We Already Love You.

loveThe mission of our congregation is quite simply stated: Share God’s Love. God, in and through Jesus Christ has, without doubt, loved us to death. Each breath, heartbeat, and our daily bread are given to us in love. Our reconciliation with God is a gift of love. Christ commands us to love others and the creation as we have been loved – without restraint or rules. That is pretty simply stated too. The difficulty is in the doing, isn’t it?

Loving others unconditionally is hard. First, it is hard to love others when I’m so busy loving myself and what is mine. I don’t have the time or the energy to focus on someone else, especially if I don’t even know them. Second, the songs on the radio and the latest Netflix production continue to teach me that love is a feeling; a heart-warming rush of emotion that will inevitably end with a “somebody-done-somebody-wrong” song.

The truth of the matter is that love is what we have been given and we are called, cajoled, commanded to share that love others – even before we get to know them. Think of Jesus. Before Jesus ever met the leper and healed; before he ever talked with Zacchaeus up in the tree; before he encountered any of the wayward people who became his disciples; before he announced in his dying, “Father forgive them…” he loved them. His disposition toward every bird, rock, loaf of bread and person he encountered was love. Even though he hadn’t met you, he already loved you.

For more than a year now, we have been working to meaningfully proclaim our love for any and all we meet, just like Jesus. The reason we do this is because the Church at large, and we in particular, have not always shared God’s love with people who desperately needed to be loved by God and God’s people. Instead of loving people before we met them, we all too often judged them before we met them – and then excluded them from the beautiful community God desires to build here in this community.

imagesBelow is a statement developed by a team of dedicated members, shaped by input from people who offered critique, discussed by members who came to forums, reviewed and revised by the Council that we will work to adopt as a clear and concise declaration that we plan to live out Christ’s command to love – even before we meet someone. It is a declaration for those who search for God’s love and it is a means of holding us accountable to be who we say we are.  If you have not already done so, please take the survey of support that was sent out this week.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

STATEMENT OF INCLUSION & WELCOMEHOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH

Grace, peace, and welcome to you in the name of the blessed, Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We are people simultaneously faithful and afraid; broken and redeemed; joyful and struggling to keep it together. Together, we strive to share God’s love by loving our neighbors and loving creation. Even though we don’t know you yet, we already love you. 

You are loved. We believe you are a beloved child of God created in God’s image.

You are loved. We believe Jesus loves you and taught us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” 

You are loved. Your race, gender identity, mental or physical ability, sexual orientation, marital status, financial situation, social standing, education, cultural background, immigration status, or any other category or label cannot separate you from the love of God, nor keep you from being what God called you to be.

You are loved. No matter where you are on your faith journey, no matter the questions you bring, no matter the doubts or struggles you bear, there is a place for you here to ask, seek, and share.

You are invited. We strive to create a safe, inclusive, and affirming environment where all are invited, and each is accepted and embraced. We invite you to receive and share God’s love as you are, for who you are.  – The People of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Greetings! My name is Garth Englund

Greetings!! My name is Garth Englund and I could not be more excited to serve as your Pastoral Intern for the coming year.

While I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know all of you in person, I wanted to take a minute to give you a brief introduction to myself. I am currently a student at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where I have been living since starting school nearly two years ago. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, where my grandmother, parents, and younger brother still live. My call to pastoral ministry dates back to middle school when my grandmother noticed a keen interest in liturgy and hymns and suggested that I would definitely “become a pastor someday.” My journey has not been without detours, however. After graduating high school, I felt called to the world of business, and so I pursued an undergraduate degree in finance and ended up with a career in aerospace, where I have been working for the past eight years.

Although I loved my job, as time went on, I realized more and more that for me true joy and peace came through my faith and activities in the church. I realized how important Christian community is, because of the way it adds meaning and supports people through the highs and lows of life’s journey. Finally, in 2016, thanks to the guidance and support of a pastor who saw in me the gifts for ministry, I decided to respond to God’s call and the rest, as they say, is history.

My time so far at Luther has provided me with the opportunity to strengthen my faith, to learn more about the Bible and theology, to build meaningful Christian community, and to begin to learn what it means to serve as a Christian public leader in the twenty-first century. It has been a great experience of immense personal growth. From the beginning, however, I must confess that it is Internship that I have been looking forward to most of all. I am excited to get back into the parish, to be with you all in worship and fellowship, to learn about God’s Word together, and experience all that God is doing at Holy Trinity and the community beyond.

