You Belong

Nearly every single year – in this first Sunday of Epiphany – we hear the story of the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:1-17). As the chapter begins, people are coming from miles around to hear John the Baptist preach.  Hearts are being moved and these listeners begin to confess their sins and get into the water to be baptized by John. Symbolically, their sins are washing away like the dust and dirt of the Judean wilderness. 

As John is baptizing in the River Jordan, he lifts his head and there is Jesus asking to be baptized. "What a minute." John says, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”  For John – baptism meant one thing and one thing only – a symbolic gesture, marking confession and forgiveness. But here comes Jesus – asking to be baptized – and he had nothing to confess.  He is the only one who has ever lived who was sinless and John knew it. 

According to the Bible, baptism has more than one meaning. Baptism also marks the public proclamation that we are the children of God. Baptism communicates the message - "You belong." This message is all the more important in a world that points its finger to any number of people and says, "You do NOT belong." 

What does it mean in your life to know that in your baptism God tells you, 'You belong'?

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35



Happy Epiphany

The word 'epiphany' literally means “to shine a light from above." An epiphany is a sudden comprehension of something that wasn’t clear before, a discovery of that lost thing that was under the bed all the time and you needed a flashlight – an epiphany - to be able to see it. This week's Bible story is the coming of the three wise men from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). This is the story that is read every January 6th, a day called “Epiphany.”
So what is it that makes this coming of three foreign strangers an “epiphany?” The coming of the Magi is the first proof that this Jesus is not just a prophet and savior for the Jews; He is a savior for all of humanity, even pagan wise men. Jesus is the light of the world not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles as well. Jesus is the light of the world, not just for us Lutherans, but for ALL of humanity. What does that mean in your life? 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00 pm and Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.



For nearly the entire history of the Christian Church, hymns and other songs of worship have helped us to understand who God is and what God has done in His Son, Jesus Christ. Older hymns like What Child Is This, Joy to the World, Silent Night, and Away in a Manger not only provoke nostalgic memories of our childhood, they also teach us important truths about Jesus. Newer songs of worship like Carol at the Manger and God with Us remind us that Jesus is still present in our midst leading us to lives of love and service.

This weekend come and join us as we sing these powerful proclamations of God's love, grace, power, and presence. In the words of Angels from the Realms of Glory, 'Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the new born King!

Saturday at 5:00pm. Sunday at 9:00am and 10:35am.



He Was Born in a Barn

Sometimes we become so accustomed to seeing something that we forget how incredibly strange it is. For most of us, our entire lives have been surrounded by images of the baby Jesus lying in a manger. Christmas cards, nativity sets, and Christmas pageants have told us year after year about this humble birth of the King of the Universe. These images remind us of the same thing: when the Son of God put on flesh and entered into this world - it wasn't in a hospital or some emperor's palace - it wasn't in some powerful center of religion or commerce - it wasn't even in the comfy confines of a warm bed with the help of a midwife. The Son of God was born to homeless, refugee parents in a barn in the backwater town of Bethlehem. His first bed was not some fancy crib from Babies R' Us, but a feeding trough. The Son of God was born in a barn.

A central Lutheran teaching is something called the 'Theology of the Cross." The Theology of the Cross basically means that we find God where we least likely expect Him to be found – in a manger and on the cross. Our God comes to us not only in the bright and shiny but in the poor and smelly. That should give us hope. Our God comes to us when and where we most need Him - in our poorest and smelliest moments. 

As we come to worship on this Christmas Eve, come and see how the Bible tells us over and over where we can find God working. Here is a hint: it isn't in the bright and shiny.

Come and worship! Come and worship! Worship Christ the new born King!

Sunday - 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.



A Traditional Christmas Pageant

The story of Christ's birth is one that we cannot hear enough. As a child I loved Christmas time. Yes, the presents and being out of school was part of that, but I also love the story of Christmas. There are several examples of God using and working through unlikely characters in the nativity story. From shepherds and Magi to a young virgin, the story is filled with examples of God using the unexpected servants to come to this earth. He came incarnate, not as a powerful king, but as a vulnerable baby.

