith. 

Bible verses for May

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Notice what we are invited to do with these powerful words! 

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

April 2017

EASTER AND RELATIONSHIPS

Holidays often are times to gather with family, to eat, talk, and just hang out together. Family gatherings strengthen the bonds of family and deepen relationships.

Holidays can be difficult times when there has been the death of a loved one or there is division and strife in the family or there has been separation and/or divorce.

I invite you to think about Jesus’ death and resurrection from the point of view of families, friends and neighbors.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, loses her son as she watches him suffer on the cross. Jesus looks after his mother asking the disciple, John, to look after her.

The disciples lose there friend and leader. Jesus has taught them for three years. Jesus has demonstrated to them the mission they are on. Jesus has been trying to prepare them for his death and resurrection, but they have been having a very hard time understanding.

Perhaps it was most difficult for Peter. While Jesus is on trial, Peter denies three times of ever having know Jesus. Peter has denied his relationship with Jesus.

Then the unthinkable happens. The tomb is empty. Jesus appears several times to his followers. Their relationship with Jesus is not broken or ended. The relationship with Jesus continues, although, in a brand new way. Jesus’ presence now fills the universe and he promises, “I am with you always!”

Relationship, relationship, relationship. That is who God is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Relationship, relationship, relationship. That is what life is all about. We all depend on others for the basics and necessities of our very lives.

Relationship, relationship, relationship. That is what faith is all about: Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.

I found someone talking about relationship in a place that surprised me. Thomas Freidman, a journalist who grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, has recently written a book that describes the impact of the huge changes going on in our world through technology, the Market and globalization, and Mother Nature. He calls it the age of accelerations. The title is Thanks for Being Late.

In creating the book he interviewed all sorts of people. Friedman writes: “I have been struck by how many of the best solutions for helping people build resilience and propulsion in this age of accelerations are things you cannot download but have to upload the old-fashioned way—one human to another human at a time. Over and over again I heard about the vital importance of having a caring adult or mentor in every young person’s life and the value of having a coach—whether you are applying for a job for the first time or you are running the business… whoever thought that the key to building a healthy community would be a dining room table?

That’s why I wasn’t surprised that when I asked Surgeon General Murthy what was the biggest disease in America today, without hesitation he answered: ‘It’s not cancer. It’s not heart disease. It’s isolation. It is the pronounced isolation that so many people are experiencing that is the great pathology of our lives today.’ How ironic. We are the most technologically connected generation in human history—and yet more people feel more isolated than ever.”

The biggest gift you and I, the church, have to give is relationship. As we state in our mission statements:

Faith congregation: Growing together in Christ, in minister to minister, to love, and to serve.

Grace congregation: Grace is a caring community of believers through Jesus Christ reaching out to you in God’s love.

Relationship, relationship, relationship. That is what Easter is all about. 

Bible verses for April

John 11:1-44 Notice the relationships!

 Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

March 2017

Celebrating 500 years of Reformation

 Last month I wrote about this year being the 500th anniversary of the reformation. This will be the theme of our Wednesday evening Lenten services. As part of our gatherings, the goal is to include memories, stories, thoughts, etc. related to Luther’s Small Catechism and what the Lutheran tradition means to you.

Please take a few minutes right now if you have time and bring your responses to church or email them to me: dennisleepreston@gmail.com.

Here are the questions. Answer any or all of them!

· I remember from my own time in confirmation…

· I believe the most important quote from Luther’s Small Catechism is…

· Martin Luther’s Small Catechism helps/has helped me…

· Luther’s Small Catechism has inspired my relationships with other people to be…

· I belive the most important gift the Lutheran Church has to give to the world is…

· I am willing to have my thoughts/story printed with my name. Yes/No

· I would be willing to tell my thoughts/story during worship. Yes/No

Your responses can be humorous, serious, critical, etc. I hope you will take a little time to reflect and share. No memory or thought is too trivial.

Thank you!!!

Team and Committee night

The Faith and Grace church councils are inviting all committee’s and planning teams to meet on the same night following Lenten worship on March 8th. The goal is for this to be a night to get some work done and share what is happening between the groups. The hope is for the this to provide better communication and encouragement all around! For a listing of teams and committees, see page 9 for further information!

Various quotes from Martin Luther 

· To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

· Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure.

· There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage. (Martin Luther adored his Katie. He always claimed she had been very good for him.)

· You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.

· Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.

· Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart.

· If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.

· Now the church is not wood and stone, but the company of people who believe in Christ.

· God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.

One of my favorites:

· Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. 

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther.html

Bible verses for March

Romans 5:1-5 (Justified by grace through faith! These verses had a great deal to do with inspiring Martin Luther) 

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

February 2017 

Reformation—500 years!

Grace, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for me, is the most important reality in my life. Without grace, I doubt I would be living right now, that I would have chosen death.

The way I became found by grace is through a Lutheran congregation and their pastor. I literally was born again. Rather than wanting to end my life, I learned to want to live again because I started to understand that I am God’s child and God loves me unconditionally and completely.

I experienced that discovery through the Lutheran church and because of the writings and work of Martin Luther 500 years ago. But he didn’t make up the idea. He found it by studying and teaching the Bible.

Being Lutheran to me means literally choosing life over death!

This year Christians worldwide will observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. There will be various activities all over the world, especially in Germany. Here in Minnesota there has already been a special showing of artifacts and art at the Minnesota Institute of Art. First Lutheran of Alexandria is planning a tour to Germany in September. There are flyers available at bother churches.

To mark the anniversary at Faith and Grace, I would like to invite us as congregations and individuals to study Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.

Luther intended this short volume, containing his explanations of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the sacraments, along with daily prayers and Bible verses, to be used by ordinary people in churches and households.

“The catechism is built on the experience of a God who loves us,” said Kirsi Stjerna, professor of Lutheran history and theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif. She said that experience was, first and foremost, Luther’s own: “Luther was so burdened … he felt like an utter failure. Then he read the word and felt free from the burdens of his conscience. He was able to see himself in a new light as someone who is free, and he wanted to share it.”

Luther described the burden of sin as being curved in on the self. That inward curve can be marked by pride and selfishness, but Luther found that sin is also manifested in the ways we focus on ourselves with anxiety or shame. We know “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but often we don’t stop there: we pile on the ways we have fallen short of our expectations and those of others. Whether we curve in on ourselves in self-righteousness or self-deprecation, the more inward our focus, the more isolated we become. That really describes what happened to me, and why the Lutheran Church and the discoveries of Martin Luther have been so life-giving for me.

Here is what I would like to propose:

· That for Lent this year, we study together Luther’s Small Catechism

· Each Wednesday I will invite a few of us to tell what the teaching from the catechism and from Scripture means for our lives.

· We will gather to read portions of the catechism and use Holden Evening prayer for our worship.

· For this to work, it will be necessary for some of you to take out the catechism and reflect on what these central teachings of our faith have meant for your daily lives.

To reflect further, if you have access, there is a great article online in Living Lutheran.org called, “Our New Year’s Reformations”.

www.livinglutheran.org/2017/01/new-years-reformations/

And there will be a couple paper copies at church. 

Bible verses for February

Romans 5:1-5 (Justified by grace through faith!)

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

January 2017

A Practice of H-O-P-E

One of the common concerns of our nation is the rising costs of health care. One of the things we can all do about that problem is to try to practice healthier lifestyles.