As far as hobbies and interests go, I enjoy being outdoors, the mountains, reading historical fiction, liturgy, craft beer, and Denver sports (Go Broncos!). Cooking, especially on my BBQ, is one of my favorite activities and often serves as my chosen way to relax after a long day or a long week. Some of my happiest moments come from sitting at the table sharing a meal with family and friends and I hope that the coming year provides opportunities to share many meals together, both at the Lord’s Supper and in fellowship outside of worship. My ministry with you begins on August 19 – until then, know that my thoughts are of you and my prayers are for you. See you soon!

In Christ, Garth Englund

I Am a Racist

I am a racist. I was born to it. So were my parents, and their parents before them. The potential for racism is woven into my humanity. The presence of racism in my life is as pervasive as the air I breathe.  

First, racism is an expression of one of the most basic forms of sin: self-justification. “Us and them” dichotomies are always about improving my standing at another’s expense. Racism is an “us and them” construct that is based on the lie that the color of your skin is constitutive of your humanity. As Merriam-Webster defines it, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates defines it more broadly: “Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.”  My capacity to be a racist (or misogynist, or elitist, or any kind of “-ist”) is grounded in my desire to divide my world into us and them for my own benefit. “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

Second, I can’t escape the racism of the culture around me. An old Hasidic proverb says: “To a worm in a jar of horseradish, the whole world is horseradish.” If you live in America, racism is like the horseradish surrounding the poor worm. You just don’t know anything different. You can’t even see the sin, unless you get to the edge of the jar and can somehow look to the other side of the glass. Even then, escape is nearly impossible.

The truth of our racism as a nation is inescapable. Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Award winner, professor, poet and bestselling author, says, “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” Jim Wallis, author, pastor and leader of Sojourners, in his book America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America states the truth in a way that always shakes me to the core: “The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.”  Imitating Isaiah 6:5 – I am a racist, and I live among a racist people. (Isaiah 6:5)

I want to be clear. I am not a White Supremacist actively seeking the destruction of other races. Neither am I one who rationally believes any of the nonsense about how racially different people are, inferior, flawed, lazy, stupid. I have confronted racist behavior in public, in my congregations, and in my personal life. That said, I have also failed at times. I have failed to say “NO!” when I get offered something before a person of color standing in the same line. I have remained silent when someone utters the racial epithet or tells the cruel racial joke. I have been the recipient of grace and blessing when I didn’t even realize it was taken from someone who had darker skin.

Just because my best friend is black does not mean I’m not a racist. It is simply that by the grace of God (which this friend embodies) I’ve been able to transcend the sin of my people and my soul in what is a small step for humanity, but a big leap for me. Just because I have worked and labored in congregations and classrooms with people of color with good result, does not mean I’m not stained by racism.

Dealing with racism begins with admitting its strangling hold on our culture, our nation and my own soul. Dealing with racism starts with my own repentance – every day – as I resist and reject falling into the cultural notions about my “inherent superiority” because of my color (or lack thereof). Dealing with racism is becoming aware that telling people to “go back to where they came from” is a hurtful and historically racist thing to say and stopping myself from saying it for that very reason.

Lenny Duncan, an ELCA pastor writes in his book, Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in America, “Passivity is the new engine of systemic racism. You just have to believe that this is the way things are.”  Being an active racist who utters inflammatory words or engages in hateful, violent behavior and being a passive racist who does nothing or ignores the truth fuels the same sin and feeds the evil that still works to destroy us.

I am a racist. I am called by my faith every day to beat back the lies and evil that try to tell me I am superior to someone because of my skin color; to resist racist speech, thought, violence, injustice in my own life and the life of the world. My place is to stand with those victimized by racism and against those who perpetuate it. Of this, I am certain, because Jesus is my Lord (a Palestinian) who told me to love everyone – no matter what.

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them”
― Elie Wiesel

Pax Christi – Tim Olson, Lead Pastor

More Than I Imagined

I started my internship at Holy Trinity last August.  I walked in the north doors and into the office.  I introduced myself and met everyone in the office that day.  It was a start of a journey for me and for this congregation.  Holy Trinity has had interns in the past, so you all had some idea of what to expect. But for me, this was new.

