Friday Followings: Normandy, Pentecost, and the Love of God

Hello Gloria Dei,
I’ve been inspired watching the news these past days as the stories of many World War 2 veterans are told. As you know, yesterday, June 6, marked the 75th anniversary of the Allied Forces storming the beaches of Normandy, France. The battle of Normandy lasted for weeks, ending in the liberation of Paris from Nazi control, and was a decisive turning point in ending World War 2. I heard a recording yesterday of then President Eisenhower leading the nation in prayer 75 years ago. It was moving, emotional, and addressed to God.
Normandy is truly one of those events that has changed the course of history. Let’s all give thanks to the veterans whose stories we hear, and to the many who lost their lives for this worthy and epic cause.
This weekend in worship we celebrate another event that has changed the course of history:  Pentecost. Jesus lives, dies, and is raised to new life. He spends forty days on earth following his resurrection and appears to many, many people. After forty days, he ascends into heaven and tells his disciples to wait until his Holy Spirit comes to them. Some days later, or fifty days after the Passover, Jesus’ Spirit is set loose in full force.
As recorded in the book of Acts, the good news of the gospel begins to spread like wildfire “to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
You and I are recipients of the great gift of the Holy Spirit. As I said in last week’s sermon, you are I are now witnesses to the love and action of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is alive and active in our world and in our lives, giving us the gift of faith, assuring us of forgiveness, and empowering us on our journeys of life to be the body of Christ on earth today.
I invite you to read Acts chapter 2 in preparation for this weekend’s celebration of Pentecost. The color of the day is red, so wear red if you’d like. There is nothing more important, more life-changing, and more history altering, than being claimed, called, and sent by God’s Holy Spirit. I’ve said many times, pray each day for God’s Holy Spirit to fill you and use you.
Like those who gave of themselves for such a noble cause 75 years ago at Normandy, so too your life, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can be and is being used by God for the noble cause of the gospel. God loves you. God loves this world. You are a witness to that love. And God’s love changes history. Thanks for your role in such a worthy and epic cause of changing the world for good.
See you in worship,
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: South Dakota Synod Assembly

Hello Gloria Dei,
Today I simply ask you to keep the South Dakota Synod of the ELCA in your prayers as the 32nd annual synod assembly convenes this morning through Saturday afternoon at Our Savior’s Lutheran here in Sioux Falls. The theme for the Assembly is “Come Holy Spirit”. Each congregation of this state-wide synod, of which Gloria Dei is a part, is able to send voting members to the assembly. The number of voting members for each congregation is determined by the size of the church. Gloria Dei, being a large congregation, is able to send eight lay voting members plus our four clergy, for a total of twelve voting members.
We will gather for worship; we’ll hear reports from various synod ministries; we’ll hear reports regarding the ministry of the whole ELCA; we’ll adopt of financial plan and do other business together; and we’ll enjoy good fellowship with other Lutherans throughout the state.
Of particular importance this year is the election of a new bishop for the South Dakota Synod. Bishop David Zellmer has served two six-year terms and is not eligible for a third. Therefore we will have a new bishop-elect by Saturday afternoon. I ask that you give thanks to God for Bishop Dave and the synod staff, as they have served faithfully over these past twelve years. Their ministry has borne much fruit for the Kingdom of God and we are grateful. Pray, too, for the work of the Holy Spirit within the assembly as the new bishop is elected. We will announce who the new bishop is at our three weekend worship services.
At Gloria Dei this weekend we begin, appropriately, a five week series on the book of Acts. The book of Acts is the story of the early church. Sometimes called “The Acts of the Apostles”, this book could also be titled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”, because as we read we discover the magnificent ways in which God’s Holy Spirit equips and empowers people like us to do the work of Christ.  For this weekend, read Acts chapter one. See if you can memorize Acts 1:8.
Blessings to you and I’ll see you in worship!
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: A Corny Joke and a Few Reminders

