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 FROM 2015 & 2016 CAN BE FOUND LINKED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS WEBPAGE. 


NOTER FRA PRESTEN

Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

August 2017

The gift of worship: Connecting with God

When do you feel close to God, if at all? What are you doing? What draws you to God?

Our answers to that question will be as diverse as all of us are different from each other.

Jesus promised to be with us always. (see Matthew 28:20.) You don’t have to do anything special or go somewhere special. Come to me, get away with me. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28.

How do you get away with Jesus? There are unlimited ways to do that.

Maybe you feel close to God when you see beauty, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or to look across a lake, or the beauty of a new born child.

Maybe you feel close to God when you have time to think and reflect on your life and things going on around you.

Maybe you feel close to God while you figure out what is true and right.

Maybe you feel close to God while you read the Bible or a devotional and you feel like God is speaking right to you.

Maybe you feel close to God while you share your experiences of God’s love and grace with another person and try to encourage them in their life with God.

Maybe you feel close to God while helping someone.

Maybe you feel close to God while praising God in music.

Maybe you feel close to God when you are quiet and still.

Maybe you feel close to God while you participate in holy communion or are present during a baptism or parts of the worship service draw you closer to God. Jesus said, Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

I believe worship, in addition to having respect and reverence for God, means to get away with God both while gathering with other Christians and in the variety of activities in daily life. Jesus says, come to me and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Thank you for the continuing education

The last two weeks of June, Leila and I had the privilege of attending Luther Academy of the Rockies which gathers at Meeker Park Lodge just 13 miles south of Estes Park, Colorado. The lodge is located at 8,600 feet above sea level with Meeker Mountain looming at almost 14,000 feet just to the west.

The academy is a great 10 days of study mixed with soaking in the beauty of the Rockies.

There were three speakers with lectures each morning. The topics were:

1. Faith as the Heartbeat of Salvation: Faith is our participation in the life of God.

2. Comparative religions and prayer: Martin Luther maintained that our entire life is prayer.

3. Faith and Science: Silence about science drives many children from the church.

The speakers were excellent. Each morning was a feast for the soul with lively learning and discussion. If you are interested, stop by the office and ask for a summary. Let me know you are coming.

The afternoons were free for hiking and exploring the beauty of the mountains. Leila and I did several hikes. There were rushing streams, all kinds of colorful flowers, snow to cross in the higher elevations, wildlife to photograph, and mountain vistas to enjoy.

The beauty of the academy is renewal of the whole person physically, mentally and spiritually through the splendor of creation, physical exertion, community, and study. Thank you for giving your pastor this gift. This experience renews my spirit for continuing service among God’s people.

Memory Verse for August.     Matthew 11:28-30

Sincerely,

Pastor Dennis

 

NOTER FRA PRESTEN

Norwegian for “Notes from the Pastor”

June 2017 

THE GIFT AND TEST OF CHANGE

You have probably noticed that one of the constants in life is change.

Examples: The weather. No two days are exactly alike. Sunrise and sunset changes every day. The temperature outside is either going up or down. The clouds. The light. The seasons. Where we lived on the coast in Norway, billowy rain or snow clouds would come in off the sea. Many days, one moment it would be lightly raining or snowing. Ten minutes later the sun would be out. 15 minutes later it would be raining or snowing again. One of the sayings about the local weather was, “It comes and it goes.”

Our bodies. Every day we grow older. As a child we grow in size. As an adult we notice other changes in our bodies and memory as we age.

Our communities change. People move in. Others move out.

We change our minds and our opinions. We change the oil or vehicles. We change jobs.

The earth is always changing, however so slowly. The continents move. The mountains are either rising or eroding away.

Sometimes change is fast or even violent. Often change is slow and relentless.

I think you get my point. One thing you can count on is that things are not going to stay the same no matter how much we want them to. We can never go back or recreate the good old days. They are gone.

In the midst of difficult or controversial changes, it is good to remember how life and history work. I don’t think any of us would like to go back to the days before electricity, or cars, trucks and tractors, before telephone, TV, computers, and even mobile phones. All those things have created tremendous change in our lives and communities.

Think about the course of your own personal life. All the changes from childhood, education, jobs, relationship, family, and perhaps even retirement. Your life has had its ups and downs. Sometimes you have probably felt like for every step forward there was another step backwards. Or maybe two forward and one back, or several steps forward and then a bunch of steps back.

That is how life works in families, communities and nations. Think of the progress in women’s rights and race relationships. 150 years ago women could not vote and the civil war to free the slaves was only two years ago. But the progress has not always been smooth. Women still do not always receive equal pay for equal work. Race relationships continue to be difficult, although we have come a long way.

Change often is difficult, frustrating, and exciting and stimulating all at the same time.

When Jesus taught, he always used examples from daily life and growing things. Growth always means change. Becoming a follower of Jesus means change. To live life according to Jesus’ command to: “Love one another as I have loved you.” will always challenge us to change, to seek to grow to be more and more like Jesus; to try to figure out what is the loving thing to do in this situation.

In the midst of change, it can be easy to get distracted by what upsets us about the change, rather than trying to grasp where is God in all of this. Where is God leading us. It is natural for us at times to feel anxiety and often grief in the midst of major changes in our lives. It is important to recognize these feelings and name them. That helps in coping with the changes that are constantly happening in our lives.

Sometimes we will disagree about a proposed change, like building a new school and where to build it. Of course we will not agree as to the best course of action. In the midst of our disagreements about the proposed change, it is important to listen carefully to each other rather than seeking to put down or even vilify the other point of view and those who hold it. I pray for our communities as the discussions around school continue. May we listen well and treat one another with profound respect. We need each other.

I announced a couple weeks ago that I would be retiring come March 1, 2018. I will turn 65 that month. To state the obvious, that announcement means change of pastors for Faith and for Grace.

We have already made the change where Faith and Grace are sharing a pastor. From my point of view, the two congregations are working well together and compliment each other. One of the tasks now for the council will be to consider what that relationship will look like as the congregations move into the process of calling a new pastor.

Change. It is the one constant in our lives. But always greater and deeper in our lives than change is the love and grace of God. As Jesus promised, I am with you always, even in the midst of change.

Bible verses for June

Matthew 28:16-20

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Dennis

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