In a study by the ELCA department (called Portico) that manages health care and pensions for ELCA pastors like myself, it was discovered that ELCA pastors tend to be less healthy than the general population. This partly can be attributed to some pastors thinking that with all the demands of their position and caring for others, that they do not have time to take care of their own health.

Over the course of the last few years, Portico has been attempting to help pastors lead healthier life styles. The following practice of hope is one of those attempts. In light of the stress and anxiety of the past year because of national and world events, I thought you might find the following helpful for your own personal wellbeing and for the wellbeing of others. May Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ be a New Years gift for us all. 

Bible verses for January

Luke 15:11-32 (I believe these verses describe the heart of God for you and all people!) 

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

A Practice of H-O-P-E

H — Hear one another. 
Listen fully to others, and for God’s voice. Faithful listening allows God to be your guide.

· Remind yourself to curb your speech when you catch yourself talking over another

· When your mind is racing, use a mantra to calm and focus your thoughts, like “O come, o come, Emmanuel"

O — Observe through God’s eyes. 
Recognize Christ in others rather than being quick to judge or make assumptions.

· Read Matthew 9:36 and 25:34-40; Luke 15:11-32 to help to see through God’s eyes

· Pick a symbol or color that can remind you to see the world with Christ’s eyes whenever you spot it during the day

· Choose a hymn or melody to hum, such as “Jesus loves me” or “Amazing Grace” or “Love divine, all loves excelling” as a reminder

P Be present in the moment. 
Remember that wherever you are, there is God. Practice acknowledging this presence through intentional reflection on your day, perhaps just before you fall asleep.

· When did I feel God’s presence today? What (or who) helped me recognize God?

· When did I feel disconnected from God? What got in the way of connecting with God?

E — Expect that God is at work in the midst of the chaos and weariness of our world — and through you.

· Cultivate a sense of joy by practicing small, daily acts of kindness

· Pray for patience and strength so you can lead your daily life guided by God’s wisdom and grace 

Place in a spot where you will be reminded daily to practice H-O-P-E


DECEMBER 2016 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

The light of Jesus’ coming

The Christmas season can be on all ends of the emotional scale. There can be great joy in celebrating our Savior’s birth with family and friends through social gatherings, special worship services, family gatherings, and of course exchanging Christmas gifts. But the Christmas season can also have a more difficult side. Parents and family members can be tempted to over spend their means, wanting to meet all the requests by children or the expectations of others. Use of the credit card can mean trouble for January bill paying time. Stressed relationships become more difficult with the many felt demands of the season.

I have no easy answers or solutions to it all. But it brings to mind an underlying factor which is how our natural desire to have enough has a way of turning into greed.

There is a rabbinic story about a man who, after death, entered another world. An angel led him into a large dining-hall.

What he saw made him extremely sad. Around a huge table, set with the most delicious food, there was a multitude of miserable looking people, haggard and starving. Why were they in this state? The food, placed at the center of the table, could only be reached by an extra long spoon. The tragic thing was that everyone in the room had a 10-foot spoon. Though it was too long to reach their own mouth, it was just the right length to feed the person across the table. But not a single person did that. Everyone preferred to starve.

After seeing this, the man was led into a second room with the same table, set with exactly the same delicious food. Around this table was a group of joyful people holding the same long spoons—however, they were well-nourished, happy, and celebrating. Everyone was using their spoons to feed someone else.

“This is heaven,” said the angel. “The other room—that was hell.”

Greed produces hell on earth. It destroys community, harms the environment, and undermines the happiness of the person who gives into greed.  Greed isn’t a popular subject of sermons and church newsletters, but Jesus talked about greed more than any other sin.

Why does Scripture make such a big deal about greed? James called greed the primary obstacle to peace in the world. I wonder if greed is also one of the obstacles to peace in our families. Biblical teaching is all about serving God by serving others.

God seeks to determine our decisions. But greed makes money, comfort, experiences, etc. our god. The funny thing about these things, our possessions and the rest, is how they have a way of possessing us. Things and gifts can so easily become the focus of Christmas that they replace the one who came as light of the world. 

What is interesting about greed and other destructive behaviors in our lives is that behind the sin lies a God-given desire that is necessary for life. Behind greed lies sustenance, the desire to have enough for food, housing, clothing, heat, comfort and enjoyment. Sustenance is the desire to have enough resources to enjoy life and to provide for others. The question becomes how we choose to use our resources.

A remedy for greed in our lives is sharing what we have received, so that others can experience the love of God through us. It is all about connecting the goods that we have (experiences, gifts, knowledge, time, money) to the needs of others, and especially to those who haven’t yet experienced God’s love.

It is interesting that Christmas gift giving, when done responsibly without over spending and including giving to people beyond ones immediate family, points us away from greed to the light of Jesus’ coming. What will we do with our 10-foot spoon?

Bible verses for December

Luke 2:1-20 (Read before opening gifts!)

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

 

NOVEMBER 2016 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

Your ministry is needed

11 The gifts (God) gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints (God’s people) for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

Dear…..(insert your name)

You're it! I am handing off the ministry to you. I just can't keep up. 

Why do I say that? You have friends, classmates, co-workers, neighbors and even people to whom you are related.  I can't possibly care for all these people, but you can!  You already know their joys and sorrows. The most important ministry is being among people, listening to them, caring for them, celebrating with them, and loving them because Christ first loves us. 

I am sorry if  we have made ministry look complicated. It really isn't. I want to do my best to help you. Remember you can’t do effective ministry alone. You need others to work with you. That is why we gather each week as the church, in order to encourage each other in the work of ministry. Let me know how best I can help or encourage you. 

Your pastor!

 One thing we don’t talk about enough is the subject of your ministry. Contrary to popular notions, the pastor is not “the Minister.” Did you notice in the passage at the top of the page what my job is? My job is to equip you for the work of ministry and to help you build up others in the faith.

Your daily life and home is your main place of ministry. How do you minister God’s love to the people around you? And what are you doing to build up other people “in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another.”

Remember this begins with your own faith renewal. Without practicing the faith (worship, prayer, giving, study of the Bible, service, inviting and encouraging others) it is difficult to minister God’s love to the people around you.

Your ministry is needed! Thank you for your ministry! 

Personal Notes

Thank you for your prayers for my daughter Siri. For those who might not be aware, she has severe ulcerative colitis. She was hospitalized for   11 days last summer. She is much improved now and able to resume her normal activities and continue her new training program in Application Design which will continue until February. She is on medication and needs to be very conscious of her diet.

Also you might be interested to know about my daughter-in-law, Megan, who is now in her final year at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa (not to be confused with Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa). She is in the midst of the approval process for ordination in the ELCA. Next spring she will be assigned to one of the 65 synods of the ELCA. She will graduate in May and be open for call to a congregation.

Our son Erik works as the Data Specialist for Wartburg Seminary.

Thank you for your ministry of prayer.

Bible verses for November

 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,  his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

 

 OCTOBER 2016 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN   Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

What is your faith legacy?

September 16, 17, and 18th was the Christensen family reunion in Germantown, Maryland. Christensen (Danish) is my mother’s maiden name. All prior Christensen family reunions have been in Nebraska where we all originate from. This time we met in Maryland because that is where my last uncle and aunt (my mother’s youngest brother and the last living family members from that generation) live. They are 92 years old and no longer able to travel to Nebraska.

