From the Pastor’s Desk – May 2017

Peace be with you! We recently started taking time for intentional breathing at our house. With two young kids learning to manage emotions, and two young parents learning how to manage the emotions of youngkids…and our own, we need to do a lot of breathing. Hectic schedules, obligations, and commitments can make the life after the resurrection feel like anything but the resurrected life. Taking time to slow down and breathe seems like a luxury. And if not that, time wasted. It is interesting that in the Gospel of John, one of the first things Jesus does after his resurrection is wish peace upon the disciples and breathe into them the Holy Spirit, the breath of life. The language used in the Greek is the same breath that God breathes into the lump of clay in Genesis to create Adam. This breathing is anything but a luxury. It is part of the very act of creation. This breathing doesn’t come when we need a time out, when we are already out of breath. It comes at the beginning. It is the first breath. Just now, as I am writing this, my smartwatch reminded me to breathe. I told it to remind me in 30 minutes. Cause you know, I need to finish this article ASAP or this newsletter will be delayed a day and arrive on May 2nd instead of May 1st. Perhaps you laugh. But how many times have you thought something similar this week? Irony can sometimes be the best teacher. So if you’ve read this far, please, breathe. Breathe deep enough that it feels like your...
From the Pastor’s Desk – April 2017

From the Pastor’s Desk – April 2017

“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Dear Friends in Christ, The cartoon I’m sharing with you struck a chord with me. It comes from a recent edition of Christian Century, a popular clergy periodical. I’ve been reading articles (various newspapers) that describe a sense of separation or disunity across our country due to political differences. In some cases, members of the same family are distressed by differences to the point of no longer speaking to each other. This is not only sad, but perhaps an issue we will need to deal with as communities or as a nation. I feel we need to do something beyond just debating matters politically. Maybe it’s time to listen. This cartoon tells me that we are all seeking the same thing, “the weather”, but we are not too caught up in the different ways of getting to the same desired result. Isn’t it true that at the end of the day, all citizens of this country want the same things – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Certainly, we have many varied understandings of these basic quests, but we continue to share the same country and the same humanity. Perhaps we are failing to listen to each other. As people of faith, I believe we have much to contribute to a renewed sense of unity in our diverse country. First, we come to the conversation having received the...
From the Pastor’s Desk – March 2017

From the Pastor’s Desk – March 2017

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one in whom we live, move, and have our being. Amen. The season of Lent is here. During this holy season, in our preparation for the joy of Easter, we will hear stories from scripture about wandering, about searching, and about the faith that carries us through these times. We listen to stories about the Hebrews’ journey in the wilderness. We listen to the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the only home they ever knew. We will hear the hear the story of the dried-up bones of Israel, living exiled in a foreign land. We will listen to the story of Abraham who, in faith, left his home to follow the promise of God. Along with theses stories, we want to meditate on Jesus’ words from Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Stories like these are often so distant from many of our own experiences. We can be amazed by what we hear, and, yet, still not fully understand what it means to wander, to not go home, and to feel as though you have nowhere to lay your head. This is why we invite you into the spiritual practice of listening this Lent. In particular, we invite you to listen to stories of immigrants. During our Wednesday night Lenten worship, we will listen to the experiences and hopes and fears of immigrants from right here in Rochester in the hope that...
From the Pastor’s Desk – February 2017

From the Pastor’s Desk – February 2017

Dear Friends in Christ, I need to lead off this February note to you with saying thank you to all members of Good Shepherd for the wonderful experiences you have shared with me and Cindy in our brief time with you thus far. Cindy has said to me she feels so warmly welcomed by everyone in that many of you have come up to her and engaged in conversation; she has particularly highlighted the conversations she’s had with children. I also feel that our congregation’s annual meeting was amazing! A full house with great food! We even set up extra tables. As a newcomer, I sensed an eagerness to be engaged in our ministry together. Pastor Carl-Eric and I are eager to begin this new year with effective committee meetings/work, as well as continuing to create and lead meaningful worship services. I thank you for passing a “faith budget”, one I believe is commonplace for faithful congregations engaged in doing ministry. Every step we take is by faith when we follow Jesus, so let’s see where our faith in Jesus leads us–both as we worship together and serve together. Another item on my mind this month, as one of your faith leaders, is the current magnitutde of public conversation that includes divisive political rhetoric. This may be on your minds, as well. I remind myself that, as followers of Christ, we support a unique unity in Christ even when we are not unified on all matters; that we seek ways to engage in loving dialog and try to walk in the other’s shoes. Synod Bishop Steven Delzer wrote to...
From the Pastor’s Desk – January 2017

From the Pastor’s Desk – January 2017

Greetings! I’m thrilled to share this greeting with every household that receives this newsletter. It seems like forever since November 20, 2016, when I learned from Tristan Pearson that I was officially being called as your new lead pastor. I truly appreciate the time you gave to me to rest and find my bearings while transitioning to Rochester for this new beginning Cindy and I have landed in what we are calling “transitional housing” which relieves us from commuting, and it gives us time to sell our current home and then find a make a home in Rochester. New beginnings–I’ve always felt that new beginnings require some definition. In my Christmas Eve sermon, I spoke of a definition in the new beginning given by St. Matthew as he opens the New Testament, saying, “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.” This beginning is defined by what could then and now be known as the sacred (that which is inspired by God) and the mundane (that which is inspired by something of the earth). Once God had established His new presence within the world of humankind, this definition took on meaning, which continues to guide our faith and lives today. When Jesus calls his first disciples, this new beginning for His ministry was defined by a faithful kind of following. It was a faith built upon a new willingness to set aside things temporal for a spiritual quest that would make sense of all things temporal under a new mantle of understanding–a faith in Christ Jesus. My new beginning with you is not to be...

