Pastor’s Page

Perseverance and Patience

August 2018

Hebrews 11

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not seen.

By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to God …..
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place he did not know …..
By faith Isaac and Jacob were heirs with Abraham and Sarah of the same promise …..
By faith Joseph looked forward to the exodus of Israel from Egypt …..
By faith Moses was spared as a baby …..
By faith Moses led the people out of Egypt, unafraid of Pharaoh’s anger, and crossed the Red Sea on dry land …..
By faith Moses and Israel persevered in the wilderness …..
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient …..

And what more should I say? For I would run out of time before I could talk about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David, and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, won strength out of weakness …..

By faith Anne Clasen sat down in the Redeemer Lutheran Church office chair in 1982, not entirely sure all that was expected of her. As of this Wednesday, August 1, Anne won’t be in the office chair. If you know Anne you know she will help the next office person and me and all of us; and there are bound to be lots of questions. She will still be Anne, our sister in Christ at Redeemer. But, by faith she is embarking on new ventures in her life, new opportunities to serve.

By faith the Body of Christ which is Redeemer will persevere, just as God’s people have done since the time of Genesis. By faith our ancestors established this congregation almost 100 years ago, in 1920. By faith God has blessed and worked through Redeemer to touch countless lives. And, by faith God will continue to bless.

Now, a transition after 36 years is not likely to be smooth and seamless. That’s where the patience comes in. I will do my best to pick up the essential work Anne did. We have a Personnel Team looking for an office person. It’s not going to be the same as it has been. Different is not worse, or deficient, it’s different. As with most things in life, open and direct and honest and respectful communication is key. Also, it will help to have members pitch in – Anne has been covering many tasks which any member could do, tasks which do not require a skilled office worker.

PRAY!!! Everyone should be praying steadily, but especially in this time of transition pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and for the love of Jesus Christ to sustain us.

“We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord
Trusting in his holy word, he’s never failed us yet
Oh, can’t turn around, we’ve come this far by faith.”

– ELW 633

Here is a special invitation for Sunday, August 26, 9am worship: Two friends from our family’s days at Florist Avenue Lutheran Church will be with us, Julie and Bruce Vollbrecht. Julie and Bruce are part of the music program at Holy Cross LC, Menomonee Falls. Julie writes songs for worship and praise; the three of us enjoy singing them.

– Pastor Jon


Ministers of Redeemer

June 2018

One of many cool things about Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hartford you can find on the weekly announcement sheet. Where it lists the “Ministers”, at the very top of the list, it says ALL REDEEMER MEMBERS. Amen!

When folks introduce me, ‘And this is our minister, Pastor Jon’ I usually chime in and say that yes I am the pastor, and that we are all ministers. Each one of us with distinctive, God-given, Holy Spirit inspired gifts for ministry. Amen!

Each one of you has a calling to minister, to serve, to witness in whatever situations you find yourself. It’s not limited to inside the church building or only on Sundays, and it’s not meant to be optional. Your baptismal calling is to minister and serve and witness. Whenever there is an opportunity, put your distinctive, God-given, Holy Spirit inspired gifts into action. We are blessed to be a blessing, as my boss at Grace Lutheran Church, Celestia Snaden used to say. Amen!

You don’t need a black shirt and a white clerical collar, as I was reminded in a beautiful way a couple Saturdays ago. I was sorting through the black pipe fittings, aisle 36, at Menards. Tedious – people pick up a ½ inch elbow, decide they don’t need it, and put it back where the ¾ inch couplers go. And so on, all the ½ inch fittings, and ¾ inch fittings, and one inch fittings, etc., all messed up. Just inconsiderate carelessness. At 7:30 on Saturday morning, when you’ve been at it for 2 ½ hours already, it’s “enough to make a preacher cuss.” (I was muttering to myself, but not cussing.)

Along comes a middle-aged gentleman, “Excuse me, good morning. I’m looking for access panels.” So, I walk him over to aisle 30, find out the size he is looking for, and Voila! he has what he needs. What you expect then is either nothing, or a cursory, emotionless thank you. Instead, he looks at my badge, and says, “Thank you, Jon, you blessed my day.”

Well, you see I blessed his day, and he certainly blessed mine. I believe they have made a point at his church to teach about being a blessing; let’s continue to make it a point to teach at our church, too. Amen!