For me, it is always a gift to gather with family, to remember, to catch up, and enjoy each other’s company.

Leila and I drove, two days out; two days back. As we started the day in central Minnesota and ended the next day in Maryland, I got to thinking what my ancestors who homesteaded in Nebraska in the 1850’s and 60’s would think about that! Getting into a vehicle with no horses that propels itself and follows roads that are smoother than anything those ancestors would have ever experienced would seem like something out of a science fiction book to them!

One of the legacies we have received from all the people who have gone before us is the hard work and innovation of good roads and technological inventions that have and continue to change our lives and world. We hope these changes are for the better. Like all material things, they can be used for good or ill. It is all pretty amazing when you stop to think about it, like getting in a car, turning the key, and gliding down the road.

On Friday, some of us drove into Washington, D.C. to tour some of the monuments and museums. Visiting our nation’s capitol and seeing the monuments reminds me of the legacy of freedom and opportunity that we especially as European Americans have inherited. 

Saturday was spent with family, sharing stories, looking at pictures, catching up on our lives since we were last together.  To visit with my aunt and uncle brought back all sorts of memories of family and growing up in Nebraska.

My uncle told me how much he respected and appreciated my father. He told how my father had encouraged him as a young man. My father had written to my uncle while my uncle was serving as an air force pilot in WWII. After the war, my uncle and his brother operated the lumber yard in town for a short time. My father, when picking up a few boards and while paying the bill, asked my uncle if he was sure he was charging enough for the lumber. He wanted to pay my uncle more. That is one of the legacies I received from my father, always to try to be fair and generous with others, to never to take advance of another person.

Spending time with my family brought to mind all the nurture, their example of faith, and the desire to serve others. I am very grateful for the legacy I have received and that I want to try to pass on to the next generations.

Sunday morning we went to worship with my uncle and aunt. Sunday mornings you will find my uncle at the door of the Sunday School area greeting the children as they come. Many gave him hugs and called him Grandpa Chris.

The whole adventure renewed my gratitude for the legacy I have been given.

We have each received the legacy of faith from those who have gone before. Who are the people in your life whose faith you admire? And how are you seeking to pass on the legacy you have received?

“From Christ’s fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16

Sincerely in Christ, 

Pastor Dennis


SEPTEMBER 2016

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for  “Notes from the Pastor) 

Important things to remember!

Over the past few months, I have asked varioius questions and given resources for you to ponder. It is easy in the business of the every day to sometimes forget important things that you may intend to do, but don’t get around to them. Below are some of the things I have asked or talked about that may serve as reminders. 

· Youth ministry properly understood is spelled “Adult Renewal.” 
What is your next step with God? 
How or where is God nudging you to learn, grow and mature? 
Who will you talk this over with and how will them keep you accountable? 

Seven Faith Practices

To think further about how God is calling you to go deeper into God’s love, I would invite you to consider a list of “7 Faith Practices.” These are:

· Worship God in Christian community

· Study God’s word

· Invite others deeper into God’s love

· Prayer

· Encourage each other

· Serve others

· Give generously

In which of these areas do you believe God is calling you to go deeper? 

Commitments made at Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation)

· to live among God’s faithful people,

· to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,

· to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

· to service all people, following the example of Jesus,

· and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth? 

A possible way to begin your day

Trace the sign of the cross on your forehead remembering that you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This means that God created you, Jesus gave his life for you to love you unconditionally, and God seeks to fill you with his loving Spirit.

Then pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, take me away from myself anew this day.  Use me as you will, where you will, with whom you will.  For I would belong to you and not to myself. Amen”

Questions for hospitality and to nurture relationships. (W.A.T.E.R. Card)

W – Where are you from? Stories from life growing up, etc.

A – Activities, what do you like to do with your free time that you love?

T – Travel, is there somewhere you’ve been that’s had a big impact on your life?

E – Experiences, share an experience that has had a lasting impact on your life. Perhaps a God experience.

R – Relationships, who is a person who has had a major impact on you and your faith? 

Quote to ponder

Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priest to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the Gospel. In short, there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal. Whoever teaches the Gospel to another is truly his apostle and bishop.

Martin Luther, The Estate of Marriage

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis


August 2016

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for  “Notes from the Pastor)

Youth ministry properly understood is spelled, “Adult Renewal”

The following quotes are from David Anderson of Vibrant Faith and his book, “Frogs without Legs”.

At the present time, the United States is rapidly building prisons to warehouse our youth. We house more people in our prisons than any other industrial nation. Younger and younger children are bullying, intimidating, or shooting their classmates. The cry is for tougher and tougher laws. The direction of the courts is to try more of them as adults.

Pastor Anderson suggests that “As adults we need to question this strategy and look within ourselves. Could it be that a desert exists within us, a vast empty spiritual dryness that the young have discovered? We have filled the void in our lives with things, entertainment thrills, consumer habits, and exotic vacations and yet we are still empty. The kids know it, and for some this is acted out in reprehensible behavior.

Being a Christian parent, pastor, youth worker, volunteer, mentor, Sunday school teacher, instructor, choir leader, godparent, or peer minister is all about one’s own spiritual life—a life to be shared with others.”

How do you react to Pastor Anderson’s assertion that our personal spiritual life is related to the wellbeing of the people, especially the young people of our congregation and community?

Parents and many other adults powerfully shape children’s lives directly or indirectly. No one can predict which adult and what circumstance will be a faith and life-shaping influence on any individual child or youth. Parents who have children know that it takes more than one or two adults to raise children; it truly takes a village. While some adults might resist the notion that they are parents for children who are not their own, the impact they can have by their actions as well as their lack of action is important. One research group notes that at least three adults outside the home are vital to the development of Christian faith in adolescents.

Whether adults like it or not, children and youth are watching, listening, and interpreting adult lives for the sake of their own. This comes logically from the other four principles. (Vibrant faith puts forth five principles.) Since faith is formed through personal, trusted relationships, and the church is a partnership between home and congregation, and the home is church too, and faith is caught more than it is taught, it follows that all Christian adults teach faith, values, and character formation to children and youth. It takes Christian parents and other adults to raise Christian youth.

Pastor Anderson concludes. The old paradigm for youth ministry assumed that the congregation would delegate the faith formation of children and youth to a youth pastor, a youth director, or a charismatic volunteer. But one cannot hire out faith formation.

The act of “faithing” the next generation is directly related to the faith formation activity that takes place in the home, the extended family, and the congregation.

I know I have given some pretty long quotes from Pastor Anderson. However, I think these quotes give some good insight to the vision around Vibrant Faith.

Bible verse for August.

Deuteronomy  6:4-9

 June/July 2016

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for  “Notes from the Pastor)

Continuing to say “Yes”

Last month I wrote about being a believe means saying “Yes!” to God.

The ways that we say yes to God will be as varied as we are people. God is inviting each and every one of us to go deeper into God’s love. But each of our paths will be as unique as our very being, our bodies, our personalities, our hopes and dreams.

To think further about how God is calling you to go deeper into God’s love, I would invite you to consider a list of “7 Faith Practices.” These are:

·         Worship God in Christian community

·         Study God’s word

·         Invite others deeper into God’s love

·         Prayer

·         Encourage each other

·         Serve others

·         Give generously

In which of these areas do you believe God is calling you to go deeper? In the coming months I plan to speak about each of these practices. I start this month with the Bible. For more ideas you could Google “ELCA Faith Practices.” If you don’t use a computer ask someone who does and explore faith practices together!