First the corny joke.
An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked politely.
“I’d like to sit in the front row please” she answered.
“You really don’t want to do that,” the usher said. “The pastor is really boring.”
“Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired.
“No”, he said.
“I’m the pastor’s mother,” she replied indignantly.
“Do you know who I am?” the usher asked.
“No,” she said.
“Good”, he replied.
I know. Pretty corny.
Now a few reminders.
— Registration is open for VBS, June 10-14, and for Next Year’s Church School and Confirmation. Go online, or call the office to check details and to register.
–5k for Camp on June 8. This fun run/walk begins at the Gloria Dei parking lot and is open to all. A suggested registration fee of $10 per person or $25 per family will go to support camping ministry through Lutherans Outdoors. Register Here
–Our music department is putting together a special Father’s Day Men’s Choir. In addition they are putting together a Worship Choir for a special Broadway in Worship service on June 30. See details regarding rehearsals in our Dei Worker at church, or get more information here.
–This Sunday we all have opportunity to give blood, as each day about 100 pints of blood are needed within our local Sioux Falls and surrounding area. Stop by the table in the Gathering Area to register and then head to the Blood Mobile in our parking lot on Sunday to donate.
And finally, as we continue in our preaching series on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, we find Jesus on the beach preparing breakfast for some of his disciples. Please read John 21:1-19 in preparation for worship.
Have a beautiful weekend and I’ll see you in worship.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Grace-Filled Messages All Around Us

Hello Gloria Dei,
How’s your spring going? I know the wet weather has caused cancellations for soccer games and baseball games, but hopefully we’re in for a good stretch of sunshine and celebrations around graduations and summer vacations.
I’m looking forward to spending some time in California at an upcoming conference where we’ll learn from a man whose blogs I’ve read, but have never met. Pastor Adam Hamilton is his name. I’m looking forward to the summertime change of pace and change of schedule. I’m looking forward to maybe a few days later this summer with family and friends in Arizona or California. Plans aren’t fully made yet. I’m looking forward to seeing if my golf game still has any glisten left in it.
Yet, no matter where I might go or what I might be doing, as a preacher and pastor, I’ve noticed more and more over the years that I am constantly watching for biblical and faith-filled themes as I read, watch movies, take a hike, play a round of golf, hear people’s stories, etc…  I’d like to encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open and do the same. This is a good habit for all Christians to be in.
Of course, for all of us, this begins with regular quiet time and bible reading, so as to get to know Scripture and, more importantly, the Savior to whom Scripture points. It is essential for us to nurture a life of study and reflection. One of the old saints, St. Jerome, advises us, “When your head droops at night, let a page of Scripture pillow it.”
A long time ago Aristotle noted that friendship takes time, hours of conversation, sitting quietly with the friend, observing the friend in a variety of contexts. For you and me as Christians, getting to know the Bible as a friend is a fascinating, life-giving, journey, as we let God be God, allowing the Bible to speak on its terms rather than ours. Jesus is revealed as Lord, Savior, and friend for us.
As we do this, we see more and more the themes and messages of faith, grace, law, gospel, and most of all, the love of God, playout in a myriad of ways. This spring and summer, and throughout your life, no matter where you go or what you do, open yourself in your reading, movie watching, working, playing, family time, storytelling and hearing, to the messages of God. See with eyes of faith and notice the grace-filled, God-centered messages all around you.
Our theme during these weeks in preaching is that Jesus is risen and he still shows up today. During the summer, of course, continue to worship weekly wherever you are as God’s Word comes to life in its proclamation and in its hearing. This week we continue our series on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Please read John 20:19-23.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 2019

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 many hands behind the scenes to make it all so rich and meaningful for those who come to worship. Throughout Holy Week we welcomed approximately 4800 people into the sanctuary to hear, learn, and experience the life-giving love and grace of God. We also welcomed 75 third graders and others 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. And the Alleluia sticks on Easter were in great form. 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 begin a five week preaching series on the “Post Resurrection Appearances of Jesus”. 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 Acts 9:1-22. This is the account of maybe the greatest conversion story of all time. Jesus shows up and transforms Saul, a persecutor of the early church, to Paul, a great missionary for Christ.
Like Paul and so many others who saw Jesus alive during the fifty day period between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus appears to us on a regular basis. Live, see, and journey filled with faith in the living Christ. We can base our whole lives, now and into eternity, on the great news of Easter. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
See you in worship.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Good Friday and The Great Exchange

