Unique Opportunities To Worship

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Each year, Holy Week at St. James provides unique opportunities to worship that are active in nature. Last Sunday, we began with a palm waving procession that involved the entire congregation. All generations participated as we marched into the sanctuary with noise makers and palms singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” To be sure, it was a lot of fun - organized chaos.

Tonight (April 18 at 7:30 p.m), worship continues to involve the FULL participation of everyone gathered. Instead of worshiping in pews, we will sit at tables throughout the sanctuary. This innovative worship, developed at St. James, involves eating light snacks and drinking. We share a table fellowship as we gather to celebrate the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion. We will hear again the commandment to love one another, as command Jesus gives as table as he washed his disciples’s feet. At the end of worship, after we share the sacrament with each other, everyone helps to strip the altar. Once again, everyone gets involved as we remove tables, chairs, paraments, altar ware, etc. We leave in silence as we head into Good Friday.

On Good Friday, there are three opportunities to participate in worship. At 10:00 a.m. we offer an interactive worship for children that is designed just for them. At noon, we gather around the cross with readings as we place nails into a large wooden cross. At 7:30 p.m., traditional Tenebrae worship involves the use of prayers, scripture, story-telling, songs, and sermon to reflect upon the cross and Jesus’s death.

On Holy Saturday, at 8:00 a.m. we gather not to worship but to decorate the emptied sanctuary for our Easter celebration. Many hands make light work and we could use yours to help with the many tasks needed to get ready for Sunday’s worships.

It is a busy time but one that I look forward to each year. Lutheran worship has long encouraged participation from the entire congregation. In these days of Holy Week, we take it to the next level. I hope that you will be able to take part and that these unique opportunities might lift your spirits and strengthen your faith. I look forward to seeing you.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Before You Know It - Easter Will Be Here

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With all the beautiful weather that we have been having, it is hard to believe that the weather people are forecasting significant snow in the next couple of days. Only in Minnesota! I suppose the best that we can do is to let it get it out of its system.

Maybe it has been the heavy winter or the quick start to spring or the way that the school breaks fell this year, but I have to make a confession - Palm Sunday has snuck up on me. Perhaps this is true for you as well. In just a week’s time, we will be in Holy Week and at the doorstep of Easter. Next week, I will share more about the incredible opportunities that Holy Week affords us to worship. For now, mark your calendars - Palm Sunday (8 and 9:30 am), Maundy Thursday (April 18, noon and 7:30 p.m.), and Good Friday (April 19, children at 10 am., noon, and 7:30 p.m.)

With Easter right around the corner, the time is running out on our Lent/Easter Offering. To date, we have gathered just over a third of the money that we need to close the gap between where our annual pledges are and our actual expenses. Each year, our seasonal offerings have played a critical role in funding ministry that benefits all ages and goes beyond our doors to share God’s love.

I want to share a word of thanks to everyone who has already made a financial contribution to support ministry at St. James. If you are not yet part of this group, fear not, there is still time. Thank you for considering a gift that will strengthen the important work that we do together in Jesus’s name.

You may bring your gift with you as you come tomorrow night for the last of the mid-week Wednesday Holden Evening Prayer worships for this Lent, or maybe on Palm Sunday. On Sunday, during the 11:00 a.m. Faith Formation Hour, confirmation students will be sharing their faith statements with us all. Worship and Faith Formation are just two of the areas that are made possible through our generosity.

As we have much to be thankful for when we consider our church home, may we be bold in sharing gifts that will allow St. James to continue and grow in the building and deepening of loving relationships with God, with each other, and with our neighbor.

See you in worship -

Pastor Walt

With Thanks for Partnerships and Time Away

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This week, I am grateful for the opportunity to take some time away with my family. In my absence, St. James will be well cared for by Pastor Nancy Connors, who will be covering emergency calls for the first part of the week, Pastor Scott Simmons and Lydia students, who will be covering emergency calls for the second part of the week. The Pastoral Care Team and Befrienders will continue to make contacts and calls. St. James welcomes Pastor Rebecca Thurman who will preach/preside during Holden Evening Prayer on Wednesday night and Pastor Mhando Kishe who will preach/preside on Sunday, April 8.