Making sense of the Bible

As followers of Jesus, we realize how important it is to be biblically informed and to read the Bible regularly. But let's be honest: Reading through all 66 books of the Bible can seem like a monumental task. Why is it that we can easily read hundreds of pages of a best-selling novel but cannot make it through more than a few pages of the perennial best seller, the Bible?

 Here are some important factors that play a role in the challenge that we face in reading through the Bible:

·  We are in a spiritual war and the enemy does not want us to know the overall plan and ways of our Creator and rightful Owner.

·  Although the biblical texts (originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and a bit of Aramaic) have become very accessible to modern readers through the careful work of biblical scholars and translators, the text is immersed in foreign and ancient customs, geography, people, and kingdoms that can cause readers to lose interest and heart without outside help.

·  It is not readily clear to the uninitiated that there is an overarching plan that spans the books of the Old and New Testaments.

·  Frankly, there are portions of the biblical books (especially in the Old Testament) that seem irrelevant to modern readers (for example, see Genesis 36).

·  There are some portions of the Scriptures that are difficult to understand and there are other portions that are easy enough to understand but are difficult to take to heart and obey.

There are many online resources. Two that are available from Luther Seminary are: www.enterthebible.org
www.bibletutor.com/

There are many other resources available today to help readers navigate their way through the texts to learn as much as possible about God's plan and where human history and planet Earth are heading. But some of these resources are misguided and do not fall in line with our Creator's intent for humankind and our planet. It is important to use a trustworthy resource.

I am not an expert, but I do have some experience finding my way through the Bible’s Big Story. Let me know if I can be of any help to you. Also I would be curious if there is interest in tackling a two- to three-year study which would go in some depth through the whole of Scripture using the Crossways study. I use a shortened overview with the confirmation called “The Bible’s Big Story”. 

Memorization verse for June.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis



May 2016

Saying “Yes” to God!

It is always a risky thing to make an invitation, to ask another to do something. There is always the possibility they might say no. When asking another, whatever it may be, we are pleased when they say yes.

Maybe it is as simple a thing as inviting friends for an evening of fun and fellowship. Or maybe it is asking a company for a job. Or maybe it is even a bigger deal, like asking someone to marry you. No matter the ask, it is always good to hear, “Yes.”

God is always looking for a “yes” to God’s invitation in our lives to follow Jesus, to believe in his name, to say “yes” to our Baptism.

In the Lutheran tradition, most of us are baptized as infants; a time when we had no say in the matter. Our parents brought us to the water and word of Baptism and we could not say yes or no and we do not even remember the occasion.

Therefore, we are given the opportunity when we are older to publicly say “yes” to our Baptism. We traditionally call this opportunity confirmation day. In the hymnal the name for this occasion is “Affirmation of Baptism.” On confirmation day, we give young people the opportunity to publically affirm, say “yes” to their baptism.

This May 1st, four young people at Faith and two at Grace will be affirming their baptism. Here is the question as it is stated in the service.

You have made public profession of your faith. (They have just recited the Apostles’ Creed.) Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:

·   to live among God’s faithful people,

·   to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,

·   to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

·   to service all people, following the example of Jesus,

·   and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

The young people are invited to respond, “I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.”

They are invited to say yes to their baptism and to seek to live out that yes in their daily lives.

If you have been baptized and confirmed, that means that you have said something similar on your confirmation day. How is living out your “yes” to baptism going?

In reality, every day, actually every moment, and in every decision we either say yes or no to God.

On the cross, Jesus said “Yes!” to you. Jesus said, “I love you. I forgive you.” In creation of you, God said, “You are mine.” At your baptism, God said, “I love you, and I give you my Holy Spirit to walk with you, in you, and over you, every day.”

And then our words and actions each day become our “Yes” or “No” to God “Yes!” to us.

Here is a wonderful little prayer that you could use to start your day. But I would caution, only use this prayer if you want to say “Yes” to God this day.

“Lord, Jesus Christ, take me away from myself anew this day. Use me as you will, where you will, with whom you will. For I would belong to you and not to myself. Amen”

When you were confirmed, this is what you promised to do. You said the following:

·         I will find time to hang out with other people who will encourage me in my life of following Jesus.

·         I will regularly gather with other followers of Jesus to listen to Jesus’ words in the Bible and share Holy Communion.

·         I daily try to live out Jesus command to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

·         I will try to serve others like Jesus did.

·         I will try in my words and actions each day to make this world a better place for everyone.

These things describe a disciple, one who seeks to follow Jesus.

Now, I know that I fall short every day. Jesus knows that, he went to the cross to solve that problem. But because of God’s huge big “Yes!” to me and to you, I will try to say “Yes” to God today to the best of my ability.

God this day makes an invitation to you. What will your answer be? 

Bible verse for May.

 “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis


April 2016

The need for forgiveness

Imagine a world where there was no forgiveness. In response to any wrong, there would always be a punishment or a retaliation.

In the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, when the Jews of Anatevka are being forced to leave the village, one of the villagers says they need to fight back, quoting from the Old Testament, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Tevye replies, “What would be the good of that? The whole world would be blind and toothless.”

In the famous feud of the Hatfields and the McCoys, there was never an end to the violence. There was only revenge.

One of the most amazing acts of forgiveness that I am aware of is that of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Mandela was imprisoned by the white South African government for 28 years of his life for opposing apartheid. Apartheid was the system of extreme racial discrimination. Finally in 1990 at the age of 72, Mandela was released. All those years he had been separated from his family and friends and had been humiliated in prison. Upon his release, Mandela said, we have to forgive. We cannot take revenge for all the wrongs that have been done to us. And Mandela worked with the white government to end apartheid. Amazingly in 1994 he was elected president of the country and served for five years. Mandela will long be remembered for his refusal to take revenge and his willingness to forgive those who had committed unspeakable wrongs against him and many others.

We have all committed wrongs against others. You can’t live in a family without stepping on each other’s toes. You can’t work in an office or a business or in any kind of work situation without in some way doing wrong to your coworkers, often unintentionally. It is the nature of who we are. Try as we might we will all fall short. As the Bible says, in Romans, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Therefore we all need forgiveness.

God, being totally aware of this, gave us a remedy in his son Jesus, the forgiveness for all our sin. Jesus gave his life for this purpose as we hear in the words of Holy Communion, “…given for you for the forgiveness of sin.” “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus tells his followers. That includes forgiveness.

The purpose of this forgiveness is to allow us to start afresh. Imagine in South Africa, if the black people had insisted on punishment and revenge on all the white people of the country who had wronged them. The bloodshed would have never stopped. A new start for the country would never have been possible. Violence and bloodshed would have gone on indefinitely in South Africa as it does today between Jew and Arab in the middle east. The only possibility of peace in that place will be when someone steps forward and says, “We are willing to forgive.”

Jesus has forgiven us so that we can forgive others; so that relationships can begin afresh. When we sin against God, God always responds with forgiveness. Jesus asks the same of his followers; when we are wronged that we can forgive and try again. That doesn’t mean you have to simply allow others to hurt and demean and take advantage of you. Mandela was in prison because he had resisted the violence against his people. But when he had the opportunity for revenge, when he was in the position of power, he instead forgave. Forgiveness is the way of God.

Forgiveness needs to be the center of our life together as God’s people, the church. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

It is how Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” We all need forgiveness. Forgiveness is the way of God.