Hello Gloria Dei,
Today is Good Friday. I’ve often been asked, and have often wondered myself, why in the world do we call his day “Good”? After all, God in the flesh is put on the cross and killed. Jesus is innocent. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the one who teaches love and reconciliation. And there he is, the Savior of the world, murdered on Friday by those he came to save.
Why in the world would we call this day “Good Friday?”
The author and theologian John Stott puts it this way.
“The essence of sin is that we substitute ourselves for God; we put ourselves where only God deserves to be…. That’s the essence of sin. But the essence of salvation is that God substitutes himself for us; God puts himself where we deserve to be… that’s the essence of salvation.”
Martin Luther puts it this way:
“That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. Jesus has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it and fill us with it. And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them.”
The apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Give thanks today for the amazing love and grace that God has for you. The Great Exchange, God’s righteousness for our sinfulness, happens on Good Friday. It’s no wonder we call this day Good. It cost Jesus his life, but it gives life to all who have faith.
As we move from this day to the celebration of Easter, we once again rejoice that Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. And by faith and trust in him, we are given the assurance not only of a purpose-filled life here and now, but life everlasting and 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, 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, 8:30, 9:40 and 10:50 a.m.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: The Greatest Story Ever Told

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.
Of course, after Sunday, we move to Maundy Thursday where Jesus modeled servant leadership by washing the disciples’ feet and by giving us a new commandment to love one another as he loves us.
Then it’s Good Friday. Jesus suffers and dies on the cross, and in so doing, takes our sinfulness upon himself, exchanges his righteousness and gives it as a gift to us.
And of course, it all comes together when we celebrate the best day ever, Easter. Sin and death is defeated once and for all. Death cannot hold Jesus, and by faith in him, we can be certain that our lives go on forever in heaven, setting us free to live as Christ calls us to here on earth.
Please see our entire Holy Week worship schedule on our website and 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 Mark chapter 16 as a preaching theme for Easter.
I want to remind you, too, of our special Palm Sunday brunch served this Sunday morning. It is always tremendous, and all the proceeds from brunch go to support our youth mission/service trips this summer. Please give generously to our youth trips, as they impact our young people in positive, Christian ways, raising them up to be servant leaders and followers of Jesus.
I wish for you a blessed Holy Week and Easter celebration.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Standing on Holy Ground

Hello Gloria Dei,
Forty two of us from Gloria Dei recently returned from a trip to the Holy Land. It was truly a remarkable experience. Walking in the places where Jesus walked, seeing where he was born, and where he died. Walking the streets of Nazareth where he grew up. Witnessing the Shepherd’s Field outside of Bethlehem. Riding a boat across the Sea of Galilee. Standing on the mount from where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Floating in the Dead Sea. Worshiping at a Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. And so much more. It truly is a Holy Land. We haven’t made definite plans as to when and where, but our group will provide an opportunity for you to hear more from us sometime soon after Easter.
And yet, we don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to walk on Holy Ground. As Christians, we know that wherever the presence of Christ is, there it is holy. As we gather together in worship around Word and Sacrament, Jesus is present. It is Holy Ground. As we live out our faith in love and service to others, Jesus is present. It is Holy Ground. As we seek to work for peace and reconciliation in our lives, families, communities, and world, we are standing on Holy Ground, for there Christ is present. Indeed, your life is holy, made so by God’s promises to you in baptism, and by your faith and trust in him for all things in life. By Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God declares you holy. And God gives you a holy calling.
I invite you to meet Jesus this weekend in worship as we continue to journey through the gospel of Mark. Read chapter 11 verses 11-19.
And finally, a word about our Easter schedule. In the past we have had four weekend services celebrating Easter. One on Saturday and three on Sunday. This year, as attendance has steadily risen, we are adding a fourth service on Easter Sunday. I ask you to see our schedule on the website and in the church bulletin for all of Holy Week.
Easter celebration worship will be held at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 20th, and on Easter Sunday, April 21st, at 7:30, 8:30, 9:40 and 10:50 a.m. These past few years on Easter morning we’ve had to seat up to 100 people outside of the sanctuary in the gathering area. Our hope in adding a fourth Easter Sunday service is that all will be able to worship inside of the sanctuary.
Remember, you don’t have to go to Israel to witness Holy Ground. Wherever Christ is present, it is Holy. And as the Bible says in 1 Peter 2:9, you too are holy. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
See you in worship, and thanks for your partnership in this holy calling we share.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Jesus Does Everything Well

