Friday Followings: Loved, Restored, and Sent

Hello Gloria Dei,

This weekend in worship we have one of the great encounters in all of Scripture. Found in John 21:1-19, it is between the risen Jesus and his disciple Peter. If you recall, before Jesus died, Peter, while keeping warm around a charcoal fire, denied even knowing Jesus three times. Afterwards, Peter felt awful. How could he turn his back so terribly on his good friend, especially right when Jesus needed him the most? Peter went and wept bitterly.

Fast forward to after the resurrection. This time it is again around a charcoal fire. Peter has been fishing. When he comes back to shore, there is Jesus, making breakfast on the fire. The sight and smell of the fire reminds Peter of the darkest day of his life: his denial of Jesus.

Yet Jesus does a truly remarkable thing. He asks Peter if Peter loves him, and when Peter responds affirmatively, Jesus gives Peter his life’s purpose: “Peter, feed my sheep”. The same question, answer, and purpose is repeated not once, not twice, but three times. In response to Peter’s three-fold denial, Jesus restores him three times. It is forgiveness and reconciliation at its deepest and best. Rather than meeting Peter with condemnation, Jesus provides instead love, forgiveness and purpose.

I love this story. Why? Because I think it lays out for us in such a powerful and poignant manner, God’s very attitude toward you and me. So often we are broken by sin. So often our lives become filled with, and are often defined by, our guilt and our shame. Things we have done; things done to us; regrets; burdens. Like Peter, we even let God down by what we do or fail to do. It’s hard to shed it all and move forward.

Yet, into the midst of our brokenness steps the risen Jesus. He meets us, loves us, forgives us, and gives to us in joy our life’s purpose. “Go and feed my sheep”.

This weekend at Gloria Dei we are celebrating a Mission Festival. We will be highlighting ways in which you, the people of Gloria Dei, are active in the community and the world. There will be displays of ministry going on beyond our walls, and will give each of us opportunity to jump in and help in “feeding Jesus’ sheep” around the world.

I’m excited that Seminary Student Rebel Herd will bring us God’s Word in worship. Rebel heads up “Church on the Street”, a word and sacrament ministry among the homeless population right here in Sioux Falls. Rebel has been called by God into this important ministry, and it is through the ongoing support of Gloria Dei and many other congregations that this mission of “feeding sheep” is made possible.

Being loved, forgiven, reconciled, and sent by God is a great gift that belongs to you. Unwrap the gift, put it to use, pray for others, and be about the good work that God gives for you to do in Christ’s name.

See you in worship,

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: Doubts – The Ants in the Pants of Faith

Hello Gloria Dei,

The Christian author Frederick Buechner writes: “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

For me, I believe there are some people given the extraordinary gift of faith so that their faith in God never wavers. I also believe this is a very small group of people. For the vast majority of us, doubts creep into our faith and we ask all kinds of questions. I believe asking the hard questions is a good thing. Why? Because asking the hard questions of life is what God wants from us, and ultimately these questions and doubts serve to strengthen our faith.

In our gospel reading for this weekend one of Jesus’ disciples, Thomas, isn’t with the others when the risen Jesus appears to them on the first Easter evening. Later he is told that “Jesus is alive.” I think we can understand Thomas when he says, “No Way. It can’t be. Dead people don’t come back to life. I won’t believe unless I see Jesus for myself.” Thomas is simply being a realist. It’s hard to believe that a person you saw die on Good Friday could be alive again on Sunday. Yet, a week later, Jesus shows up again, and this time Thomas is present. Thomas believes and confesses about Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”

For worship this weekend, please read John 20:19-31, as we’ll take a look at this important encounter between Jesus and Thomas. Jesus encounters you and me today too in a multiplicity of ways. Don’t be afraid to ask your questions to God. In the long run, they serve as the “ants in the pants of faith” and they keep faith alive and moving. Through worship, through digging into God’s word, and through the fellowship of Christian believers, faith is strengthened even amidst our doubts and questions. Watch for God showing up for you today. See with the eyes of faith. God is alive and active in our world and in our lives.

WEATHER ALERT – We are watching closely the reports regarding the snowstorm coming into the area tonight and tomorrow. At this point we are planning on our normal weekend worship schedule. However, there is a chance that Saturday worship will be need to be cancelled due to the storm. We want for everyone to be safe. Please watch our website, www.gloriadei-sd.org, or Facebook page, @GloriaDeiSD, for updates regarding Saturday worship. At this point it looks like Sunday morning will go on as planned.

Blessings,

Pastor Tim



Friday Followings: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
First of all I want to say thanks to all of you for making Holy Week so beautiful and inspiring. As a congregation, we participated in and told the greatest story ever: Jesus giving himself for us, dying on a cross, and being raised to new life. Praise God! Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed!
 
