Dear Members of First Lutheran,

This week was an encouraging one for me to experience as a pastor in a new congregation. I was able to experience being church together in a new way, that has sometimes been hidden due to the circumstances of the last months. On Wednesday, our congregational council met and for the first time some of us gathered, masked and distant, but in person, under the new lights of our tent. We were able to work through many issues efficiently and purposefully, though maybe not perfectly yet, but we are improving our practices and transparency with the congregation. [See summary]. Some of the news is that after six-months, you are officially calling me to First Lutheran as my letter of call was signed and now we can look forward to an Installation Service in the near future. That means so much to me. The desire for that vocational affirmation has grown during this pandemic and the recognition of this not being seen primarily as a job, but a call to specific ministry is very important to me.

This weekend, I experienced a beautiful snapshot as a pastor of a church with dynamic ministry. Children gathered to chalk in front of our church (if you haven’t seen their creations, please feel free to come by the church and take a look) some seeing each other for the first time in months, hopefully giving some safe relational reassurance from their church community before they embark on a new and unique school year. A young adult from our neighborhood came by to pick up a second load of food and supplies from our food pantry to support the people of his home city of Cedar Falls, IA as they rebuild after the disastrous wind storm earlier this August. Dave dropped off flooring panels for my office and the Kocans were there to install them so that I am a little closer to having my own workspace in the church. And then as a final encouragement, as we gathered for church on Sunday, people kept coming! We had enough people show up and several visitors to make our tent feel a little more like a revival!

It’s been a tough slough to work through for all of us these last few months, and yes we have more challenges ahead. As an election approaches and a community near us has found itself on the news as a victim and example of our current national dysfunction, the world around us can seem very divided and the future may seem frightening at times. But there is much hope and goodwill in this world, in our communities and in this church. I hope we all can lean into the light and witness to it, by treating others with kindness even if they are different from us and remembering the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ feeding us the grace we need as “Sinner/saints” following Jesus in a world of sin and beauty, a world that God loves and calls us to care for and love too!

As I closed my sermon with these words from Romans may the disciples of First continue to meditate on what it means to walk in the Spirit with Christ in the lead!

Romans 12:9-21
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Pastor Josh