I was welcomed that first weekend at services and then after a while I began to feel at home.  I feel like I have been part of this community for quite some time now.  A year isn’t that long in reality, especially with some of you being members longer than I have been alive!   

While I know a year isn’t that long, it also feels like I have been here for quite some time.  Time is strange that way, while it might feel like it has been forever, it also feels like I just started.      

On that first day I walked into the church office wondering if I would find my place here.  I am leaving this place knowing that I have found a place in this world; I feel a part of something.  That is due in no small part to how Holy Trinity welcomes the newcomer. I was welcomed into a faith community that invites, welcomes, and honors all people and nurtures them to grow in service with Christ. Thank you for making me feel welcome and a part of this community.

An internship is a way for a seminarian to gain ministry experience and competence.  Without the support of congregations like Holy Trinity, internships would not be able to be offered to seminarians.   

Holy Trinity has made a commitment to being a place where an intern can learn and grow in a safe environment.  You are shaping the next generation of pastors as you welcome interns into your midst. Your feedback, your support, your prayers, your welcoming spirit has been a blessing to me and will continue to be a blessing for future interns.  

Thank you to Pastor Tim and Pastor Pam for everything they have helped me with this past year.  Both of you have been wonderful role models and have helped me to better understand what it means to be in pastoral ministry. 

Thank you to the staff that have helped me along the way.  The staff at Holy Trinity is excellent and is second to none.   

To all of you here at Holy Trinity, thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow.  Thank you for all your support and feedback.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the Holy Trinity family for this past year.

It has been an incredible year with you all. This internship was meant as a learning opportunity. While I have learned about preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and the ins and outs of pastoral ministry, I have also learned more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned to take joy in community. I’ve learned to listen more than I talk. I’ve learned that our hearts have an endless capacity to love. I’ve learned by your example how to serve selflessly. This congregation is full of life.

Holy Trinity will always hold a special place in my ministry journey and in my heart.  I will leave Holy Trinity learning more than I could ever imagine and full of gratitude.

Please keep our family in your prayers.

In Christ, Travis Segar

What’s So Ordinary about Ordinary Time?

This season of the church year after Pentecost is the time of green paraments, and a long counting of the Sundays that make up this season.  We sometimes simply refer to it as “ordinary time.”  Now that the 4th of July is over most of us are in the midst of vacation time or have already taken that anticipated time away.  Now life is back to, well, ordinary.

Yet this time certainly wasn’t ordinary for Jesus and it’s not ordinary for us either.  If we look at some of the gospel texts for the coming weeks we find that Jesus is busy.  This coming weekend we hear of a question from a lawyer about how he can inherit eternal life; what is he to do with his ordinary days in order to achieve this goal?  So, Jesus teaches him about love: loving those we don’t want to love, loving those we dehumanize, having compassion for others who we live with in this world.

Sometimes ordinary days become so busy that we can become distracted by many things. Listening to Jesus gets lost in all the other goings on of summer.  We hear of  Jesus’ encounter with two sisters, Mary and Martha.   Martha invites Jesus into their home but is so busy and so distracted that she forgets the beauty and joy of having this guest in their house. Instead she whines and complains.  Mary on the other hand, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened.  Perhaps this is a good reminder to us to listen up, to savor Jesus’ word and meal in worship.  Perhaps it’s time to listen up, to God’s creation, and give thanks for this moment in time and its beauty, for life.  Creation is a manifestation of God’s love. Just listen up to the sounds of creation: from birds chirping, to the babbling streams, to urban geese, and the crackling of corn growing.

Another story we hear in the coming weeks is that of the disciples learning from Jesus how to pray.  They learn that they can trust God as their  parent.  God’s gives what we need.  God forgives our sins, which is an example for us in extending forgiveness to others.  We are reminded that God does not bring us to a time of trial – God is not a tempter or a teaser.  We can come to God in prayer at any time, because God wants a relationship with us and loves to hear from us.  Time in prayer is precious time and can take many forms.