– Pastor Jon


Confirmation and Sharing Sessions

May 2018

CONFIRMATION

On Pentecost Sunday, May 20, Logan Faltersack and Lindsay Arvidson will make Affirmation of Baptism during the 10:30 service. They will be confirming before their family, friends, and their sisters and brothers in Christ that the faith covenant begun at their baptism is now theirs to claim personally as they grow into adulthood. Let us all be there to witness and support Lindsay and Logan. Please continue to keep them, as well as Owen and Madison, in your prayers.

This has been a pretty dynamic year for Redeemer’s confirmation class. We have a couple more Sunday evening classes. And then, I hope we can get together for several special activities early this summer. I believe the kids have learned a fair amount. One of the best things to learn is that we never stop learning; this is true about anything in life and especially important with our faith, our Christian discipleship. I know I have learned plenty by working with them, and with Sheila Bauer and Scott Lopas, who have graciously served as confirmation mentors.

All People — Spirituality — Love — Service
One thing confirmation class has done is to look, along with their families, for examples of Redeemer’s core values in action. Every week, the first thing they do when they arrive for class is write down the example. Sometimes it is close to home, sometimes it is something from the news. It would be great to have lots of Redeemer members following their lead. Give it a try.

And, did you see that the West Bend newspaper did a story on the kids, connected to the well project? A copy is posted in the narthex, outside the sanctuary. Proud of them, plus they are indeed a good-looking bunch.

– Pastor Jon


SUMMARY OF SHARING SESSIONS

All Redeemer members were sent a letter (mailed April 5) asking them to participate in one of three sharing sessions held April 22 and 24. At these sessions we reported the conclusions of our council and Mission Exploration Team from their retreat in February. If you missed the sessions you can get the report by checking with Pastor Jon.

Here is a summary of some of the key points:
– A Building Utilization Team formed to explore increased stewardship of our building space
– We will keep our regular summer Sunday schedule, one service at 9:00. Beginning September 16, we will go to a revised Sunday schedule, Sunday School and adult education 9:00, worship 10:00
– Members will be visiting other churches in order to gather ideas for ministry and updating our space
– Our staff configuration will change:
Office staff 12 to 15 hours per week and someone with good technology skills, probably younger
– Pastor approximately 35 years old with about five years of experience
– Music coordinator to find music for congregational singing and for ensembles, soloists, instrumentalists
– Youth minister

A Staffing Team has formed and has begun work.

A rudimentary estimate of our giving potential yields an annual budget well over $400,000.

Please talk to Pastor Jon or anyone on council with any questions or concerns.

The next major event in the process which leads to calling our next pastor is a town hall meeting with Bishop Paul Erickson and Pastor Kristin Nielsen of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, Monday, May 14, 7:15 (after Monday worship). At the town hall meeting they officially receive our ministry site profile. They will discuss what we have learned and the direction we see God leading our congregation. We will talk about the next steps which lead to calling our next pastor. Again, it is an important meeting for all Redeemer members.


Partnership for the Sake of the Gospel

April 2018

WELL DONE

Our congregation is blessed to be in a strong, active partnership with other Christian churches in Hartford:
St. Kilian and St. Mary of the Hill Catholic, First United Methodist Church, St. Aidan’s Anglican, St. John United Church of Christ. We have seen the benefit again during Lent, through a series of lively liturgies on Wednesdays hosted by each
congregation in turn.

This year, with our sisters and brothers in Christ, we shared the goal of $2500 for the combined Wednesday offerings, in order to be able to provide a water-well through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Good Gifts program. It looks like we will reach the goal! Again, thanks to Redeemer confirmation students Logan, Lindsay, Madison, Owen, whose research on water usage around the world led to this effort.


NEW MISSION PARTNER

Most congregations in the Greater Milwaukee Synod, ELCA, have at least one mission partner. Redeemer’s council has accepted an invitation to develop a partnership with St John’s Lutheran Church in West Milwaukee. St John’s is located at 55th Street and Greenfield. Pastor Pres Hoffman.

Being so close to the Veterans Administration complex, they have a dynamic ministry with and for U.S. military veterans. It is not surprising that many veterans struggle with the return to civilian life; it is a harsh, ignominious reality that the services and care they need and deserve are woefully inadequate. About half of all homeless men in Milwaukee are veterans.

St. John’s ministry with veterans is marked by generosity, grace, abundant kindness, smiles, joy, plenty of food and clothing, help at the VA, help getting your life back together, help finding your own place, help outfitting your own place, support with employment, support with health needs. Just visit St John’s any Tuesday or Thursday morning. Pastor Pres says, “Our goal is to spoil every single person who comes through the door.”