I am grateful for them all and for their care.

As always, after this time of renewal, I look forward to seeing you all in worship (on Wednesday, April 10 and Sunday, April 14)

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

About That Book and Lutheran Campus Ministry Sunday

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Two weekends ago, I published my first book, Lighting Your Way, With Love. I wrote it on the occasion of having a son leave home to attend university. There was so much I wanted to say to him as his father, who also happens to be a pastor.


Over the years, I have collected some thoughts and perspectives about life and faith. So, I took pen to paper (actually fingers to keyboard) and wrote down a few things about God, creation, evil, neighbors, and self. I connected prayers, stories, and scripture. It is meant to be a companion during times of transition. Already, folks are telling me that they found it helpful in their lives.


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This coming Sunday, March 31, I will be making copies of Lighting Your Way, With Love available for sale between and after worship for $15 (which is a slight discount from what you can buy it on Amazon.) All net proceeds from Sunday's sales will go to support Lutheran Campus Ministry - Twin Cities.


I am excited to welcome Connor Fell as a student trained preacher on Sunday. He has worked with Lutheran Homiletician (fancy word for a teacher of preachers), The Rev. Barbara Lundblad to develop his sermon. In the small world department, Connor is a member of the Lutheran Church that I served when I was in New Jersey. I was there on the day of and participated in his baptism!


Connor is an excellent example of the way that LCM engages and supports the faith life of students at the University of Minnesota. Lutheran Campus Ministry seeks to provide a space for students to ask questions, struggle with issues, and receive the comforting message of God's abiding presence. It is sacramental - connecting students with Jesus through table fellowship. St. James Lutheran is making a gift to support the Lutheran Campus Ministry from our endowment fund.


So I hope that you can come to worship on Sunday (either 8 or 9:30). As always, I look forward to seeing you there.


In Christ's Light,

Pastor Walt

p.s. As I have written Lighting Your Way, With Love outside the regular course of my ministry at St. James, it is not my intention to sell or promote the book at church. Sunday is the only opportunity to buy it at St. James this Spring. Of course, folks can always get copies through my website, Lightfromthishill.com or on Amazon. Thanks.

Towels and Soap - NEEDED

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Towels and soap are not usually things that I think about on a regular basis. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I use BOTH of them multiple times each day. They are just among the basic necessities that I have in life and take for granted.

Not all people, however, are so privileged to have either towels or soap. When homes are destroyed or people flee from violence, rarely do they grab these items. Refugees around the world are in need of basis items for survival.

This Lent, as part of our weekly worship, we have been packing health kits that will be distributed around the world by our ministry partner, Lutheran World Relief. For the past two weeks at our 9:30 Sunday worship, young and old have been putting toiletries (comb, nail clipper, and two bars of soap) into towels. This has been done following communion as a visible sign of extending the Communion table out into the world. We are served at God’s table so that we might serve others. While we are packing the kits, the choir for each week is singing about Jesus’s commandment to love one another. There is an important tie for us to make between God’s command to love and our response.

Already we have assembled over 60 of these health kits. Our goal is to put together at least 200 of these kits by Palm/Passion Sunday. To do this, we need everybody’s help. Not only do we need hands to pack the kits on Sunday but we also need folks to bring in the items that we are packing. WE NEED TOWELS AND SOAP!

I have made it a part of my Lenten observance to stop each week at the local Wal-Mart and purchase a few towels (they are selling for $2.74 each), a 12 package of soap, combs, and a few nail clippers. Each kit costs less than $5. Will you join me in this effort?

As I’m standing on line with my items, I think about the folks who will be standing on line at some Refugee camp to receive the very items that I hold in my hand. I say a silent prayer asking God to bless these simple necessities that they might help someone else. I have also been asking that they might help me to focus during this Lenten season on my broken & beloved nature as a Child of God. How do I have both a positive and negative effect on others near and far? How do I share the gifts that I’ve been given? How do I respond to Jesus’s love for me that I experience at the communion table each week? Lot’s to think about thanks to a few towels and bars of soap.