From the Interim Pastor’s Desk – July 2015

Why Do We Exist? Patrick Lencioni wrote a best-selling book called, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business¹. He wrote primarily for businesses, yet organizational health is certainly important to the Church also. One of six critical questions any organization should ask, according to Lencioni, is “Why do we exist?” According to Lencioni, “Employees in every organization, and at every level, need to know that at the heart of what they do lies something grand and aspirational.” There’s no doubt that what we do as a Christian congregation is grand and aspirational. The question we face during this interim time of reflection is, how do we express what we do and believe in a clear and unambiguous way? Can we state what is at the heart of our ministry in such a way that every member, staff person, and friend of Good Shepherd know what we will or will not compromise? Our transition team will soon be enlisting the help of the entire congregation to formulate a core principle that can be used as a guiding star, leading us clearly into the future. Not long ago, my wife Ruth and I were browsing through the showrooms of Ikea, a Swedish world-wide distributer that professes to offer “affordable solutions for better living.” Ikea certainly doesn’t sell high-end furniture. Their average customer, I suspect, is a young student-type, on a sctrict budget and trying to find decent looking furniture at an affordable price. It’s hard to deny, though, that Ikea has mastered the art of marketing, which is, to be honest, what we are about as evangelists for Christ....

From the Interim Pastor’s Desk – June 2015

Quick–Answer this question, “Why do we go to worship?” How many of you missed the answer that the question the question itself implies—to worship? Most often we would hear it phrased, “why do we go to church?” They may seem, on the surface, to be the same question, but I think they can generate very different answers. If I ask, “why go to church?” I expect to hear things like, “because–it’s good for us– God wants us to—Jesus did—it’s where our ‘family’ is—our family has always gone to church–it’s a good habit—it’s how we set an example for others—it’s good fellowship—to grow spiritually—to ask and receive forgiveness—because my life is so ‘screwed up, etc.” What was your answer? Whatever answer we give, it seems that more and more people around us are worshiping less often, and fewer and fewer people are worshiping at all. Perhaps we gain some clarity by focusing especially on the word “worship,” as opposed to “going to church.” What does it mean to worship? I love the answer I found on the internet, the source to which I won’t bother to give credit: “We worship God for God is who God is. We worship because of who God is and what God has done. Our worship is a response to God, to God’s nature and activity.” Huh? What is worship, and why should we be doing it? According to Merriam-Webster: Origin of WORSHIP Middle English worshipe worthiness, respect, reverence paid to a divine being, from Old English weorthscipe worthiness, respect, from weorthworthy, worth + -scipe –ship First Known Use: before 12th century. Synonyms: adulation, deification,...

From the Interim Pastor’s Desk – May 2015

“Never think that you need to protect God. Because anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure that you are worshipping an idol.” ― Stanley Hauerwas Two generations have passed since Bob Dylan first sang, “the times, they are a-changin’.” One would think that we all would have gotten over that change and settled in to whatever new order Dylan was prophesying. The saying that time is the only constant goes back at least to Heraclitus of Ephesus c. 535 BC – 475 BC, who said, “Everything changes and nothing stands still,” and, more famously, “You could not step twice into the same river.” Nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that change (especially technological change) is coming at us faster than ever before in history. Not only is rapid, mass communication changing what we know of the world, but immigration patterns, and jet travel are bringing us elbow-to-elbow with people and cultures that, a hundred years ago, would be considered exotic. For those of us who grew up in an Americanized Christian denomination, it may have seemed to us that Christian faith and practice was the same as it had been since the earliest times of the Church. Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents experienced change, but certainly not as dramatic as we have in the last two generations. Here in Rochester, Minnesota, where traditional Lutheran roots are still strong, and a healthy medical industry contributes to steady population growth, we may not be experiencing the dramatic down-turn in church attendance and the “graying” of heads in the pews as quickly as other...

From the Interim Pastor’s Desk – April 2015

True or False? Keeping peace in the congregation is the number one goal of a good church leader. Those who have the longest history in the congregation are the least likely to accept change. An effective church leader is tolerant, rather than confrontational. Groups begin to change only when they first have fully grasped the reality of how they function. A congregation’s best hope, after a disruptive event is to get back to normal as quickly as possible. A congregation’s sense of balance can be disturbed more by the reaction of members to an event, than by the event itself. Nowhere in the Bible is tranquility preferred to truth or harmony to justice. People would rather construct a coherent argument to support their viewpoint rather than to explore other points of view. Good leaders should settle emotional matters between members instead of helping to design a new outcome. Most congregations regain their losses within two years. Some church problems respond to a quick fix, others require long-term systemic change. I’m not going to answer these questions for you here. They are based on, or quoted from, a book that we are all challenged to read: Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, by Peter L. Steinke. You can order a book through me, or get one for yourself by ordering the paperback or electronic version from any major book seller: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Google Play; or iTunes. Our Good Shepherd transition team will begin its work shortly after Easter, and will share its work broadly with the congregation. Questions of leadership will be a large part of their work. I...