We read about sharing and partnering and working together for the sake of the gospel in scripture, from the day of Pentecost onward. Acts 4:32-37; Romans 15:25-29; II Corinthians 8&9. As individuals and as congregations we are part
of the body of Christ.

GMS congregations share partnerships in a myriad of ways; there is not a prescribed pattern. For example, Memorial LC in Glendale rebuilt hundreds of bicycles for youngsters at Hephatha LC – eventually some of the young men and women learned to fix bikes on their own. The people of each church get to know each other, then you get to know where their heart is, then you experience the ministry and service which is dear to them, then you discern together how you can support each other – all for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Next steps with St John’s:

1. Unanimously agreed that the proceeds from our fish fry April 27 will go to their ministry with veterans.

2. A carful of Redeemer folks visits St. John’s on a Tuesday or Thursday morning.

3. May 27 Pastor Pres and Pastor Jon will exchange pulpits. (First Sunday with the summer schedule, one service at 9am) After fellowship, Redeemer will go to St John’s for tailgating; then on to watch the Brewers beat the Mets. Miller Park is also close to St John’s. That’s Memorial Day weekend, an especially appropriate time to launch this partnership.

4. A team of two or three Redeemer members to connect with St John’s members as we build this mission
partnership.


MT MERU COFFEE

Our Greater Milwaukee Synod is in partnership with the Meru Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. For years now, the Meru Coffee Project has been bringing high quality beans direct from Tanzania, to be ground in Milwaukee, and sold to churches and individuals. It is strong, rich coffee. The farmers in Tanzania receive more equitable, just compensation – better than fair trade rates, light years better than commercial rates. This has allowed for schools and a hospital to be built.

The slogan is ‘Doing justice never tasted so good.’ Redeemer could be using Meru Coffee Sunday mornings. You could be drinking it in your home and sharing it at work.
https://www.mtmerucoffee.org/


PARTNERSHIP BRANCHES OUT MULTIPLE WAYS

This year we used Lutheran World Relief for palms for Palm Sunday. These palms are harvested without taking the whole tree, and the workers receive more fair compensation. LWR is itself an exemplary partnership of Lutherans across the globe, and across different expressions of Lutheranism. (LWR is also among the very best ministries/charities in terms of lowest overhead.) Plus, we partnered with St Luke Lutheran Church in Slinger to order the palms.


ANOTHER PARTNERSHIP BRANCH

At some point this spring we will dedicate the trees planted at St. Kilian and Redeemer last fall in celebration of Reformation 500. How about Arbor Day, April 27? Come for the tree dedication and stay for the fish fry.


HARTFORD MUSIC PUBLICITY

Hartford is known for high quality music, offered through many outlets. Redeemer students are part of this tradition, as are Redeemer adults, for example in the Hartford Community Chorus. I would like to see space in the narthex or near the Gathering Room dedicated to posting information about area performances, which would require one or two members to keep it current. Interested and willing? Please talk to me.


Chrstians Follow the Unarmed Victim

26 Feb 2018

A while back I was driving through the parking lot at Concordia University when I saw a bumper sticker which read, “Criminals prefer unarmed victims.” I take it that this person advocates arming oneself as protection against one who intends to perpetrate a crime, including a violent crime.

The irony struck me immediately; actually, it’s beyond irony. In space dedicated to discipleship of Jesus Christ, the ultimate unarmed victim, we find a call to resort to weapons. Check the gospels – when they came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, his companions asked him if they should “strike with the sword.” “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

By no means do I intend to single out Concordia. About this same time, after another in our nation’s series of mass shootings, I heard a radio interview with the attorney general of Texas. His large Baptist church in the Dallas area hires armed guards to patrol their facility, especially on Sunday mornings. Anyone in the U.S. who does otherwise is naïve, he said.

Thank God for the naivete of the high school students in Florida who are saying “Never Again.” And, how like the religious authorities in the time of Jesus are many of today’s political and even religious authorities, who turn a deaf ear to the students, or even demean them.

In today’s gospel reading from Mark, Jesus tells his disciples that following him means taking up the cross. The cross is sacrifice. The cross is love that puts others first. The cross is laying down one’s life. The cross is washing one another’s feet. The cross is humble love. The cross is forgiveness.