Hello Gloria Dei,
I love the story we are looking at this week in worship. It’s an account of Jesus healing a man who was both deaf and mute, and it is found in Mark 7:31-37.
Jesus touches the man’s ears. Jesus spits into his hand and touches the man’s tongue. Jesus looks to heaven, and with a sigh, commands the man’s ears and tongue to “be opened.”
At the end of this passage, the Bible says that the people gathered around were amazed and said “Jesus has done everything well. He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak”.
At the beginning of time, Genesis tells us that Jesus was present when the whole world was “opened up” with wonder and beauty. God saw this awe-filled creation and said, “It is good.”
Jesus’ opening up the man to hear and speak is echoing creation. Jesus makes all things well, all things good. The God of all creation has shown up in Jesus, and the awe-filled creating continues with the deaf man, and even with us today.
“Be opened” Jesus says. At his baptism, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit was set loose in the world. At his resurrection, the power of death is broken and new life is opened up for all who believe.
Where does your life need to be opened? Where does mine? How wonderful it is when the new life of grace and forgiveness breathes fresh air into our relationships. How wonderful it is when our ears are opened to the good news of God’s presence and love in our lives, and our voices are opened to share encouragement, grace, and love with others.
Yes, Jesus does all things well. Be opened up to his love and healing in your life.  See you in worship.
Pastor Tim

Friday Followings: Losing An Hour

Hello Gloria Dei,
This weekend we officially return to Daylight Savings Time. That means that we set our clocks an hour ahead, in essence, losing an hour of our time. That got me thinking about how it is we use our time.
On Ash Wednesday we read Psalm 90. We were reminded that it is from dust that we came, and it is to dust we shall return. Psalm 90, verse 10 says, “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty if we are strong.” The average lifespan for people living in the United States is 79 years. I looked it up. Psalm 90 is right on.
God has given you and me the precious gift of time. 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year. Each day, indeed each hour, are precious gifts to us from God. So, how are you using your time?
Jesus teaches us the way to real life is to be counter-culture. In other words, abundant life is discovered when we live cross-shaped lives. Set free by the cross of Jesus, we now live not just for self, but for God, others, and ourselves. Loving God and loving neighbor as self – that’s the key to abundant life.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the man who received a phone call from his bank. “Someone has deposited $1440 into your account, but you must use it all today.” The man was confused, and the day passed while he wondered what to do with the money.
The next morning another phone call came. “$1440 was deposited into your account again today. The money you didn’t spend yesterday has been taken out. Use the $1440 today.” The man was a bit uncertain, but spent the money as he please.
The next morning the phone rang again. “This morning another $1440 was deposited into your account. You must use it all today.” The man used the money. This happened every day. Some of the money he used wisely, but some of it was used on wasteful and frivolous spending. The more the days went on, the more frivolous he became, thinking it would last forever. Then one day, the man began to worry, “What if I don’t get the money today?”
What’s the lesson here for you and me? God gives us 24 hours each day. That amounts to 1440 minutes every day. We need to use all 1440 each day. The next day, another 1440 minutes.
Of course God wants us to take care of ourselves and to enjoy our lives. But Jesus’ way, and the way of Jesus’ followers, is to find life by losing it. To discover life by serving.
Take some time during this season of Lent to prioritize your use of the time God grants to you. How are you using it to enjoy a closer walk with God? How much of your time is used in wasteful and frivolous ways? How much of your time is devoted to relationships with those you love, and in serving those that you may not even know?
With the ashen cross of Ash Wednesday still freshly remembered on your forehead, and the mark of the cross from your baptism still emblazoned upon you, give thanks for Jesus’ cross which has set you free. And be intentional about using your time… each day, each hour, in cross-shaped living.
God loves you. God calls you. God sends you. Use your time wisely. And don’t forget to “spring forward” an hour this weekend.
See you in worship as we focus on Mark 6:30-44 this weekend.
Pastor Tim