Bring your towels and soap to worship this week and join me in this time of Lenten renewal and spiritual growth. I look forward to seeing you.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

LENT ONLINE

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

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I wrote last week about the many opportunities for spiritual growth that St. James Lutheran is offering this year. From expanded worship to multiple small group Bible Study to the packing of health kits for Lutheran World Relief we will be interacting with each other in person. In addition, I’ve created a few resources that you can access online through the St. James website.




Daily Devotional - This is sent out each morning to your email inbox in time for your morning coffee. It features encouragement to breathe, scripture, a reflection/story/image/poem, and a prayer. It is not too late to sign up….

Weekly Bible Study Video content - You can access the video content that is being used for the Bible Study discussion.

Weekly ONLINE CHAT - I will be hosting an online discussion on Wednesday evening at 8:30 p.m. and you are invited to pop in. Just follow the link below

LIVE STREAMING of Wednesday night and Sunday worship. A link appears on the HOME page of the St. James website when the worship is live. Just click it and join in our worship from wherever you might be. This has been a wonderful resource (thank you Jeff Andrews and crew) during these winters months when folks have needed to stay home.


It is my intent that these materials will provide additional reflection and spiritual growth for us all during this important season of renewal.

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.


in Christ,

Pastor Walt

The Opportunity of Lent is Upon Us

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Each year Lent comes around like an old friend. Beginning in the cold of winter, it is a time that pushes toward spring. As such, it is full of potential and opportunity. It is a time of spiritual renewal if we let it to be in our lives.

I have come to learn that spiritual growth is best fostered in an environment where we are intentional. Sure, you can never tell when or were the Spirit is going to move and give new life. Taking the time, however, and making a plan to seek God, worship, pray, study, and talk with other helps to set the table for such an encounter. These spiritual practices encourage and engage God and others in such a way that growth is more likely.

So what is your plan for Lent? How will you take the opportunity of the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning to nurture your faith?

Let me suggest four steps that you can take that will benefit your spiritual growth.


1) Worship -

We start on Ash Wednesday (noon and 7:30 p.m.) and continue worships on Sundays (8 & 9:30 a.m.) and Wednesday - Holden Evening Prayer (7:30 p.m.) On Sundays, during 9:30 worship, we will be packed health kits for Lutheran World Relief. Our goal is 1000. Bring in supplies throughout the week. click here to learn more.

2) Daily Prayer/Devotion -

I am in the process of writing a daily devotional that will give you a daily lift of inspiration and invite you to breath, dwell in God’s word, and pray. It will be in your email inbox in time for your morning coffee.


3) Study Scripture in a Small Group -

We are offering six different small groups - one each night of the week plus Sunday morning. Take the time to dust off your Bible and get to know someone new from church. (for more information/sign up.)

4) Give -

We are gathering a Special Offering to fund ministry at St. James closing the gap that allows us to continue ministries that reach young and old with God’s love and grace. Our needed goal is $15,000 and every gift gets us closer. 10% of the amount gathered will be passed on in equal amounts to Lutheran World Relief and CATCH (transitional housing).


As you get ready to start Lent, I invite you to incorporate these elements into a plan to grow in your relationship with God. May the Spirit be alive in all of our lives this Lenten season and grow Christ’s church from within so that we are better equipped to share Jesus’s love with the world.

See you in worship,

Pastor Walt

Blessed with Leadership

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus! Last evening, St. James’s new Council met for the first time and elected congregational officers.