It takes lots of hands behind the scenes to make it all so rich and meaningful for those who come to worship. Throughout Holy Week we welcomed over 4800 people into the sanctuary to hear, learn, and experience the life-giving love and grace of God. We also welcomed 154 third and fourth graders to the Lord’s Table for their First Communion. The Palm Sunday Brunch was excellent, the fellowship outstanding, and the message of God’s love came through powerfully all week long through word and music. God is good… all the time.  Again, thank you for your commitment to Christ and his church.
 
This weekend we’ll continue in the season of Easter and put our focus on Jesus’ appearance to his disciples on the first Easter evening. Jesus continues to make himself known to us too. Make it a habit to share with your family, your friends, and your church community, how it is that Jesus is showing up and impacting your life. In preparation for this weekend’s worship, please read John chapter 20, paying special attention to verses 19 to 23.
 
April 21-22 Mission Festival
I also want to let you know that coming up in a couple of weeks Gloria Dei will have be highlighting its ministry of Mission and Outreach outside of our walls into the community and the world. This Mission Festival will take place the weekend of April 21-22. We will have displays set up; we’ll share in a meal following the 10:30 worship service; we’ll hear about many opportunities we all have to serve our neighbors in love. And we’ll hear from Rebel Hurd, who is the Director of Church on the Street, a Word and Sacrament ministry among the homeless population in Sioux Falls. Please watch the bulletin and newsletter for more details, but plan on being present for this marvelous Mission Festival opportunity.
 
See you in worship.
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Forever

Hello Gloria Dei

Forever! Forever and ever! Forever and ever and ever!” 

Handel’s Messiah sings those words triumphantly and continually: “and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

In Psalm 136, King David repeats one refrain: “The steadfast love of the Lord lives forever,” 26 times in one chapter.

In Psalm 23, King David writes his immortal words: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

Isaiah, the prophet, dared to dream the eternal dream: “His kingdom shall have no end, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever

Jesus stated clearly to Martha when her brother Lazarus died: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die but shall live forever.”  

And if you summarize the whole Bible into one small nutshell, you may quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will not die but will live forever.” 

“Forever” is a big word, a victorious word, a triumphant word. Forever

This weekend we celebrate the Victory – the Gift God gives us of FOREVER. Through faith in Christ we know that the power of death itself is defeated, and we shall live forever. What Tremendous News! Let that sink in a bit. Forever in God’s presence: no tears, no hurt, no suffering; rather, joy, peace, love, – Forever.

As you celebrate Easter, whether you’re here at Gloria Dei or traveling and worshiping elsewhere, may the risen Christ meet you once again and enter your heart and your life. In Jesus we have and know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, now and forever.
 
Together with the entire staff, I wish you a very blessed Easter. Christ is Risen…. He is Risen indeed! Keep in mind that our Saturday service is a full Easter celebration service, so if that works best in your schedule, please be reminded of that option.
 
Worship times for the remainder of the week:
Good Friday – 7:00 p.m.
 
Easter Celebration Worship
Saturday – 5:00 p.m. (with Holy Communion)
Sunday – 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.

Together in Christ, Forever!

Pastor Tim

 



Friday Followings: Yes, it’s Quite a Story. And it’s True!

This weekend our telling of the greatest story ever told begins as we wave palm branches and shout Hosanna, welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem and into our lives. Yet, after Palm Sunday, the scene changes dramatically.
 
The passion story moves later in the week to betrayal, arrest, trial, execution, and burial.  It’s quite a story; High Drama at its best. It has all the ingredients for a made for TV, primetime series: there is an angry mob, there is violence, there is money exchanged, and there are lies told. And on Friday the story appears to end with the death of an innocent man.
 
Yes, it’s quite a story. And as we hear the story during Holy Week, we discover that, at least in part, the story is our story. We praise Jesus at one moment, only to put “others gods” ahead of him. We pray for Jesus to be integral in our lives, but when he gets too personal or starts asking the hard questions, we sometimes tell him, “Hey, don’t mess with my life”. We can see ourselves within the Passion Story.
 
Yet, thank God that the story is not primarily about us. The story, really, is about God. It’s about a God who loves us so much that he sends his only Son to die on a cross for us—a God who does not let sin and death have the last word, but who raises Jesus from the tomb and says a resounding “YES” to life. Life, for you and for me.
 
Upon Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene recognizes him only as he calls her by name. Come to worship, and participate in these life altering events. As together we move from Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and finally to the great truth of the resurrection, come looking for Jesus, as Mary did. You just may be surprised that the Living Christ calls you by name, and your life is changed forever.
 
Please see our entire Holy Week worship schedule on our website or in our recent newsletters. A reminder that our Easter Saturday worship is a full Easter celebration service, with brass, special music, and the great Easter hymns. We’ll be using John chapter 20 as a preaching theme for Easter. Please read chapters 18 through 20 of John in preparation for Holy Week.
 
