One of those days

Yesterday I had one of those days. For some reason my mind was not focused; running in different directions. I felt like a little kid with an attention span of a…

[look, squirrel]

…you get my point right?

I did feel focused during the sermon [praise be to God] but everything else was just plain flat.

[look, another squirrel]

Yup, that was pretty much it.

When we, mercifully, got to the benediction my mind wandered again. I walked out from behind the altar, raised my hands to give the benediction I have been giving for over 14 years. I opened my mouth…and nothing. I proceeded to fumble for words for a moment and eventually spit out something that resembled a benediction; trying my best to make it sound that I changed it up on purpose. I think I failed on that as well. Thankfully, no one said anything, but now, if they are reading this, my secret is out.

This morning did not go much better. I dropped my kids off at their “Animal Camp” hosted by their preschool. On my way to work I was talking to my wife, saying “Miss Kristen and the lady who drives the big truck, are leading this week“. My wife laughed at me because I could not remember the name of the other teacher.

[Brenda is her name. I eventually did remember that.]

The only saving grace this morning is that my 9:30 appointment with some perspective new members called to reschedule due to illness. I hate to say this but that is probably a good thing. I probably would have sent them running to another church.

God, I need a brain reboot this morning.

[LOOK, SQUIRREL!]

Yup, definitely a reboot.

The Pastor -|—

Everlasting God

Oh Lord,
the everlasting God,
You created the ends of the earth and all therein.
You never grow faint or weary.
Your understanding is unsearchable.
As I reflect on this,
I am humbled and awed
that You give power to the faint
and increase their strength.
I mean, what is man that you are mindful of him, for…
I am weak.
I grow tired.
I become hopeless.
I get lost.
I sin.
But my way is not hidden from You.
You know me.
You hear me.
You love me.
Oh God, may I wait on You and be strengthened;
finding a peace that surpasses all understanding.
May I raise my song to you,
for it is indeed fitting to praise Your most holy name.
Oh Lord,
my everlasting God,
be pleased in my searching,
be pleased with my worship;
for You are my strength
and my hope
and my salvation.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Ascribe

Holy God, loving Father,
You anointed Jesus in the Jordan River
and proclaimed him Your beloved Son,
but all too often I overlook this very important fact;
that Jesus is not just your Son
but Your Son who died as the
perfect,
spotless lamb
for the atonement of our sins.
May I be drawn into an ever deeper understanding
of the divine nature of our Lord and Savior,
so much so,
that I ascribe to You what is due Your holy name;
for to see and know Jesus
is to see and know You.
All glory, strength and honor
be ascribed unto You,
oh God,
through Christ Jesus my Lord.
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Reason for Christmas

Holy Father,
As we inch ever closer to Christmas,
we are reminded that the point of all our preparations is
to worship our Savior,
Jesus,
who was born to die for us.
Many have suggested that Christmas has nothing to do with death,
but without the death and resurrection of Jesus,
we are left with nothing;
no hope,
no peace,
no JOY.
May the JOY of the Advent season fill our lives
so much so,
that Jesus radiates from us
and therefore brings You glory.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

JOY

Holy God,
we are ever reminded that
the JOY of this season is not found in
gifts
or food
or decorating.
Our JOY is not in
stuff
or vacations
or even in our families.
True and unending
JOY is found only in
Jesus;
something that can not be taken away
by anything
or anyone
of this world.
May that JOY overflow in abundance
that you may be glorified through our lives.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Something Different

I did something different last night.

Last night was Thanksgiving Eve worship. The service itself was pretty straight forward; nothing out of the ordinary. We did accept non-perishable food items as part of the offering, but that’s not weird; especially for Thanksgiving. The “different” happened during the “Prayers of Thanksgiving”; the spot where, on Sunday, the bulletin reads, “Prayers of the Church”. On Sundays I simply lead those prayers by ending each petition with “Lord in your mercy”, to which the congregation responds, “Hear our prayer”. Last night, though, I did something different.

[What is it already? Stop beating around the bush!]
[Easy now, I’m getting to it.]

During the “Prayers of Thanksgiving” I explained that I was going to start and then let the congregation add what they are thankful for. It was going to be like what many families do at Thanksgiving; going around the table sharing what they are thankful for, much to the chagrin of many children.

[Hurry up, I want some pumpkin pie]

I finished my part of the prayer and was blown away by what happened next. People didn’t just name something they were thankful for, but rather they prayed a prayer, giving thanks and praise to God. The Prayers of Thanksgiving turned into a genuine Prayers of the Church or Prayers of the People. I mean, that’s how it is supposed to be, right? People prayed from their heart. I almost felt bad ending the prayers when I did. We could have gone on for quite a while. People offered up a variety of prayers but the overwhelming topic of the prayers was Jesus and the salvation we have through him. Kind of puts Thanksgiving into perspective, doesn’t it?

Sure, I am thankful for my wife and children. I am thankful for my home and clothes and food on my table. I am thankful for my health and ability to earn a living. Those things are great and I thank God for them. Most of all, though, is the blessing of all blessings: Jesus. Period. For without him, everything else is just stuff that will fade away.

And now, I hope “the different” that happened last night becomes “the norm” for future worship services; people praying the prayers of the church. The people offering their petitions. Yes, I going to do that “different” thing again. So get ready, Living Word, your pastor is going to change some things up 🙂

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. [Psalm 136:1-3]

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving; giving Him all your thanks and praise; for His steadfast loves endures forever and ever. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Small Church, Big Spirit

On Sunday, I got to lead worship and preach at this little church in Elbe, WA; Historic Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church. What a neat place and what an incredible privilege and honor to be invited.
~ This is not a mega-church
~ There are no projection screens inside
~ There was no fancy multi-colored bulletin
~ There was no loud worship band
Just people, from different congregations, worshiping our awesome God; people who traveled a distance to get to this beautiful part of our beautiful state.

This worship service brought me back to my roots; back to SW MN. I grew up in a small town but in a large church. I eventually moved to a larger town but served in two small churches; one being a small county congregation. Even though I love serving where I do; at Living Word Lutheran Church, is was nice to reminisce with myself and be reminded of an important aspect of the local church.

You see, the size of a church does not equate ministry success. Too many people think that if you have a small church then there’s something wrong. Hogwash. It’s not quantity but rather quality, and I humbly believe quality is what we had on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t because of me but rather the Spirit working through me and the many volunteers that are responsible for this little church in the mountains. There is a reason that this church in Elbe is still operating. There is a reason that people come here on Sunday afternoons to worship. The Spirit is alive here.

So thank you to those volunteers and for the opportunity to worship with you. I hope to be able to come back again sometime. May God continue to bless the ministry of the Historic Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Pastor -|—