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Before sharing their names, I would like to thank the 2018 executive leadership team. Many thanks go to President Jeff Owens, Vice President Brenda Nygren-Moe, Secretary Steve Hawks, Treasurer Jim Collins, Financial Secretary Sid Aarestad, and Director of Ministry and Operations Doreen Evans. Additional thanks go to the 2018 Council: Jeff Owens, Brenda Nygren-Moe, Steve Hawks, Jim Collins, Chris Clark, Ainsley Fuerst, Pam Larson, Bjorn Pearson, and Paul Wojahn. Because of your dedication, commitments, and faithfulness, we were able to navigate changing waters and strengthen the overall ministry of St. James to build and deepen loving relationships with God, with each other, and with our neighbors. The entire St. James Lutheran community owes you its gratitude and appreciation for your service. Thank you, also, from the bottom of my heart.

On Sunday, March 3, during the 9:30 p.m. worship, we will install the 2019 Council and its officers. Please join me in giving thanks for them: Birdie Olson (President), Jeff Owens (Vice President), Brenda Nygren-Moe (Secretary), Jim Collins (Treasurer), Sid Aarestad (Financial Secretary), Chris Clark, Ainsley Fuerst, Steve Hawks, Bjorn Pearson, and Jon Zimmerman. We ask God’s guidance, vision, discernment, and imagination for these elected/appointed leaders.

At the end of every Council meeting since my call to St. James as Lead Pastor, I have prayed the following:

Lord God, you call your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils and possibilities unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Have a blessed day and I look forward to seeing you in worship,

Pastor Walt

Gathering Small Group Leaders to Grow the Church

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There were many things that I learned from Pastor Mponzi’s visit to St. James last fall. The Lutheran Church is Tanzania is the fastest growing Lutheran church in the world. Not only are they growing in numbers but more importantly they are growing in faithfulness and discipleship.

One of the things at the heart of this growth is a small group ministry model. Each week, there are about 62 groups that come together for a few hours to check-in with each other, pray, and study scripture. The Diocese (their version of the Synod) provides study materials for groups to use and to grow in their faith. Pastors have supported this growth, grounded in the study of God’s Word, but it is being made possible by a variety of adult leaders.

Lent is traditionally a time for spiritual growth. This year, inspired by the ministry of our sisters and brothers in Christ in Idunda, I am forming small groups to come together, pray, and study the scripture that we will be using on Wednesday evening. I have written a brand new Bible Study to accompany our Lenten theme: Broken and Blessed. Also connected is a daily online devotional.

I am looking for ten people who would be willing to facilitate discussion and serve as a Ministry Host for a small group. The Ministry Host is responsible for setting the time and place that the group will meet for the five weeks in Lent (in Holy Week, I will be doing a combined evening for all small groups). It is my intent that we have a variety of choices for people to sign up for a group that works best for them.

I will provide weekly videos (which will contain the Bible Study content), discussion questions, and a proven format - everything that the leader needs to be successful. In addition, on this coming Sunday, at 11:00 a.m., I will be hosting a Ministry Host training.

Growing the church is a step-by-step process that involves us all. As a pastor, although I would like to see numerical growth, I am concerned that we grow spiritually as followers of Jesus. There is no easy way to do this. However, regular scripture study, prayer, and conversation head in the right direction. Combined with worship - these practices will nurture growth for our church.

If you would like to help the church grow, then I need your help. Again, I can’t do this by myself. Please prayerfully consider volunteering to serve as a Ministry Host for this Bible Study effort. Sign up using the form below. Not sure? Come to Sunday’s training (Sunday, February 24) at 11:00 a.m. and learn more about it.


As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship,

In Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Ten Years Together

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I’ve reached that point in my life when I’m reminded on a daily basis how time flies. This is certainly the case this week as we celebrate a decade of being in ministry together.

On February 15, 2009, I preached for the first time as St. James new Lead Pastor. My family moved into our new home just two days before.

Ten years later, I remain grateful for the home that we found not only in Savage but for the church home that we found in St. James Lutheran. Through challenges and opportunities, we grew together and sought to follow Jesus. It has been a time of perpetual transition as we have had to face the overall changing nature of the church in our times and St. James’s need to resize and refocus from a program-based ministry to a relationship-based ministry. Over that time, we laughed and cried. There was both joy and sadness as people came into and departed from our community.