Bible verse for April.

Colossians 3:13 See above.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis

March 2016

The need for forgiveness

Imagine a world where there was no forgiveness. In response to any wrong, there would always be a punishment or a push back.

In the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, when the Jews of Anatevka are being forced to leave the village, one of the villagers says they need to fight back, quoting from the Old Testament, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Tevye replies, “What would be the good of that? The whole world would be blind and toothless.”

In the famous feud of the Hatfields and the McCoys, there was never an end to the violence. There was only revenge.

One of the most amazing acts of forgiveness that I am aware of is that of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Mandela was imprisoned by the white South African government for 28 years of his life for opposing apartheid. Apartheid was the system of extreme racial discrimination. Finally in 1990 at the age of 72, Mandela was released. All those years he had been separated from his family and friends and had been humiliated in prison. Upon his release, Mandela said, we have to forgive. We cannot take revenge for all the wrongs that have been done to us. And Mandela worked with the white government to end apartheid. Amazingly in 1994 he was elected president of the country and served for five years. Mandela will long be remembered for his refusal to take revenge and his willingness to forgive those who had committed unspeakable wrongs against him and many others.

We have all committed wrongs against others. You can’t live in a family without stepping on each other’s toes. You can’t work in an office or a business or in any kind of work situation without in some way doing wrong to your coworkers, often unintentionally. It is the nature of who we are. Try as we might we will all fall short. As the Bible says, in Romans, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Therefore we all need forgiveness.

God, being totally aware of this, gave us a remedy in his son Jesus, the forgiveness for all our sin. Jesus gave his life for this purpose as we hear in the words of Holy Communion, “…given for you for the forgiveness of sin.” “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus tells his followers. That includes forgiveness.

The purpose of this forgiveness is to allow us to start afresh. Imagine in South Africa, if the black people had insisted on punishment and revenge on all the white people of the country who had wronged them. The bloodshed would have never stopped. A new start for the country would never have been possible. Violence and bloodshed would have gone on indefinitely in South Africa as it does today between Jew and Arab in the middle east. The only possibility of peace in that place will be when someone steps forward and says, “We are willing to forgive.”

Jesus has forgiven us so that we can forgive others; so that relationships can begin afresh. When we sin against God, God always responds with forgiveness. Jesus asks the same of his followers; when we are wronged that we can forgive and try again. That doesn’t mean you have to simply allow others to hurt and demean and take advantage of you. Mandela was in prison because he had resisted the violence against his people. But when he had the opportunity for revenge, he instead forgave. Forgiveness is the way of God.

Forgiveness needs to be the center of our life together as God’s people, the church. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

It is how Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” We all need forgiveness. Forgiveness is the way of God.

 Memorization verse for March.

Colossians 3:13 See above. 

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis

February 2016

The gift of Lent

What is Lent and why do we celebrate Lent?

The central event of the Christian faith is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our faith revolves around these historical events. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians that without the resurrection, our faith is in vain. In other words, without the reality of the death and the resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is virtually meaningless.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the focus of the church year. The forty days of Lent prepare for it. The fifty days of Easter are the celebration of it.

It is interesting that during Lent, the Sundays during this time are not included in the reckoning. Sundays are always considered a little Easter. So in a way we celebrate Easter once a week on every Sunday.

Lent originated as a time of special preparation for those who would be receiving Holy Baptism on Easter morning. At the Sunrise service on Easter morning after a long night of prayer and scripture reading, those desiring to become Christians would be baptized as the sun rose in the east. In this way they would be greeted by the Son of God.

In some parts of the church, those preparing to receive baptism would fast during the 40 days before Easter and would receive intense catechetical instruction. The importance of the number forty comes from Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, Moses’ 40 days on the mountain while receiving the Ten Commandments, and also the 40 years of wandering of God’s people in the wilderness in the books of Exodus and Numbers.

Later the 40 days of Lent became a time of preparation for all Christians for Easter. As early as 300 AD ashes are mentioned as a sign of repentance on Ash Wednesday.

What is the purpose of the ashes used on Ash Wednesday?

Ashes are a very rich symbol rooted in ancient customs and practices. In the Bible, ashes have been connected to judgment and God’s condemnation of sin – Genesis 3:19; frailty, our total dependence upon God for life – Psalm 90:3, 104:29, Ecclesiastes 3:20, 12:7; humiliation – Genesis 18:27, Esther 4:1, Jonah 3:6, 2 Samuel 13:19, Daniel 9:3; and repentance – Job 2:8, 42:6, Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13. We are reminded forcefully in the words of the committal, which are in the burial service, “…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” For one day these words will be said over us.

Also, ashes are a symbol of cleansing and renewal. They were once used as a cleansing agent in place of soap, and on Ash Wednesday the ashes have been seen as a substitute for water as a sign of baptism. Water both stifles and refreshes, drowns and makes alive; so ashes also tell of both death and renewal. A further example of death and renewal shown by ashes is the ancient custom of burning the fields in the spring to destroy the old and to prepare for the new

Verses for Lent, Mark 10:33, 34, 42-44.

In the following verses, Jesus explains to the disciples both what is going to happen and what it all means.

33“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

42“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis

January 2016

Love came down

Pastor Martha Grace Reese tells the following true story.

Mary, her husband and two children moved to Oak Bluff. Mary is a beautician. Have you ever had your hair cut? You know how hairdressers tend to be not so shy? They ask you about your life. You get to hear about their new puppy and what the kids are doing. It’s great to get your hair done. You hear the next installment. You get to talk about your life. You only pay for the shampoo and cut, not for the therapy. Someone who cares is listening!

About a year after Mary and her family moved, her husband left her. Her clients were wonderful. One of them brought her a couple of bags of groceries. Another gave her some of her kids’ outgrown clothes. One called out over the blow-dryer, “Why don’t you let me take care of the kids when you go to the lawyer’s office tomorrow?” Mary talked. People listened. They were wonderful.

The kids were with their dad one weekend. Mary walked around her neighborhood on the verge of tears. She passed a church on the corner and thought, “I ought to try to go to church. I liked it that year I was 12 and went with Brittany’s family. Maybe that would help.”

She got up at eight the next morning. Squadrons of butterflies did double flips and twists in her stomach as she got closer and closer to THE CHURCH.  It was huge. It was scary. She stopped at the curb.

A couple of teenagers ran out the front doors and came up to talk with her. “Hey! How are you? Come on in! Have you been here before? Wait! You’re Tom’s mom, aren’t you? We’re really glad you’re here!!” They swooped her up to a couple of people at the front door. Those people gave her a bulletin, showed her the coat rack, took her in and introduced her to Sue, who was sitting halfway down the aisle on the left.

Sue was great. The service was powerful. Mary heard a terrific sermon and music she liked. There wasn’t too much stuff that made her feel as if she didn’t know what was going on. “Anyway, Sue was there, explaining.) Mary loved it.

Halfway through the service, she spotted the client who had offered to watch her kids during the lawyer’s appointment on Thursday. Three minutes later, she saw the woman who had brought her groceries and the family that had given her their kids’ outgrown clothes. Five of her clients were in the sanctuary. The sixth one always went to the 11 o’clock service. How many of them had been wonderful to her? All six. How many of them had shown beautiful Christian love to her? All six. How many of them had invited her to church? None. How many of them had mentioned that they were Christians? None.