I wish for you a blessed Holy Week and Easter celebration.
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Jesus and March Madness

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Yesterday the NCAA Basketball Tournament, often referred to as March Madness, began in earnest. I’m sorry the Jackrabbits men’s team lost to Ohio State, but we’ll be cheering on the women’s team when they take on Villanova tonight. March Madness is here.
 
As we continue reading and preaching through the gospel of John, we’ve arrived at chapter 18. Chapter 18 begins what, on the surface, appears to be “madness”. First of all, one of Jesus’ disciples, one of his closest friends, betrays him into the hands of those who wish Jesus dead. Madness! 
 
Then, an overwhelmingly large contingent of soldiers and officials, with torches, lanterns (to show they were in spiritual darkness) and weapons, confront Jesus and arrest the Light of the World. Madness!
 
Peter then defends Jesus with a sword and cuts off a man’s ear. Yet in Jesus’ view, bloodshed is a sign of the brokenness of our world. He considers it madness, and goes willingly with the arresting officials.
 
Jesus finally ends up before the most powerful man in the region, Pontius Pilate, who reports directly to the Roman Emperor. Yet even this powerful man, who comes to know only one thing for sure, that Jesus is innocent, cannot and does not use his power and influence to set Jesus free. Absolute madness!
 
Yet as we look beneath the surface, we discover that this “madness” is God’s plan to win victory over the madness of human sin and fallibility. Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, goes willingly to his death, in order that God’s way of love would win the day. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, life wins. God wins. You and I win, by grace through faith.
 
For this weekend’s worship, and in preparation for Holy Week which begins the following weekend, read John chapters 18 and 19.
 
Reminder: We are also now receiving sign-ups for the Easter Prayer Vigil which runs all night leading up to Easter morning. Sign up on the website or at church.
 
See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: I Am the Vine; You are the Branches

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
The apostle Paul says that because of Christ, you and I are “New Creations.” Martin Luther used to love to say that because of Christ, you and I have become “Good Trees”. No longer are we defined by our sin and brokenness. Rather, we are forgiven by the work of Jesus on the cross. We are now free from sin and death – we have now been declared righteous in the eyes of God. Therefore, we are now “Good Trees”. And being good trees, we quite naturally produce “Good Fruit.” Just as a healthy apple tree produces healthy apples, so you and I, as good trees, produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God.
 
In this weekend’s gospel reading in the book of John, the focus is on vineyards, vines, branches, and fruit. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing. Yet, abiding in me, you produce good fruit.” During this season of Lent, and in preparation for worship, read John 15:1-17. Ask yourself these questions: “How am I connected to Jesus, the vine? What has Christ done for me to assure me that I am a good vine?” “How am I growing in Christ, and what will God need to prune in my life to allow for maximum growth?” “Where and how is the fruit of my life being played out in love of God and of neighbor?”
 
I look forward to seeing you in worship.
 
A few reminders:  Gloria Dei is serving at St. Francis House on Tuesday, March 13 and at The Banquet on Thursday, March 15. Please consider these opportunities to serve and sign up online at or at church this weekend.
 
We are also now receiving sign-ups for the Easter Prayer Vigil which runs all night leading up to Easter morning. Sign up on the website or at church. This is a meaningful and important discipline as we prepare for the Easter celebration.
 
And don’t forget to move your clocks forward this Saturday night, as Daylight Savings time begins this weekend.
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Life Plus Love

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I have a devotional book near my desk authored by Billy Graham. It has 365 short daily devotions, one for each day of the year. I’ve read these devotions on and off for years now, but upon hearing of his death this past week, I’ve jumped in daily to these short, thoughtful writings of the great evangelist.
 
One of the devotions within his book for this first week of March is entitled “Life Plus Love”. For copyright violation requirements, I won’t reprint his devotion verbatim, but let me summarize it briefly.
 
Billy says that we would no doubt be impressed with someone who gave and gave and gave generously to charity. We would look at her or him and say, “Wow, what a strong Christian person.” Yet, and here Billy quotes the apostle Paul, “Unless a person acts out of love, they are nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
 
He says, in effect, that “Life minus love equals nothing”.
 
This weekend in worship we continue our beautiful journey through the gospel of John. Our focus will be in John 13:1-17, as Jesus stoops down in love to wash the disciples’ feet. Within these verses Jesus models for us an incredible servanthood type of love; a love he goes on to say is to be part and parcel to the Christian community moving forward.
 
As the gospel moves forward, Jesus will tell his disciples in the next few chapters that he will be sending them a helper, an advocate, who will empower them to live out this kind of servant love. Left to ourselves, it’s impossible to follow Jesus’ lead. Yet with the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds, changing us from the inside out, servant love can and is a way of life for the Christ-follower.
 