I look forward to seeing you all in worship this Sunday, as we begin our 11th year of ministry. May God continue to renew and reshape us according to Jesus’ love.

In Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

 

On Winter Retreat...

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This week, I am taking a few days to be on a winter’s retreat. I type this note from the corner room of the top floor of a Benedictine monastery. The view from the window is spectacular. Snow is falling while the hoarfrost covers the trees. It is a winter wonderland. A good time and place for praying, thinking, and writing.

I’m taking this retreat, which is part of my continuing education, in these days that lead up to Lent. This wonderful season of the church year is a time for us all to reflect and reconnect with God. There will be extra opportunities for worship and study to allow you to deepen your relationship with God and through that relationship to others.

The purpose of my retreat is two-fold. First, it is important for me to take time apart on an occasion basis. This time always me to recharge my proverbial batteries. More importantly, it allows the needed space away from my daily duties of a pastor to work on my spiritual connection with God. After retreats, I find that I’m always better able to offer spiritual care to others.

Second, I will be taking the time on this retreat to prepare Lenten materials for us to use at St. James. It will be a writing retreat. I will author the Lenten daily devotional series, which you will be able to receive free-of charge starting on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Also, I will create a weekly Bible Study that will be shared among a variety of small groups. Last, I will work out basic sermon outlines for the season. I will be busy but I am grateful for the opportunity to do this work in Jesus’s name.

I invite your prayers for a productive and meaningful retreat. Please know that when I am away, there is pastoral care coverage in case of emergencies. I am thankful for Pastor Nancy Connor, St. James Visitation Pastor who has gracious agree to provide coverage in my absence.

I return in time for Wednesday’s Meal Pack (6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.). As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Smiles All Around

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Almost thirty years ago, before I attended seminary, I went to Clown Camp. It was a training camp for adults in the arts of clowning. I spent a week on make-up, magic tricks, juggling, stilt walking, and physical comedy. At the time, I was was in college and had formed a clown troupe at my church. We would go and visit folks in the hospital and entertain children at Sunday schools, V.B.S., church camps, and town picnics. It was lots of fun and a great way of sharing God’s love. In fact, I credit my experience of clowning instrumental in my decision to go to seminary. It was a compelling joy for me to share the love and grace of God.

Over the years, I have incorporated clown arts into my ministry with children. Sometimes, I would don my colorful red wig and put on makeup. Other times, I would leave my clown character, Talofa, at home and just be goofy Pastor Walt (be kind!). The kids and teachers of St. James Lutheran Early Education Center have experienced this side of my ministry on a weekly basis as I do ‘Jesus time’ with the kids.

This coming Saturday, I will be doing my first full “kidshow” at St. James. It will be on Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and feature a variety of things from stories, magic, juggling, puppets, and general silliness. A snack and balloon animals will be provided to each child that attends. The theme is centered on God’s love - the source of all our smiles. Though I will be leaving my make-up at home - I will be wearing a big (natural) smile on my face.

An additional joy for me is that my son Mark will be taking part. He is amazing with puppets and will bring a bunch of his furry ‘friends’ with him.

Although the show is designed for children ages 3 to grade 1, kids of all ages are welcomed to attend. With the cold weather that we have been having, causing schools to close multiple days, I’m sure that more than one parent will be a little stir crazy by the time the weekend comes. Parents, see this as an opportunity to get out of the house and let them enjoy something a little different.

Like God’s love, there is no charge for the program. So that we can get an idea of how much snacks we need, if you could sign up (Click here) it would help matters.

I look forward to seeing many smiling faces on Saturday… and, of course, on Sunday too.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

With Thanks and Appreciation for a Bright Year.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As we prepare to leave 2018, I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the ministry that we do together. I thank God for many memories and blessings of 2018. It was a year that was bright with good things.