Love had come down to Mary. And these wonderful Christians had forgot to tell Mary that the love all came from God.

Learning new names

Last month I encouraged you adults to learn a new name or two of a young person in the congregation and to use it. How did it go? I hope you will keep using those new names and this month add some more.

The confirmation class has been doing some new things too. One of their assignments during December was to find a time with an adult in the congregation and carry on a caring conversation. I gave them a sheet with lots of possible questions. They said it was a little scary at first, but that it was interesting and fun to get to know a little more about an adult that was not a member of their family.

Keep learning names and I invite you to ponder the true story above and the ways you take part in letting God’s love come down! Thank you for being God’s church!

 Hymn verse for January.

      Love has come and never will leave us! Love is life everlasting and free. Love is Jesus within and amoung us. Love is the peace our hearts are seeking. Love is the gift of Christmas.                                                                                Love has come by Ken Bible #292 verse 3

 A belated Merry Christmas and God filled New Year to you all!

 Pastor Dennis 

 December 2015

Christmas and Easter people live in hope, not fear or despair

World headlines on any given day are full of violence. It is easy to live our days in fear and despair thinking the world is a dark place. It is true; the world is often a dark place because of sin; the sin of our own doing and the sin of others.

However, we are Christmas and Easter people. At Christmas, we proclaim Jesus and his coming to this earth to be “the light of world.” The light no darkness can overcome. At Easter we proclaim Jesus to have died for the sin of the whole world, including our own and to have risen from the dead. Jesus is raised from the dead and is bringing his kingdom of love, grace, peace, forgiveness, joy, hope, etc. to this world. Each day Jesus lives and seeks to live in you and me, in our actions and in our words, to make this world a new creation, full of God’s grace, truth, and light.

In the face of the news each day, we are tempted to believe that what I do and what I believe means little if anything. That is a lie of the evil one, who uses the daily news to cause us to fear and to despair. (See the Bible verse for December.)

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The light no darkness can overcome. How do we go about living in His light?

Jesus, through the example of his life, shows us the way and the words of the hymn, Build us up, Lord, #670 gives us more clues. Here is the first verse. 

      Build us up, Lord, build us up;

set in us a strong foundation.

Lead us to do your holy will;

form and shape your new creation.

Build us up, Lord, build us up;

as we guide and teach each other,

help us to share your love with the world:

ev'ry sister, ev'ry brother. 

Build us up, Lord, as we guide and teach each other. Set in us a strong foundation. Living as Christmas and Easter people is a community project. We can’t follow Jesus in isolation. We need each other, young and old.

There is no other organization that gathers people of all ages and all walks of life just like the church. When we gather for Worship, Sunday School and fellowship, ages range from newborn to people in their nineties.

We especially want our young people to have a strong foundation of faith. But not only our young people. I believe our prayer for each and every one of us is a strong foundation of faith.

To have a strong foundation of faith, young people need a network of faithful and caring adults numbering at least five, preferably more, to demonstrate what faith looks like. These adults need to express care and interest, encourage and challenge, show support, and make a point to include young people in all aspects of the life of the community. We need an openness toward sharing our faith with each other.

In the coming month, I encourage you to learn the name of at least one young person in the congregation and then when you see them greet them by name. Learning names is a first step in expanding our circle of contacts.

What does this have to do with being Christmas and Easter people? Everything! Because a strong foundation of faith is based on relationships; relationship with God and with each other.

Build us up, Lord! 

Bible verses for December.

      “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”   1 Corinthians 15:58, New Living Translation 

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis 


October  2015

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor)

What’s new?   

Last month I wrote about “The times, they are a changin’.” That was not news to any of you. This time I will start by talking about some of the new things that are happening with youth and family ministries.

The biggest change that is new this year is to welcome Kelsey Degerman to Faith and Grace. If you haven’t heard yet, we are sharing Kelsey half time with Luther Crest Bible Camp as our Ministry associate. Kelsey will spend 22 ½ hours a week with us, and the same with Luther Crest. Her normal days with us will be Wednesday and Sunday. Wednesday nights there will be programing for 4th – 9th grade youth. Confirmation, grades 8 and 9 and parents, will meet with me. Kelsey will lead 4th – 7th with the help of some parents.

For confirmation this year, the focus is “The Bible’s Big Story.” We will explore the major themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It will be kind of like a jet plane over view of the land scape of God’s word. Also we will focus on the importance of relationships in our lives and what it means to be a good Samaritan to each other. Relationships include our relationship with God, with each other as the church, and with the world.

4th-7th grades will meet on Wednesdays three times a month with a variety of activities including and rotating between service nights, study nights, and fun nights. Wednesday night schedule will sometimes include food at 6:00 followed by the evenings activity from 6:30 until 7:30 PM. The Wednesday night program for 4th – 7th grades needs a name. If you have any ideas, please submit them to Kelsey! In addition to Sunday morning Sunday School 4th and 5th grades are also invited to take part in both the Wednesday evening activities.

For the confirmation group’s first meeting I asked them three questions. 

1.     What do you believe to be the purpose of confirmation classes?

2.     What do you think are some of the reasons that most people do not attend worship on any given Sunday?

3.     What do you believe to be the next step you need to take in growing or deepening your relationship to God?

Their answers were interesting and thought provoking, and there will be time spent in the coming weeks talking over these questions. How would you answer these questions? And for those of you reading this article, I would add two more questions. 

4.     What do you believe to be the purpose of the church?

5.     What do you believe to be the next step you need to take in improving your relationships with other people?

I would be interested in your answers to those questions and I would share them anonymously with the confirmation group. If you would like to share your responses with me, please write them and drop them off at church or email them to me at dennisleepreston@gmail.com.

Thank you for being the church! See verse below!

Bible verses for October.

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

In Christ’s service,   Pastor Dennis

 

September  2015

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for  “Notes from the Pastor)

“The times they are a changing”

The pace of change in our world is amazing. Just think back a few years, and all that has changed. Change is naturally a part of life, but I think what takes us by surprise today is the pace of change.

Because of all the change going on in our lives, it makes it harder to know how to be the church today. Perhaps we would like to go back to the way things were 50 years ago, but maybe things were not perfect then either. 

Just doing things as we always have as church, does not seem to work today if you look at the numbers. The decline in church participation is happening all across the church in almost all denominations and all across the country. We can wring our hands in despair or we can embrace today as presenting an opportunity to explore new ways of being the church in this ever-changing fast-paced world. What do we have to lose? One thing I know is that no one has the answers. No one has it figured out. A question to explore is, "What is God doing in our communities and how do we join in?"

Our greatest asset as the church is you. Yes, you! And to think about that, I would encourage you to take your Bible and read 1 Corinthians 12-14. These chapters speak of the church as the body of Christ and how each person is a member of Christ’s body. Each one of us is gifted in unique ways. By putting our gifts together. Amazing things happen.

Be sure to notice what Paul talks about in chapter 13, the center of his discussion of spiritual gifts. He says that greatest gift any of us possess is love. The ability to be loved and to love others. Faith, hope, love, and the greatest of these is love.

The love of God expressed through the sharing of our personal gifts is the greatest thing we can give ourselves, each other and the world.

The times, they are a changin’.

Be sure to notice that worship times will be changing periodically throughout the year. Both congregations have members who prefer worship at either 9:00 or 10:30. So to give opportunity to both groups, worship times will change according to the schedule adopted by the councils in August.