This Sunday at 10:35 our Sunday School youth will put on a Christmas Program, "A Traditional Christmas Pageant" by Nancy Seale. They have been rehearsing over the last few weeks, and are excited to present to you this telling of the Christmas Story, complete with prophets, angels, shepherds, wisemen, Mary, Joseph and of course baby Jesus.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday 10:35. No 9:00Service



Could It Be That You Are Called?

The lesson for this weekend comes from one of the Old Testament's most colorful books: Esther. Esther is a beautiful young woman who, through the most unusual of circumstances, finds herself as Queen of the Persian Empire. However, there was one biographical fact that Esther had failed to mention to her husband, King Xerxes; Esther was a Jew. During her reign as queen, unbeknownst to her, Xerxes signed a decree to have all the Jews of the empire annihilated. Esther was at a loss as to what to do. It was her cousin, Mordecai, who challenged her to stand up to the king. "Who knows?" he said, "Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14b). I don't think I'm giving away the ending by saying that through her, God prevented the destruction of His people.

As I look back upon my life, I see a whole host of people whom God used in my life for my benefit: teachers, uncles, aunts, friends, coaches. Most of them probably didn't think about how God had placed them in my life when I needed that influence most. That is true for all of us. We have no idea how God is using us to influence someone's day (or even life). Maybe it is something dramatic like being a classroom teacher or a foster parent. Maybe it is something much more subtle, like opening a door or giving a few dollars to someone in need. Could it be that you are called for such a time as this? I think it is safe to assume, YES. 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5. Sunday at 9 and 10:35



The Church operates on a different kind of calendar than the rest of the world.  The world’s calendar revolves around the sun in the sky – always beginning on January 1 and ending on December 31.  The Church’s calendar revolves around the Son of God, Jesus. The Church year begins with a type of pregnancy (called Advent) before Jesus’ birth on Christmas. This year, Advent (and thus the Church calendar) begins on Sunday, December 3.  
For most of us, a new year brings a sense of hope. If we think about it, for most of us the weeks leading up to Christmas have always been related to hope. When I was a child, before there was such a thing as “online” shopping, we would receive the Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs. I can still smell the fragrance of those pages as I would skip through the boring clothing and housewares sections and find the toys. I would dog-ear the pages of the toys that interested me most in the hope that my mother would take notice.  

About 600 years before Jesus was born, God's people were facing a seemingly hopeless time. The armies of the Babylonian Empire were swooping in from the north and the very existence of Judah was in doubt. Come and see how God used the prophet Habakkuk to share a message of hope in the midst of the hopelessness of the geo-political situation - a message we all need to hear.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5. Sunday at 9 and 10:35

About the year 700 B.C., King Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom of Judah looked over the protective walls of Jerusalem and saw there the army from the great Assyrian Empire, more than 150,000 soldiers strong.  He had known that they were coming and what they would do. This army was like a great wrecking ball from the north destroying the cities in its path and enslaving their residents.  Humanly speaking, the future of Jerusalem looked bleak. The future of Jerusalem and, consequently, the future of the people of God looked out of control and hopeless.  Chapters 36 and 37 of the Old Testament book of Isaiah tell us the story of how King Hezekiah reacted and, more importantly, how God responded.  What do we do when we look over our protective walls and see chaos and hopelessness?  What can we learn from King Hezekiah? 

Come and see. Come and worship! Saturday at 5:00pm, Sunday at 9:00am & 10:35am

Regardless of where you attend Christian worship on a Sunday morning, you will see and hear variations of the same sorts of things. There will be prayer and the singing of hymns/songs/canticles. There will be the reading of scripture/Bible/God's word. There will be some sort of sermon/message/homily given by some sort of priest/preacher/minister. In the more historical churches (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, etc.), you will probably share in Holy Communion/Lord's Supper/Eucharist. Each faith tradition has its own way of worshiping God, some more exuberant, some more serene.  

About 700 years before the birth of Jesus, God used a prophet named Micah to share a poignant message. The people of Jerusalem were under attack. The armies of Assyrian were at their front gate and they were terrified. Fear is a strong motivator for people to pray. What do you want from us, God? We are desperate! Do you want burnt offerings of 1000's of rams? Do you want rivers of oil?  Shall I sacrifice those things most dear to me (like my children)? Is that what you want?