Over a decade ago, I encountered theologian Letty Russell’s definition of a church as a community of faith and struggle. We believe as a group of God’s children in the sure and certain hope of resurrection. We baptize and celebrate throughout our lives God’s promises of life, forgiveness, and God’s constant presence. We share God’s goodness with others. We come together to worship around Word and Sacrament. We celebrate with joy across the generations. In these and other ways, in our community there is faith. AND. We also struggle as a broken people. We don’t always follow God’s lead as we should. We aren’t always as kind as we could be with our words and actions. We struggle also with the harder sides of life. We cry and grieve. We hurt.

Over this past year, as a community of faith and struggle, we have grown in our relationship with God, with each other, and with our neighbors. I am looking forward to what lies ahead in 2019. Led by the Spirit, we are in for a wonderful journey of building and deepening those loving relationships.

Blessings to you and your family,

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Yesterday and Tomorrow

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At the start of the week before Christmas, I am struck by the way that ministry at St. James engages people. Yesterday was a wonderful celebration. During our regular Sunday worship, our children told the Christmas story through word and song. Under the guidance of Sunday school teachers, parents, and our children’s music leaders - they did an awesome job of leading our worship. This memorable experience touched the hearts of many. I am deeply appreciative of all the efforts that go into our Children’s and youth ministry at St. James. So much goes on that sometimes we don’t always share all the stories. We will try to do better.

Ministry at and through a church depends upon the passion, dedication, and willingness of everyone. From the giving of time, talents, and treasure, we come together to BE the Church - to share the good news that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Tonight, Tuesday, December 18, from 6:00 TO 7:30 P.M., we will gather to PLAN ministry for the first four months of 2019. Everyone is invited to this event, which is given extra support by our Council. We will imagine together how we might BE CHURCH in this place in the first third of 2019. Bring your ideas, hopes, and dreams for ALL AGES. Our innovative structure allows for ministry to be flexible, open to new ideas, and helps us improve without judgment on what we’ve done before. The way WE DO ministry invites input and dedication from those new to St. James and those who have long make this congregation their church home.

I hope that you can join me. Did I mention - there will be pizza! What a deal!

As always, I look forward to the ministry that God has in store for us all.

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Spirit-driven Nomination Process

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus!

 

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As a dynamic and vision-focused community of faith, we constantly need leaders who have both the courage, enthusiasm, and humility to ask "where is God wanting us to go as a community".   I thank God on a regular basis for these qualities that have been a mainstay among leaders here at St. James in the almost ten years that I’ve served here as Pastor.

 

The lifting up of leaders is not a "once upon a time" effort; something that is accomplished and then onto something different.  It is an ongoing effort of discernment.  What challenges and opportunities face our community of faith and struggle at this moment?  What skills and gifts are needed?  What resources has God already given to us in order to meet these needs?  How might we, through focusing on our core G.R.A.C.E. values (God's grace, respect, appreciation, care/compassion, encouragement), develop and strengthen individuals in their own leadership qualities?

 

The continued growth and vitality of the church is always in God's hands.  God's spirit moves in familiar and strange ways among ordinary people so that extraordinary things are made possible.  In prayer we seek to connect to this Spirit and discern where God is leading us to praise and serve.

 

The Nomination Process that we use to identify potential persons to serve on Council is grounded in these questions and ideas.  At St. James, nominating people to serve on Council has become a creative and spiritual activity that is both open and transparent.   From the names lifted up last year as potential Council candidates, who were unable at that time to stand for election, a Nomination Mission Team has been established.   It will be meeting next week on Tuesday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Koinonia room.  I am grateful for Vice President, Brenda Nygren-Moe’s leadership of this group.

 

Once again this year, you are invited to take part in the process of identifying leaders that will be on the ballot for Council come our Annual Meeting on January 27, 2019.  

You are invited to:

 

1) Nominate a person (or persons) online or by writing down a name and giving that name to either Brenda or myself.  These names will be entered into the process during the first step.  When considering a person who might make a good Council leader, it is helpful to think about who demonstrates our G.R.A.C.E. (God's grace, respect, appreciation, care/compassion, encouragement) values.  Also it would be helpful to consider our clarified vision:  "By the Grace of God, we will build and deepen loving relationships with God, each other, and our neighbors"   All names received WILL BE entered into the process.