The times, they are a changin’.

At our joint council meetings this past year, and as we talk about the changes facing us, we have talked about youth and family ministry as a major priority. In trying to give legs to that priority and encouraging our many wonderful leaders in children’s and youth ministries, the councils have chosen to employ a ministry associate in partnership with Luther Crest Bible Camp. Our ministry associate’s name is Kelsey Degerman from Moorhead. Her ministry among us is not yet totally formulated, but will include involvement and leadership in a monthly Wednesday night program for 4th – 7th grade, assisting me at times with confirmation, involvement in Sunday School and worship, and other ministries not yet identified.

But adding Kelsey Degerman as our ministry associate in partnership with Luther Crest does not take care of youth and family ministry in our changing world. Ministry involves all of us in all of our daily interactions as God's people. (See 1 Corinthians 12-14.)

Tom Schwolert as our coach from Vibrant Faith has been and continues to be very helpful to me in finding our way through our working together and addressing the question of how to be the church in our changing world.

Sunday November 15 Tom Schwolert will be with us for the day. In the morning, he will preach at both Faith and Grace. In the afternoon, there will a workshop around the questions of how do we grow and encourage a Vibrant Faith in ourselves and the people around us. 

Another opportunity is the Vibrant Faith for all Ages and Life Stages training event in Wadena on September 19th. I believe all who attend will find the day to be inspiring and helpful. More information about this training event is available at church or from church council members.

The times, they are a changin’. The following is a great prayer as we continue to explore our future together.

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Bible verses for September.

1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis



August 2015

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for  “Notes from the Pastor)

New ventures together

In January we started an experiment. What would it look like for East and West Moe, Faith and Grace to work together in ministry and share their pastors? It has been a great experiment and we have enjoyed working together. We have worked together for Lenten services, we have exchanged pulpits once a month, among other things. Sarah Evenson’s gifts for ministry have been appreciated in many ways. Faith has welcomed me as pastor. We have learned things and also done some discerning.

At the last Faith and Grace joint council meeting, for a variety of reasons it was decided to end the contract with East and West Moe effective August 31st. Faith and Grace leave the door wide open if, in the future, East and West Moe would like to further discuss partnering. We are very thankful for the ministry we have shared these past months with Sarah Evenson and East and West Moe Lutheran Churches.

Going forward, the Faith and Grace councils have agree to work together as a two point parish for the coming year, sharing my pastoral services, and also pursuing the possibility of additional staffing for children and family ministries.

Please pray for your leaders as plans are being made for the coming school year. Worship times, Sunday School times, confirmation, youth ministry, etc. all need to be negotiated. If you have any ideas and/or concerns, please talk to one of your church council members.

It will be exciting to see how things progress in the coming months. The goal is to strengthen the ministries of each congregation by sharing our strengths.

The following is a great prayer as we explore our future together.

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

For more information on this please read the Church Council Minutes 

AMEXTRA trip

On August 26th, four people from Faith and four from Grace, and your pastor will be traveling to southern Mexico for a seven day Seeds of Transformation immersion trip to witness how Amextra is transforming lives in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

We will spend a week exploring Amextra projects, cultural heritage sites and the natural wonders of the area. We will be meeting with community leaders and Amextra staff to discuss the history of the region and the holistic approach to alleviating poverty advocated by Amextra. We will also be participating in some of the work projects. Our group will fly in and out of the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. We will divide our time between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque.

Seeds of Transformation strives to provide opportunities to experience Christ’s community in a different social, political, and economic context, strengthening our faith in a living God and deepen commitment to building Christ’s kingdom of peace and justice.

 AMEXTRA was created 30 years ago by Mexican Christians and has a history of partnership with our Global Mission of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

Traveling from Faith are Larry C, Sharon D and Rollie and Elaine K; from Grace are Tom H, Michelle O, Leila P, and Tom T.

We ask for your prayers as we travel and look forward to sharing what we have experienced and learned when we return.

Bible verse for August.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

In Christ’s service, Pastor Dennis 

June 2015

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor)

What does this mean?

Have you ever heard this question before? If you are at all familiar with the Small Catechism written by Dr. Martin Luther, you know that this is his favorite question all through the catechism. Actually, in German, the question is “Vas ist das?” “What is this?”

One professor said that at the time Martin Luther was writing the Small Catechism, Luther’s son, Hans, was probably around three years old. What is one of the favorite questions of a three-year-old?

Thursday evening, May 21, council members from East and West Moe, Faith and Grace met together and agreed to continue our working together for another year. The question we will continue working on together as congregations and pastors all through the coming year is, “What does this mean? What is this?”

This leads to more questions. What can we do together that we can’t do alone that strengthens God’s church and reaches out to people in the community? What are the strengths that each congregation and each pastor brings to this shared ministry? How will we continue to support and encourage each other?

What continuing adjustments do we need to be making that will help this arrangement to work well? How willing are we to try different ideas, to take risks, and to not fear that some of our ideas might not work.

The answers to these questions will be lived out between us through the coming year. The hope is that in seeking ways to work together and to encourage and support one another, God’s ministry in our communities will be strengthened.

Task number one, and in the middle and in the end is, “Pray.” Pray for our communities. Pray for our congregations. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our pastors. And most importantly, pray for God’s mighty Spirit to guide, direct, and empower our ministries together.

Task number two is to recognize and celebrate the variety of gifts God gives through each and every person and congregation. Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, (See below “Bible verse for June”). It is through sharing our various personal and congregational gifts with one another and beyond, that God’s work happens in the world. “God’s work, our hands.”

Thank you for your partnership in ministry. Together we will work on the questions!

Synod Hunger Ride – June 19

June 16-23 six people from the Northwestern Minnesota Synod will be riding bicycle from community to community to foster greater awareness of world hunger both locally and around the globe. June 19th they are riding from Fergus Falls to Alexandria and will be stopping at Grace for lunch at 12:30 PM. If you are available, you are invited to bring a dish to pass and join in a meal at Grace to welcome the six riders. They will offer a short program to tell about their experiences and share information they have been learning.

Those who like to bicycle would be welcome to bring your bike to Grace and either ride out to meet the group before they arrive in Brandon or accompany them for a while on their way to Alexandria. Another idea is for folks in Evansville to meet them at the trail and accompany the group to Brandon.

That evening in Alexandria at 5:00 PM there will be an event by the Hunger Ride group at the First Congregational UCC, 221 7th Ave. W. called “Feeding Souls.” There will be a meal at 5:00 PM and program at 5:30. You are invited to come and learn about hunger in our own communities and around the world and about what things are being done in God’s name to address these issues.

Bible verses for June.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Philippians 4:4-7

In Christ’s service, Pastor Dennis 


May 2015

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor)

The gift of Seed and Soil

Growing up on the farm, I enjoyed all the seasons. I enjoyed the summer farm work of haying. I drove the mower and the rake. I drove the baler while my father stacked the bales on the wagon following behind. I enjoyed riding horseback with cousins and friends.

In the fall I enjoyed the corn harvest, hauling the loads of corn home to put in the silo or the corncribs. In the winter I enjoyed playing in the snow and caring for the livestock by feeding them and cleaning their pens.

I liked all the seasons, but perhaps my favorite time was spring calving. I would ride horseback each morning and evening when I was in high school to check the beef cows that were calving and to tag the newborn calves. The beauty of spring, new life and the freshness of the air were all a delight to the eyes and the senses. It is in the spring that I have missed farming the most.

