Friday Followings with 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


Friday Followings: Jesus Calls Us and Sends Us

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Just a quick note today. I love reading and preaching through the gospel of Mark. Please take time to read the whole gospel in one sitting, and then break it up week by week according to our preaching texts.
 
For this weekend, read Mark 6:1-13. In the latter portion of this text, Jesus gives his disciples their mission. “Go from town to town, proclaiming the good news that God has shown up in the flesh, all the while, healing those who are sick.”
 
Jesus has given you and me the same mission. With his authority, we proclaim God’s love in word and deed. And by sharing the forgiveness of sin, by befriending the lonely, by lifting up and encouraging our families, and by praying for God’s world, we are involved in healing.
 
Take time today to remind yourself that you are a loved and forgiven person of God. You are part of God’s family. Your life gets its purpose from your identity as a child of God. Proclaim the good news in word and deed, and bring healing to those who are in need. That’s our mission together as the body of Christ on earth.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: Faith, Love, and an Empty Bottle of Beer

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I love the story about the nun who ran out of gas a couple of hundred yards from a gas station.  She knew the gas station was close by, so she walked the couple hundred yards to the station.  She, however, didn’t have a gas can, so the attendant gave her some gas in the only container he could find, which was an empty beer bottle.
 
She walked back to her car, and as she was dumping the gas from the beer bottle into her tank, a Lutheran pastor came by and stopped. He stared at her in amazement as she poured the contents of the beer bottle into her tank and then he exclaimed, “Sister, we may have our differences, but I just have to admire your faith.”
 
As we continue in our sermon series entitled The Way of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, this week our focus is on two miraculous healings, as found in Mark 5:21-43. Please read these verses in preparation for worship.
 
Within the gospel of Mark, and in this passage, Jesus calls us to a way of faith. Jesus knows the more we experience God’s love for us, the more our faith is strengthened. And the more our faith is strengthened, the more God’s love pours out from us toward others. Faith and Love go hand in hand.
 
I read a devotional the other day by Sandra Palmer Carr. In her booklet called The Upper Room, she tells about rocking her young son, Boyd. They were in a rocking chair and Boyd was looking up at his mom as they rocked.
 
Suddenly, he lifted his little head, stared straight at his mother, became very still, cupped his mom’s face in his little hands, and said almost in a whisper, “Mommy, I’m in your eyes.” He had seen his own reflection in his mom’s eyes.
 
Sandra stopped rocking and held Boyd in that same position for several moments. Then she said quietly, “And I’m in your eyes too.” And he smiled, and put his head down on her to rest comfortably.
 
Occasionally, in the days that followed, Boyd would check to see if his discovery was still true. “Am I still in your eyes Mommy?” he would ask, as he reached up to take her face in his hands.
 
Sandra thought about the love God has for her and said, “In life’s uncertain moments, it is comforting to know that I am still in my heavenly Father’s eyes.”
 
You and I can confidently put our trust in the love of God, shown so fully in his Son Jesus. God has you “in his eyes” and in his loving embrace. Let your faith be strong, and let it become active in reflecting that love toward others.
 
See you in worship,
Pastor Tim


Friday Followings: The One Who Calms Storms

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
This week in worship we’ll be focusing in on one of my favorite accounts in all of Jesus’ ministry. As we journey together in the gospel of Mark, we give witness to the ways of Jesus. One of the questions to ask as you read is this, “If God showed up on earth, then what kind of God is this? Is it a God who loves us, or is it a God who could care less?”
 
In Jesus we see fully what God is like. We’ll look at Mark 4:35-41 this week. Read it, study it, ask questions of it. It is Jesus calming of the storm. As you ponder this text, ask yourself, “What kind of God do I see here?” “Is it a God who cares, or who could care less?”
 
What storms have you experienced in your life? How has God been present for you? Have you ever experienced peace within a storm? If so, where did the peace come from?
 
I like the fact that it is Jesus who invites the disciples (and us) into the boat in this story. You and I are invited into a life of discipleship. Jesus says to us, as he did with his disciples, “Follow me”. And as we journey with Jesus as followers, we surely will run into storms. Yet, the great promise in this story is that Jesus is right there in the boat with us.
 
What do you make of Jesus’ comments at the end of this text about fear and faith?
 
Personally, I read this account a lot in my life. It gives me hope, it gives me peace, and it gives me assurance that Jesus is with me, and with you, on this life-long journey of discipleship. When storms overtake me, I can know the peace of Christ. When fear begins to paralyze me, I can have it replaced by faith. I hope to see you this weekend as we dig deeper into this great, great portion of Scripture.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim

   



Friday Followings: Super Bowl Playbook

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I hope everyone had a good time watching the Super Bowl last Sunday. It wasn’t the most exciting game ever played. It was a defensive battle, in what turned out to be the lowest scoring Super Bowl played to date.
 
I enjoyed it, however, as it was fun watching the coaches and their game-plans, trying to outwit one another both on offense and on defense. In an interview following the game, Los Angeles Rams’ coach, Sean McVay, said “I was clearly outcoached by Bill Belichick today”.
 
As Christians, you and I should have a game-plan for life. I know we can’t know or predict or control every single detail of life. In fact, the longer we live, the more we realize we don’t always have control of what happens. Yet, for us, we do have a playbook. And that playbook, given to us and inspired by God, is the Bible.
 
And while the Bible gives us great teachings and commandments to live by, mostly it is a book about the way of salvation, both now and forever. Salvation, abundant life, purpose, fulfillment, eternal life – all of that comes to us by way of a living and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. The One who has fulfilled the law and commandments for us, calls us now to live by faith and trust in God. It’s all found in the playbook. And it provides for a super game plan for life.
 