2) Attend the meeting on next Tuesday as an observer.  See how we will prayerfully lift up leaders using our proven spiritual process.   


 

3) Pray.  Pray for the Spirit to be present and guide those who are gathered so that the right skills and gifts are identified for this time in our life together.  Pray also for current leaders and those who will be transitioning from leadership roles in 2019.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving and appreciation for the long hours and hard work that our leaders have so generously given.


 

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.  With Advent anticipation, I look forward to experiencing God's presence as we gather round Word and sacrament.  With Advent hope, I look forward to the ongoing renewal of our community and to the unexpected ways that God will use our gifts in the coming year.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Preaching on the good news in Isaiah

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I will begin an Advent preaching series on Sunday entitled, “Threshold.” This series will be in conjunction with the daily Advent devotional that I’m making available to the St. James community (click here if you like to register for this daily devotional).

Advent is a great time to seek God’s presence in the midst of life’s transition - or “threshold” moments. To do this we are going to turn to the ancient wisdom found in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah shared words of guidance, comfort, and hope to a people living in exile. These words were remembered and treasured. Jesus preached from the scroll of Isaiah as he began his earthly ministry. Christians ever since have turned to the proclamation of good news found in Isaiah to strengthen their faith in the Messiah and direct their faithful living.

Throughout this season of Advent, I will be following in this long established tradition of preaching from Isaiah. This tradition helped to inform the writing of the Gospel (particularly Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Even Martin Luther preached from Isaiah. The specific texts from Isaiah are found throughout years A, B, and C of the Revised Common Lectionary.

It may seem peculiar to some that I won’t be preaching from one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What about Jesus? Shouldn’t a sermon be based on a story from the life of Jesus?

Rest assured, I will be mentioning Jesus and the advent of God’s kingdom in Christ. I will do so trusting in the promise the Christ child is found in the fullness of the Bible’s witness. Both testaments bear witness to God’s plan of salvation for the whole world - not just the New Testament. With the long-expectant nature of Advent, we have a good opportunity to explore this Biblical truth and expand our Biblical imagination/thinking.

I am excited for this opportunity to study and proclaim the good news found in Isaiah and I hope that you join me in worship to listen to this series. Don’t forget - with Advent - we worship on Sundays (8 and 9:30 a.m.) AND Wednesdays (7:30 - location varies - check out calendar).

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

With Thanks for the Journey we Share

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As I begin this week of Thanksgiving celebrations, a sense of gratitude fills my heart.

God's Spirit is alive in the midst of our community of faith and struggle. From the joy that our children bring to worship to the generosity that folks have been displaying in response to Armful of Love and our annual Stewardship Pledge drive - ministry at St. James remains vibrant.

Pastor Mponzi's visit earlier this month reminded us of the blessing that St. James' decades-old relationship in Tanzania brings. Two Sundays ago, we learned from President/CEO Jeff Mortensen of similar blessings brought about through our local partnership with 360 Communities.

Please know of my thanks for you and every disciple of Jesus at St. James Lutheran. Together, God is accomplishing the proclamation of good news in this time and place. Thanks be to God!

With joy in my heart, I share an invitation with you. Starting on Sunday, November 25, we begin a daily four-week devotional series that coincides with the season of Advent. The first week is a Pre-Advent week and helps us get ready for the annual journey of preparation.

Starting on Sunday, December 2, I will preach an Advent sermon series called "Threshold." The sermons (Sundays and Wednesdays), like the daily devotions, look at navigating the transitional moments of life when we find ourselves in a new place. We will be relying on a familiar Advent voice, the prophet Isaiah, for guidance along the way.

My trip to Chaco Canyon and its ancient ruins inspired me to write this series. I am offering it for free to the whole St. James community with thanksgiving for this wonderful journey of ministry on which we find ourselves together. Follow the link below to sign up today.

Blessings to you this week as you celebrate Thanksgiving. As always, I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday.