Jesus invites us to live life in the ordinary days; to observe life, listen, see, feel the beauty of this world.  Jesus invites us to live life in the ordinary days; to love those with whom we share this beautiful planet, to have care and concern for those who are cast off by our country or the world.  God’s children are the presence of God in our midst.  We exist for each other.  We exist to live in community with each other. 

Albert Einstein said in The World as I See It; “We exist for each other; in the first place, for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next, for all those unknown to us personally, who whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy.  A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

As we settle into the rest of the summer, perhaps we can reflect on what Jesus has given us in order to make our ordinary days extraordinary.  We can use the gift of listening, and for that matter, all our senses to appreciate and care for creation.  We can ponder the gift of being connected with every other human on this planet at this time in history.  We can give thanks for the gift of having a God who loves each of us and wants a relationship with us; a God who gives. Our God is extra- ordinary. God comes to live among us and now has sent the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts to life, as we work for God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace for all of creation!  There is nothing ordinary about that!

Faith and the Fourth

Being faithful and patriotic on a national holiday.

I am proud to be an American citizen, even if my pride is not expressed as jubilantly as Lee Greenwood’s song. I pray for God to bless America (even as I pray for all the nations of the world). Even if I do not fly the flag at my house, I pay my taxes, obey the laws of the land and vote after careful, prayerful, thoughtful reflection. I sincerely believe that it is among the many blessings GOD has granted me, that I am an American.

This weekend I am sure I will be asked why we didn’t sing any national songs, even though they are in the hymnal. I will again try to explain that in the church calendar it is not Independence Day, but the 4th Sunday after Pentecost and Jesus wants to talk about sending our disciples. I will try to point out that we gather on Sunday to worship God, not a nation and that part of the church’s mission is to give thanks, AND call to account the injustice and suffering caused by our nation, just as Jesus and the prophets of Israel did.

For me, the 4th of July is about celebrating the revolutionary principles that have held us together as a people. I was taught that even though the story of George Washington and the cherry tree might have been mythic, truth was woven into the fabric of the nation. I revered a nation who had welcomed my immigrant ancestors when they came here to find opportunity, fleeing poverty and famine. It was driven into my heart that liberty and justice was for all – not some; and that “all” meant “all.” No one was above the law and, as was powerfully demonstrated by a President in my teen years, that the powerful would be taken from their thrones if they ignored our democratic ideals.

All that said, I have to say that as much as I respect and value this country, it seems to me like I don’t really know my own country anymore. Truth, justice, equal opportunity and the rights of every person to thrive have been replaced by an ugly and inhuman set of “values” that promotes everything we tried to throw off when first shots of revolution were first fired. Men, women, and children who have been drawn to the promise of America are being kept in concentration camps where they are treated as criminals and dehumanized. Hate groups press agendas that urge us all to choose a side and hate neighbor, with apparent support from the powers that be. Our leaders lie so rapaciously and with absolutely no sense of guilt or shame. The result is a moral collapse and loss of meaning for anything. We have been led not to the brink of despair, but into the pit from which there seems no escape.

That means that for this person of faith, the 4th of July is bittersweet – with maybe a growing taste of bitter and some notes of despair. Here is where you may choose to sharpen your knives and say, “Love it or leave it!” I’ll simply say to adore something so blindly that we cannot accept the fact that everything in this world is broken; that there are things rotten in America, just as there are good, is not patriotic, it is idolatrous. Luther taught that we are all simultaneously sinner and saint – and that includes the nation. Until humility, honesty, and confession take their place again in the heart of the nation, we are lost.

When Jesus was asked by those trying to trap him, “Shall we pay our taxes to the Emperor?”, Jesus requested a coin and asked, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” “They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) So, what exactly belonged to the Emperor and what belonged to God? What was created in the image of the emperor? Just the coin. Everything else belongs to God.

The biggest spiritual problem in our nation today is 1) we think the USA allows God to exist, when it is just the other way around; 2) that God’s purposes are the same as America’s; that faith includes worshipping the flag as much as worshipping Jesus. This idolatry is making us arrogant and tearing us apart. God is, always, and must be, first, or we are worshipping a false god, and it might be named the USA.