For whom can you represent Christ today? What words can you speak and what actions can you perform which will show a self-giving, servant type of love? Jesus gave himself for us on the cross. His love now empowers, enables, and equips us to love God and to serve one another.
 
Billy Graham was right: “Life minus love equals nothing.” Life with Christ equals everything.
 
See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: The Seventh Sign

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
In our reading and preaching through the gospel of John we’ve arrived at a very important chapter. We’ve talked about Jesus’ seven miracles, or signs, in this gospel. Chapter 11 is all about the seventh sign, which is the raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead. Just as the beginning of John’s gospel tells us that “in Jesus was life”, so we see the seventh sign as a tremendous witness to Jesus, who can and does bring us from death to life.
 
It’s interesting that John 11:3 says that Lazarus is a friend whom Jesus loves. These three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, were like family to Jesus. He loved them as such. Yet, even one whom Jesus loves gets sick. Jesus is telling us here that even people whom God loves get sick and die. Just because we, or our loved ones, suffer from illness, that in no way means that God doesn’t love us. All of us get sick at times, and of course, all of us will die one day. Yet in the story of Lazarus, we meet a God who does not leave us all alone in our pain, but weeps with us, and then meets us with good news of new life.
 
John 11 also marks the end of Jesus’ public ministry. From here on out he acts and speaks in private, mostly with his disciples. The raising of Lazarus brings a response of faith to many, but to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, this miracle brings rage and jealousy. Upon Lazarus being raised, Jesus’ enemies immediately ramp up their efforts to get him arrested and put to death.
 
Within the gospel of John, Jesus not only performs seven miracles, he also makes seven “I AM” statements. Last week we looked at Jesus statement, “I Am the Good Shepherd”. Within this week’s reading, Jesus says to Martha, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Using the Old Testament name for God, “I AM”, Jesus is claiming in all seven of the “I AM” statements, that he is God. And by saying “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”, he’s claiming to have power even over death itself.
 
Please read John chapter 11. I’ll be preaching on this marvelous miracle this weekend. As we put our faith in Jesus, he brings us abundant life here and now, and he brings us victory over sin and death. Come to worship, where Jesus, the author and giver of life, promises to meet you.
 
See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Our Good Shepherd

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I have a friend from my previous congregation in Arizona who used to travel to the Middle East for business. He tells the story about a time he was in a rather rural, desolate area, near a gas station. There were two sheep roaming around, looking lost, when all of a sudden a farmer and his wife pull up in an old limousine. The farmer calls out, and when they hear the driver’s voice, the sheep jump into the backseat of the limo and off they go. That farmer was taking the sheep, who had wandered off track, back to the sheepfold. They knew his voice, and would even jump into a limo when they were called.
 
As we move through the gospel of John together as a congregation, this weekend we arrive at chapter ten. Take some time to read John 10. Listen to the voice of Jesus. Then move to Psalm 23. It won’t take you very long. But pay attention to the images used for Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He is also the gate, or the door. In Jesus’ day the sheep would stay safe at night in a coral, or sheepfold. However, many of the corals had no gate or door. There was just an open space approximately five or six feet wide for the sheep to go in and out.
 
At night, to protect the sheep from any predators, a good shepherd would himself sleep right in the opening, or doorway, so as to keep any predators out. A good shepherd would protect the sheep, give them rest at night, so that they would be healthy and well-fed and rested for the next day.
 
Jesus has laid his life down for us. We know his voice. He is our protector, even from the powers of sin and death. The power of evil is real. We see it in the news, and close to home, way too often. It is the Good Shepherd, Jesus himself, who provides us the assurance that we belong to him. He gives us the nourishment of his word of love and forgiveness, so that we can be about our daily tasks within the freedom of his love, all the while combatting the powers of evil so rampant these days.
 
The way of the Good Shepherd is love. As his followers, we can take rest and comfort in his loving presence. But we are to then leave the sheepfold and within our daily relationships with family, friends, church family, co-workers, and even strangers, we are to follow the lead of the Good Shepherd and be a community that lives and acts out of love.
 
How can you follow the voice of the loving Shepherd who both gives you rest, and also calls you to love those around you? How can you make a difference for love within a world too often filled with violence and hate? As you read the Bible, hear the voice of the Shepherd who loves you and, in response to that love, empowers you to love in return.
 
Please remember in your prayers our Nicaragua Team from Gloria Dei: Carla Borchardt, Jason Santi, and Pastor Chris, along with others from Aberdeen, Milbank, and Minneapolis. They are ministering to and with the people of Managua and surrounding towns within Nicaragua.
 
See You in Worship!
 
Pastor Tim