Taking Care of your Spirit

Recently, I have started to count calories again. Using an app on my phone, I’m recording what I’m eating throughout the day. I did this a few years ago with success. It helped me to lose a little weight, making me feel healthier. Unfortunately, I got out of the habit of watching what I ate; this had the negative result of weight gain.

With life as busy as it is, our health depends upon our being intentional. This is true of our physical health. It is also true of our spiritual well being.

Taking care of our spirit is a critical part of maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Spiritual care involves worship, study, prayer, and making time to be present with God. Some of these practices involve others, some do not.

St. James Lutheran offers a variety of options to help individuals of various ages to grow in their awareness of God’s presence. Although this is true throughout the year, we are rapidly approaching a season that has an abundance of opportunities.

Advent begins in just three Sundays. Throughout the four weeks leading up to our Christmas celebrations, we are offering additional worships on Wednesday evenings, a Bible study on the Christmas story (which you can do online - click here ), and Advent calendars. All of these are great ways for you to take care of your spirit.

I have also written a daily devotional that begins on November 25 - one week before Advent starts. You can sign up for this FREE daily, 5-minute inspiration which I will send to your email, inbox in time for your morning coffee. Use the button below.

When we are intentional about caring for our spiritual well-being, it has a positive effect on our relationship with God and others. Although it is true that God loves us no matter what, we are apt to overlook this fact. An irony emerges. Our lack of spiritual care obscures from view the God who walks alongside us. This God, who desires to be intimately involved with our whole life, waits patiently for us to turn.

So mark your calendars! Get ready to make this Advent a special time for you and your family to turn to God and take care of your spirit.

Looking forward to seeing you in worship.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Welcome Pastor Nancy Connor

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I am pleased to announce that Pastor Nancy Connor begins her service as a part-time Visitation Pastor at St. James Lutheran.

Pastor Nancy is a retired ELCA pastor who recently moved to the twin cities area from serving her last call in the Pacific Northwest.

She comes in answer to a prayer. Since Vicar Andrew completed his service with St. James a year ago last June, there has been need for additional help. Pastor Andrew Lewis is now serving Christ’s church in Macon, Georgia. When Andrew returned to his home state, a gap was created.

I continue to be grateful for the service of the Pastoral Care Team - a dedicated group of trained volunteers from St. James who assist in making communion visits and phone calls. In addition to their hard work, there was a need for more pastoral support.

Throughout this year, St. James Council had encouraged me in my search for part-time assistance. Many prayers later, I am happy to report that we have found the pastor for which we have been looking.

Pastor Nancy is with us for ten hours a week and will be making home and hospital visits during that time. She will also provide additional on-call coverage on the occasion when I’m away (weekly on-call coverage on days off is now provided through a partnership with Lydia’s Place and makes use of trained seminary students coordinated by Pastor Scott.)

To get to know the congregation, Pastor Nancy will also be attending a scheduled event once a month. On some months, like this coming Sunday, it will be during our worship time.

I invite to you meet Pastor Nancy Connor this coming Sunday, November 11 at either the 8:00 or 9:30 a.m. worships. Please join me in welcoming Pastor Nancy to the St. James Lutheran family.

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Blessed to be a part

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For the first part of this week, I am away with pastor colleagues from around the St. Paul Area Synod at the Bishop’s Theological Conference. Each year, Bishop Lull hosts this gathering to bring us together, to build relationships, to study and worship, and to renew. This year the gathering is at Cragun’s up north.

Our keynote speaker is Presiding Bishop Eaton of the ELCA.

What a joy it is for me to have Pastor Mponzi join me at the conference. It is amazing how the church is wonderfully small and connected! More than once, we ran into pastors who knew pastors who knew Pastor Mponzi! He even was able to speak Swahili with some.

Together, Pastor Mponzi and I, are learning much. We are also enjoying the beauty of belonging to a church that has global relationships and shares in the proclamation of God’s love that is found in Christ!

Bwana Jesu Asifewe!

I look forward to seeing you all in worship this coming Sunday on Reformation Sunday!

In Christ,

Pastor Walt