Caesar established the city of Philippi as a place where loyal, retired legionnaires from the Roman military could live rewarded with property and live well as citizens of Rome. Being loyal to Caesar and a citizen of Rome meant everything to them and that city. When Paul came along preaching about the Christ, he found that the message could easily be snuffed out because it ran up against the culture of patriotism. Here is what he told them: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21) Translation: I may live in America, but I am first and foremost a citizen of heaven; my leader and chief is Jesus.

What has made America demonstrate greatness of any kind has been the grace of God and the ways in which, as a nation, we have contributed to the cause of God’s reign of peace, justice, mercy and grace to others.  This has made us, in some ways, a powerful nation. But we must recognize that our power has also been advanced by the assertion of power over others – whole people, nations and individuals – citizens and others who have been enslaved, killed, forced out, ignored and robbed of their voice and rights. The role of the faithful is to celebrate the blessing God grants through this nation and to work tirelessly to call the nation to account for what does not stand in God’s reign.

So, don’t for a minute think that I’m not going to celebrate the 4th of July. I will not go out and by a new mattress or car to honor the nation, as the ads suggest. I will not thump my white, male chest with pride, because pride is a sin and I had nothing to do with the place of my birth.  What I will do is take time to, with solemnity, give thanks for all that makes this nation blessed (for God alone is great). I will also pray for those who suffer from the injustice and violence and hatred perpetrated in the name of the USA. Then I will pray for us all. The next day, it will be back to work as a citizen of heaven who, with thanks, happens to be American.

Pastor Tim Olson

Copyright 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Crazy Good – VBS

It is summer time here in Iowa. That means all sorts of different things are happening for people. For some, this is vacation season. They get the family together, load everyone up into the car, and take a road trip somewhere.

For other people it’s the busy season at work. This is when the vast majority of their work and income occurs. Landscapers and ice cream shops are really busy this time of the year.

For us at Holy Trinity it’s also a busy time of year. This week is Vacation Bible School (VBS) and it has been a crazy week. The normal way of doing things is tossed out the window and things get crazy in all sorts of different ways. Crazy busy; crazy organized; crazy fun. Even the Science Guy gets crazy (that would be me!). 

The Science Guy

If you were in worship this past weekend, you were able to see all the decorations around the church in preparation for VBS. And that wasn’t even all of them. The sanctuary has been turned into an awesome set and the kids (and adults) are having fun. 

VBS is crazy – which is just one reason it is so fun for the kids. VBS isn’t just fun though. It makes a huge impact in the life of a child. I get a front row seat to see how VBS helps a child learn more about their faith in Jesus and to help strengthen their relationships with him.

VBS also sticks with people way into their later years. Even if they don’t think they remember all the times they went to Vacation Bible School when they were kids.

I was with a group of seniors for an offsite worship service a couple months ago. There are no hymnals there so we bring along some song sheets so that everyone can sing. It was my job to bring the song sheets. I didn’t realize until after I had already arrived for the service that I forgot them on my desk.

It wasn’t an option to drive back for them. So, we changed up the songs we sang that day. We chose songs that I remember singing as a child (and they were old when I was a kid). These seniors (some of them well into their 90s) remembered them as well. “This Little Light of Mine”, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and “Jesus Loves Me” were sung and everyone remembered the lyrics. 

When we sang those songs, those seniors remembered all the actions too. Even the most stoic among the bunch was smiling and having fun. Laughter and fun were had by all. The songs took them back to childhood. They helped them remember what it was like to be a child all those years ago. It reminded them of the faith they learned, just like the kids this week in VBS. 

It’s just one of the many reasons why we have Vacation Bible School here at Holy Trinity. It’s important for the kinds, but not just for the current generation. Just like the seniors who were singing songs from their youth, someday these kids will remember their time spent in VBS. They’ll remember the songs, they’ll remember the dancing, they’ll remember the friends. They’ll remember all the lessons they learned about Jesus and the love that he has for his children, whether those children are 6 years old, or 90 years old.

In Christ, Travis Segar – Pastoral Intern

The Mystery of God

This weekend is Holy Trinity Sunday.  This is the one Sunday during the entire Christian year that is devoted to a doctrine of the church. It’s a Sunday where we celebrate God as we imagine the majestic nature of God the Three in One and the One in Three. The mystery of our God is hard to grasp because it is beyond what our human minds can comprehend.