“We Plow the Fields and Scatter” is hymn number 681 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

The first verse goes like this:
“We plow the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain.
Refrain: All good gifts around us
Are sent from heav’n above.
Then thank the Lord, oh, thank the Lord
For all his love.              
By Mattheus Claudius

This hymn acknowledges that we can cultivate and plant, but we can’t make the seed grow and mature. We can’t create a baby calf or a new born colt. All good gifts around us are sent by God. Everything in our life hinges on God’s provision. For those of us who no longer plant and harvest or raise livestock, it is important for us to continue to remember our dependence on the earth for sustaining our lives with food, water, air and all we enjoy and depend on.

It is always good to give thanks and acknowledge our complete dependence on God for everything in this life. May we thank God for all His goodness and all his love. We ask God to grant another season of growth and abundance, in order that we may harvest and live.

So thank the Lord for all His love!

Thank you for your partnership in ministry

Paul’s words in Philippians 1 are also mine:

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

I pray for you every day, not by name, for there are too many of you, but as a congregation and as partners in the ministry of Jesus Christ.

I thank God for you, just as Paul thanked God for the Christians in Philippi. And I pray that God would protect us from the evil one, the principalities and powers and our own brokenness within. I pray that God would draw us ever deeper into the realm of his love.

Thank you for your partnership in ministry.

Bible verses for May.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis 


April 2015

Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor)

Is God a habit with you?

We are creatures of habit, aren’t we? Think about it with me a little bit. No matter what we do, we tend to do it over and over again. We tend to talk with the same people. We tend to eat the same foods. If we have the habit of exercise, we tend to do that. If we have the habit of sitting and watching TV, video games, web-surfing, or chatting online, we tend to do that. Maybe we are in the habit of staying up late or getting up early. Whatever we do, we tend to form habits.

We can like our habits or we can dislike our habits. Some of our habits can be good for us and for other people. Some of our habits can be harmful to us or to others. We tend to get into routines and sometimes, ruts.

This is what makes change so difficult. We can get in the habit of complaining. We can get in the habit of always thinking negatively about ourselves or others or both. We can get in the habit of behavior that is extremely risky or harmful. We can even become captive to addictions. To change our usual ways of behaving is extremely difficult.

People tend to either have the habit of prayer or not. For some people, God is part of their entire day. They talk with God when they get up. They talk to God throughout the day. And perhaps they even end the day asking God forgiveness for the mistakes of the day and thanking God for the goodness of the day.

Other people don’t have the habit of God during the day. They don’t give God a thought as they rise. They don’t consult God or talk with God about the events of the day, and they don’t ask God for forgiveness for the mistakes of the day or thank God for the goodness of the day. They perhaps even would like to talk with God during the day, but it just doesn’t cross their mind. God has not become a habit for them.

Making God a habit in your day is not an easy task. Change is very difficult. Psychologists say that it takes at least three weeks of daily repetition to learn a new task or habit. Then is takes another three weeks of repetition until the new behavior becomes a part of you, or a true habit. The reason why many people are not successful in making changes that they desire for their life is that they can’t make it through that six week barrier. It is really difficult to stick with a new way of behaving daily for six weeks in a row. It is so easy to slip back into the more comfortable and familiar old way of behaving.

Another part of the battle that we often fail to realize is that if the new behavior is God pleasing, Satan is going to do everything possible to prevent us from making the change. Satan wants us to keep serving him by serving ourselves. Satan is very happy when we are comfortable and satisfied with our personal lives if we keep our focus on ourselves.

Satan does not want us to make God a habit.

When God raised Jesus from the dead on that Easter morning long ago, God began a process of change in our world. Through Jesus, God wants to make each one of us into a new person for whom God is a habit. Jesus died and rose again, not only so we could go to heaven when we die, but even more importantly so that he could live in each one of us day by day. God wants to be a habit for us. God wants us to live lives that please him. God wants his life and love to be daily and real in each and every one of us.

To make the resurrection real in our lives, one place to start is to make God a habit, to daily have a meaningful time with God. There are an unlimited number of resources to help one do this. There are daily devotionals available at church. A devotional that is very personal and is written as though Jesus is speaking directly to you is called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It is available at the Mustard Seed, or through Amazon, or as an app on a smart phone.

May God be our habit, but not taken for granted.

 

Bible verse for April.

“But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’” Mark 16:5-6

 

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis


Noter fra Presten (Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor)

Greetings from one of your pastors for the coming months. This is my first time to write to you in the Seeds of Faith. I look forward to getting acquainting and serving as your pastor. Please be patient with me as I try to learn about your congregation and attempt to learn your names. I hope I have permission to keep asking until I learn them!


Why does Pastor Dennis call his column, “Noter fra Presten?”

Years ago I was playing around with some ideas for names for my column in the newsletter each month and decided on the one above. My last name sounds very much like the Norwegian word for “the pastor,” which is “presten.” (For all you Swedes at Faith, it believe it is similar in Swedish.)

“Prest” means “pastor or priest” and the “en” on the end means “the.”


For a year, from June of 1994 through June of 1995, I served in Norway as an exchange pastor. My name sounds funny in Norway, because to address me as “Prest Preston,” (pastor Preston), sounds to a Norwegian like one is saying “pastor, the pastor.” So, Noter = notes, fra = from, and Presten = the Pastor. So now you know why Pastor Dennis calls his column, “Noter fra Presten”!


We are the body of Christ

These words come from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul specifically addresses this letter to both the church in Corinth and to all who call on Jesus as Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:2. So Paul wrote this letter to you and to me and to all Christians of every time and place. It is best known for the “love” chapter, 13:1-13.

One of the themes in 1 Corinthians is the unity of the Christian church. The church in Corinth was very divided. Paul writes that what unifies the church is Jesus Christ; his crucifixion and resurrection.

I find the images in chapter 3 to be bold and exciting. The church is described as a field in need of planting and watering, 3:5-9. Then he describes the church as a building with Jesus Christ as the foundation, 3:10-15. Then he names the building as God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us, the church, God’s temple, 3:16-17. This is a breath taking thought; God’s Spirit dwells in us.

Chapters 12 and 14 speak about spiritual gifts. Sandwiched between these two chapters is the love chapter, 13. You have probably most often heard this chapter read at weddings. However, notice that the original intent for this chapter was for unity in the church, and especially in how we use our gifts. When one is gifted, it is easy to lord it over others or to compare gifts, thinking that some gifts are more important than other gifts. Paul says no. May love temper all things, especially as we work together sharing the unique gifts each of us individually bring with us. In chapter 12, Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ. Together we are Christ’s presence in the world. As parts of the body work in unison and harmony, we of the church are to work together in unison and harmony. As parts of the body, we need each other and we are to care for one another. Paul writes, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 12:26-27.

With the departure of Pastor Zachary Johnson, there has opened up an opportunity for Faith, East and West Moe, and Grace to explore what working together could look like. Interim pastors are in short supply. So I hope this arrangement will be helpful for you at Faith in the short term. In addition, this is an opportunity to explore what some of the advantages for the future our cooperation could entail without having to make a formal long-term commitment at this time.

First Corinthians is a great letter from the Bible to keep before us as we work together as Christ’s body, the church, and especially in the coming months as we experiment with cooperating and working together.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Dennis Preston