I invite you to dig into our playbook as this weekend we continue in the gospel of Mark. Please read chapter 4. Our focus in preaching will be on the parable of the sower and the seed.
 
By the way, last weekend many of you voted for who you wanted to win the Super Bowl by placing money into the change for change baskets. The Rams bucket received $77.65 and the Patriots received $42.63. Your efforts help to feed those who are hungry. It’s all part of our Super Bowl playbook, given to us by our Super God.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim

   



Friday Followings: Holy Spirit Filled Business

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
I love the book of Acts. In it we see the Holy Spirit at work among ordinary people who, by the power of Christ, do extraordinary things. The Good News is spread far and wide. Yet, I love the reality in Acts chapter one, immediately after Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit and he ascends into heaven, the first thing the early followers of Jesus do is to have a business meeting. They gather together, they pray, and they choose Matthias to replace Judas among the disciples. Doing the business of the church is important, and it always has been from the beginning of the Christian Church.
 
This past Sunday we gathered for the 2019 Annual Meeting. We accomplished some of the business of the church. We prayed. We heard reports of the multi-faceted ministry going on at Gloria Dei. We watched a video of Bishop Zellmer describing many of the synod-wide ministries which we support. We adopted a 2019 budget. There were many great questions and comments from members. Like in the early church, the business of the church is important, as it supports the witness of the gospel.
 
Yet what struck me the most at our Annual Meeting was the positive spirit about this ministry we share. God is at work through all of us. You are a Spirit-filled group of Jesus followers. Enlivened by the good news of Jesus Christ in your life, you respond by giving of your time, talent, and treasure, and by living out that gospel in so many ways in your everyday lives.
 
I simply want to say, as I said at the Annual Meeting, thank you for your partnership in the great labor of love we share at Gloria Dei. You inspire me and, I know our entire staff, as we go about being witnesses to the love God has for us in Jesus Christ.
 
For this week’s worship, read Mark 2:1-12.
 
And an FYI for this Sunday. Come grab a plate of delicious breakfast and join our Appalachia Mission Team between services THIS SUNDAY on the south end of the fellowship hall for pictures and stories from the trip to West Virginia. They’ll take about 20 minutes or so to share what God was up to in the group and in their work with the community.
 
See you in worship,
 
Pastor Tim

   



Friday Followings: They Shall Be Like Snow

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
As I look out my office window on this blustery Friday, I see the snow coming down… and coming down… and coming down. The landscape is a blanket of white snow. And, as much as I don’t always like the long winters of South Dakota (I did grow up in California after all), there is a real beauty about the snow falling on a winter’s day.
 
One of the great chapters of the Old Testament is Isaiah chapter one. It is set up as a courtroom scene, with judge, witnesses, and all. In the courtroom, God’s people are shown to be guilty of breaking the covenant, or law. Yet how will God, the judge, ultimately rule?
 
God, the judge, gives his verdict. And the verdict is FORGIVENESS.
 
My favorite verse in this whole chapter is Isaiah 1:18. God says, “Come now, let us argue it out. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow.”
 
As you see the snow falling out your window today, and as you get your shovels and snow blowers ready later this afternoon or tonight, let it be a reminder of God’s great love for you. Because of Jesus, your sins are forgiven. Though your sins and mine are like scarlet, they shall be like snow. God’s grace declares us pure again. Like the fresh snow on the ground, God’s grace gives a fresh start, each and every day.
 
Give thanks to God today for the change of seasons. Give thanks to God today for your life. Give thanks to God today for the new and fresh snow. And give thanks to God for the gift of forgiveness.
 
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow.
 
See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim

   



Friday Followings: Mark: A Riveting and Fast Moving Account of Jesus’ Life

Hello Gloria Dei,
 
Within our worship life together, we are in the early stages of a four month journey through the gospel of Mark. Mark is the shortest of the four gospels, and is considered by most biblical scholars to be the first one written. We know that both Matthew and Luke used the gospel of Mark as they wrote and expanded their own accounts of Jesus’ life. Mark contains 661 verses. Matthew reproduces 606 of these and Luke reproduces 320. Matthew and Luke both include details of Jesus’ birth. Mark does not. Matthew and Luke expand upon Jesus’ teachings and miracles, much of which Mark does not include. Yet, the ebb and flow of Jesus’ life is the same within all three of these synoptic (to see together) gospels. And Mark, the earliest of these, sets the tone for us as we journey with Jesus through his public ministry, trial, death, and resurrection.
 
Mark often uses the word “immediately” in is writing. In the Greek he uses it 41 times, ten of which occur in Mark chapter one. His use of this word creates a sense of urgency: “There is no time to waste. Listen now! Believe now! Follow now!” I like this emphasis of Jesus within Mark’s writing. Christ’s church always needs to have a sense of urgency about the gospel. It’s of vast importance, and we ought not put off the living out and sharing of the good news until later. At Gloria Dei, we are to remain urgent about the great news of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
 
I encourage you to read Mark chapter one in preparation for worship this weekend.  Last week we saw how the heavens were torn open when Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry. In the person of Jesus, God is set loose in this world in a new way, promising never to leave us alone.
 
This week our focus will be on Mark 1:16-20. Jesus calls his first disciples, a reminder that we too are called by Jesus to follow him above all else.
 
In addition, please note that the Gloria Dei Annual Meeting is on Sunday, January 27, at 11:45. We’ll hear reports from our Council President and Senior Pastor; we’ll review the 2018 financial report; and we’ll vote to approve a financial plan for 2019. Please make every effort to be present.
 
See you in worship!
 
Pastor Tim