The Holy Trinity is proclaimed multiple times during worship; at the beginning of worship the Presiding Minister greets the congregation in the name of the Trinity,  and worship concludes with a Trinitarian blessing.  How many times do you hear the Trinity invoked in worship? It is not just at the beginning and the end. You might want to pay attention this week. Why is it important? Trinitarian language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is neither magical or hierarchical, but is instead and invitation to a deeper relationship and encounter with God who is by God’s very nature, a God who is about relationships.  The Holy Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are in relationship with each other, and with us as a community of believers.

The name of the Triune God is used when we baptize, and it is used when we bury.  Both times bringing joy and gratitude to a God who reaches out to us in life and hope, and never lets us go.  In the ELW (Evangelical Lutheran Worship) there is a portion of the funeral liturgy that is at the beginning of the service which claims our belief in the Holy Trinity.  Hear the grace poured out in our loving God:

Eternal God, maker of heaven and earth, who formed us from the dust of the earth, who by your breath gave us life, we glorify you. Congregation responds: We glorify you.

Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life, who suffered death for all humanity, who rose from the grave to open the way to eternal life, we praise you. Congregation responds: We praise you.

Holy Spirit, author and giver of life, the comforter of all who sorrow, our sure confidence and everlasting hope, we worship you. Congregation responds:  We worship you.

The Creeds of the church tell us about the nature of the Trinity. They were prepared as a defense for the Christian faith against the many false teachings prevailing at the time.  But heresies are just as prevalent today, we just don’t name them that as often as perhaps we should. The Creeds also bring us together with other denominations who confess their faith through the same creeds. They also serve in helping each of us to understand our faith so that we can defend it and share it. They are statements of what we believe.  I invite you to use the Apostles or Nicene Creed in your daily devotional time to grasp the majestic nature of God, the inclusiveness of God.

The majesty and the mystery of our universal God are what gives hope to the world.  Trinitarian God, we glorify you, we praise you, we love you and we give you thanks!

Pastor Pamela Schroeder

On Pentecost and Loneliness

A little over a year ago, the global health company Cigna released results from a study which surveyed the impact of loneliness in the United States. This study was conducted in partnership with the marketing research firm, Ipsos. The study used the UCLA Loneliness Scale to assess subjective feelings of loneliness and social isolation. More than 20,000 adults over 18 were enrolled in the study. The results revealed that nearly half of Americans report feeling alone or left out. Only one in four people feel as though there are people who understand them. (You can read the study: https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2018/new-cigna-study-reveals-loneliness-at-epidemic-levels-in-america) I think you get the picture.

Loneliness is at epidemic proportions.  We seem to have so many easy ways to communicate with one another: texting, Facebook, Twitter and other avenues.  Yet, it seems that we are lonelier than we were before, especially when the posts on social media show other having a “good time” without including yours truly.  We are involved in so many activities.  It seems that children and parents are always with others at the ball diamond or in the pool, and parents are on the sidelines rooting on their favorite player. Yet, we’re still lonely.

A spouse dies, and life is so different.  The one you could share your heart’s desire with is no longer there to listen.  A marriage drifts to the point that you no longer know who your spouse is, and you don’t know how to fix it.  You feel so alone.  Alone in your grief and sorrow.

So, what does loneliness have to do with Pentecost?  Although we can’t escape the stress, sorrow and loneliness of our broken humanity we can bring healing and work toward wholeness through the work of the Holy Spirit.  This Sunday is Pentecost and we remember the many and various ways that the Spirit comes to us, lives among us and in us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says ”I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you  forever.”  After Jesus ascends to the Father, he promises he is not leaving his disciples alone.  The intimate relationship that Jesus has with the Father is imitated in what’s to come.  When Jesus is gone and the Holy Spirit comes, the community of faith; the Church; will become the instrument of God’s love.  The Holy Spirit dwells in God’s people and God will be enfleshed in the work of the faith community as we are his hands and feet.  The same type of community that exists between Jesus and the Father will now exist between the community and the Holy Spirit. 

If you don’t believe me, read the book of Acts. See the Spirit at work.  Look at our congregation (community), when we gather in small groups to share time eating dessert, drinking coffee, or in Bible study gathered in love to build each other up and offer support.  We become an intimate group caring for one another.  We know the Spirit’s presence when the group is about loving each other and reaching out with that love to others.  The group has a relationship which takes away the pain of loneliness.