God answers His people with something surprising. "I'm not interested in your animal sacrifices. I'm not interested in your rivers of oil. Good Heavens, NO! I'm certainly not interested in the sacrifice of your children." What does the LORD require of us? "God has told us what is good: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) If our worship doesn't drive us to justice, kindness, and a humble walk with God - then we have more work to do.

Come and see. Come and worship. Then do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35.

This week's Bible reading (2 Kings 5:1-14) tells the story of a man named Naaman who is the head of the Syrian army.  Naaman may be powerful politically and militarily, but he has a problem; he suffers from leprosy. He hears of a powerful prophet in Israel named Elisha who might be able to help. When Naaman finally finds Elisha, he is surprised at his reception. Elisha barely even acknowledges him, let alone perform any dramatic act of healing. All he says to Naaman is, "Go and bathe seven times in the River Jordan." Naaman is incensed and begins to walk away. How dare he be dismissed so rudely. I'm an important man. Besides, the River Jordan is a mud hole compared to the great rivers of Syria. Why would I want to bathe there? This is ridiculous! How can a bath cure leprosy? A servant changed Naaman's mind. "What do you have to lose? Take the bath." Long story short, he was cured.

We live in an age that keeps on telling us the same story - "You aren't working hard enough. You are not involved in enough activities. Your kids are going to fail in life if they are not busy every day of the week." God comes to us with a ridiculous notion; relax - rest - remember. Instead of working harder, do as God does and rest one day a week. What? That is crazy! How can rest and remembering make my life better? Well - in the words of Naaman's servant, "What do you have to lose?" 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35

I would guess that when the majority of people hear the word "saint" their minds immediately fly to those who supposedly lived perfect (or nearly perfect) lives: St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa, St. Paul, or St. Peter. That is NOT what the Bible means when it uses the word, saint. In the Bible, the word, saint, refers to someone who is in relationship with God through Christ Jesus. 

This weekend we mark two special occasions. Sunday is All Saints Day - a day when we remember and toll the bell for those brothers and sisters of the faith who have gone before us. Were they perfect? Of course not, but neither were St. Paul or St. Peter. It is a day when we remember that God's Church encompasses more than what we can see, more than just the here and now. The other special occasion is Confirmation Sunday. At the 9:00 service, eight very special young people will affirm their faith in God before the entire congregation. 

As I think about it, Confirmation Sunday and All Saints Day belong together. As our confirmands confess their faith, the bonds are strengthened between them and the entire Church (of all times and places). They, too, will be reminded that they are part of something much bigger than they can see, the Body of Christ. 

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35

My wife, Sonya, and I have a morning ritual. We get up, make coffee, get the newspaper, and then sit down to pray with each other. In our worship services in church, we end each petition with the words “Lord, in your mercy” and the congregation responds, “Hear our prayer.” At home, when Sonya and I are praying, we are just as likely to end each petition with a slurp of coffee (which, for those of us who grew up Lutheran, seems kind of appropriate).
If I were to ask you what it means to be Lutheran, how would you answer? For many of us who come from many generations of being Lutheran, it is a cultural thing, like coffee, Swedish meatballs if you are Swedish or brats and beer if you are German. For others, we think of a particular type of worship or music, belting out the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  But, of course, being Lutheran is more than just being part of a particular culture; it is more than just singing beautiful music written hundreds of years ago. Being Lutheran is being in relationship with God in and through a particular set of understandings about God and God’s love for us.  

As we culminate our month-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, join us as we celebrate what the reformation teaches us about God's grace-filled love for us through Jesus Christ.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35

In 1 Kings 3:3, Scripture says that Solomon loved the Lord. In this week’s sermon, Tom Redig will explore the ways we, too, can love the Lord. He will explore where this love comes from and the results of loving God. As children of God, we are all in this together, not only improving our love for God but also helping others to improve their love for God. It will be helpful to bring your smartphone to worship this weekend.

Come and see. Come and worship. Saturday at 5:00.  Sunday at 9:00 & 10:35