Perhaps you see that love manifested in caring for one another at worship.  Maybe it’s sitting with someone who is at worship by themselves.  Perhaps it’s supporting a young parent who wishes their little one was quieter.  You may be the person wo offers heartfelt words of understanding and support as they bring their child to church.  Perhaps it’s a visitor who builds up the courage to stay for coffee and donuts.  You are that welcoming person who invites the guest to sit at the table with you.  That’s the Spirit advocating for love.  Perhaps it’s going out of your way to greet someone you haven’t seen in church before to make them feel welcome.  That’s the Spirit working through you to build a loving community. Words of love come from the Spirit and always advocate for love.

Loneliness is a terrible feeling, but the Holy Spirit, the One who loves like Jesus, the One who is the life-giver, the one who builds community is at work here at Holy Trinity through you and each person who the Spirit has welcomed into this place.  The Holy Spirit uses the Church to bring healing to a lonely world.  When the Spirit is leading, we have confidence that we can follow! 

A blessed Pentecost my sisters and brothers! In Christ.

Pastor Pam Schroeder

copyright 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Made for Worship

psa 148 2 Psalm 148 calls upon all heaven and earth to worship. It is not just people; not just believing people. It is every single thing that “is.” The shout of worship begins in the heavens with the angels (v. 1-2). It flows through the sun and moon and stars. (v. 3-4). Verses 7-10 beckons:

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

So, how does a mountain, a fruit tree, a creeping beetle, and the white breasted nuthatch I saw in my backyard “Praise the Lord?” James Mays, in his commentary on the Psalms* writes: “The stormy wind fulfills his command by being a stormy wind. The creation and the creatures praise in their very being and doing, by existing and filling their assigned place.”

So, how does a mountain, a fruit tree, a creeping beetle, and the white breasted nuthatch I saw in my backyard “Praise the Lord?” James Mays, in his commentary on the Psalms* writes: “The stormy wind fulfills his command by being a stormy wind. The creation and the creatures praise in their very being and doing, by existing and filling their assigned place.”

Israel has been given a vocation of praise according to verse 14: “He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to them.” This means God’s people are the voice of all creation’s praise. We are given a vocation, a purpose, to give voice to creation’s praise, even as that praise is embedded deep within.

We worship God when we are what we are created to be. We are created to love, to tend psa 148 3and care for creation, to live with others in community. At the heart of things, however, we are called to worship – to praise God by being God’s people. St. Augustine said it this way: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” 

Augustine also knew that because we are willful and easily distracted; because we often mistake ourselves and our desires for God, we can turn this impulse to worship in the wrong direction. In his Confessions, he shares this discovery: “But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in Him but in myself and His other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.” 

As one anonymous writer has said, “What we worship determines what we become.” When we worship God, we keep becoming what God created us to be. When we worship other things we find no rest, only pain from gods who demand too much and return too little. It is no wonder that with lives full of work, activities, bills, – all demanding our devotion, our commitment, our allegiance – we suffer. We are not what we were meant to be.

The gifted writer and professor, David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), in This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life offered this contemporary analysis in the midst of his own brilliance and struggle: “Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship… If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.” Augustine’s counsel? “If the things of this world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that the things that please you may not displease Him.” 

Summer is upon us and we will find even more reasons to make worshipping God less a calling and more an extracurricular activity. Instead of allowing our praise of God to infuse the summer events, work, and vacation with joy and meaning, we will spend our impulse to worship on the things themselves and find little that lasts. We will offer worship on Wednesday evenings when the weekend is full. We will gather on Saturday evenings when Sunday is just to packed with fun. We will be here every Sunday gathered in small and large numbers to do what God made us to do and to be what God called us to be. Don’t mistake a blessing for the source of all blessings.

cup patenYou can’t really worship God revealed in Christ on a golf course or in a fishing boat, no matter how many times we tell the joke or make the excuse. As C.S. Lewis said “In the process of being worshiped… God communicates his presence to (humanity).”  And God knows (and we know deep down) that we need God’s presence more than we need anything else.

Pax Christi, Tim Olson, Lead Pastor  

*James L. Mays, Psalms: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. (Louisville: John Knox Press) 1994. p. 445

copyright © 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church