Wherever and whenever Christians live they are faced with countless decisions, small and big, as they seek to be faithful and obedient to Jesus’ way. “Choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30) “Beat your swords into plowshares.” (Isaiah 2, Micah 4) “No one can serve two masters…” (Jesus -Matthew 6) The cultural influences which impede obedient discipleship are numerous and pervasive. But, we do not seek obedience and faithfulness on our own; we always have foundation in Scripture and in prayer, and support from our sisters and brothers in Christ.


Disciplines of Lent

20 Feb 2018

Ash Wednesday is February 14. It begins the season of Lent, 40 days set aside for reflection on sin in our lives. The gospel acclamation for Lent calls believers to “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

On Ash Wednesday, before the imposition of ashes, the pastor speaks to the people, “I invite you to the discipline of Lent – self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love – strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament.” Of course, these faith practices are worthy at all times of the year, but they receive our special focus during Lent.

Self-examination: Set aside time to think in depth about your life, about your actions and your inaction. Go beyond the superficial. Get past routine. God knows already, so there is no reason not to come completely clean with yourself.

Repentance: Turn back to God’s ways. Seek a Godly path to walk. Humble contrition coupled with honest determination to live righteously.

Prayer: Try this for your prayer life – start by listening to God and listening for God; next give thanks to God for blessings big and small, regular and astounding; next tell God your concerns and people in need, and expand your circle of concerns; then listen for God again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat………

Fasting: Give up something, or several things, and replace with prayer and works of love. Fasting is not mainstream in our culture, which adds to its meaning. Fasting can be food or alcohol or TV or gaming or fancy coffee or fast food ….. Key words = give up and replace with. One time honored practice is forsaking fast food then giving money saved to ELCA World Hunger Appeal.

Sacrificial giving: Luke 21. John 13. Matthew 27 – Mark 15 – Luke 23 – John 19. Giving based on God’s abundant blessings and on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for you.

Works of love: Love comes from God. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [John 15:13] Love most profound in Jesus on the cross. Love not static or stale, but at work, flowing, growing, fostering love for others and then in others.

The discipline of Lent is for the disciples of Jesus Christ, for strengthening and deepening faith.


Confirmation

20 Feb 2018

Since the beginning of the new year we have moved from the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament to the gospels in the New Testament. As I shared in the message in worship January 14 & 15, our confirmation gospel study started with Mark 8 where Jesus tells the disciples they are headed to Jerusalem where he will be betrayed, tortured, killed, and on the third day rise from the dead. To underscore the seriousness and the centrality of this passion prediction Mark repeats it twice more; Matthew and Luke each record it three times as well.

We have four students and four gospels, so each student is assigned a gospel to read. As they read they write down:

– Ten cool, amazing, awesome things Jesus did
– Ten cool, amazing, awesome things Jesus said
– Five people whose lives were changed because of Jesus
– Five stories of healing from your gospel
– One prominent disciple in your gospel plus three of his interactions with Jesus
– Two famous / important verses in your gospel

And then they ponder what they would like to talk with Jesus about if he sat in with our class.

The students also helped identify the recipients of the Souper Bowl of Caring offering this year. We looked at Matthew 25 – Jesus’ concern and love for people who are hungry, thirsty, in prison, sick, or a stranger. The students added people who are homeless, people who are lonely, or grieving. The class agreed to support the Community Meal and Casa Guadalupe.

Please keep Logan, Lindsay, Madison, and Owen in your prayers.

– Pastor Jon


Redeemer Stories

20 Feb 2018

I renew my appeal to hear from you’all stories of times when a Redeemer member helped you through a difficult time or with a tough situation. I trust that such stories are out there, but I have yet to hear any. Some Sunday after worship….. or email me ……. or give me a call.


About Worship

20 Dec 2017

The gathering of the faithful for worship is at the core of life together. It is the prime time and place where we hear God’s Word as community of faith. We confess our sin and hear God’s forgiveness. We share our prayers. We share the reconciling peace of Jesus Christ. We share Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament of the altar. We sing God’s praises.

God’s people have been coming together for worship back to the earliest Bible times. Many of the psalms were composed for worship. It was important to Jesus, for example in Luke 2, 4, John 2. Worshiping together is an essential part of honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy (Third Commandment).

The early Christians honored the Sabbath by gathering on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection (Acts 20:7, Revelation 1:10). From those days till now, the parts of worship have been consistent: confession and forgiveness, praise, Scripture, creed, prayer and Lord’s Prayer, sharing the peace, sharing the gifts of the people, sharing the holy meal. The parts of worship remain the same but the variety of music and place and style and demeanor reflect the beautiful diversity of God’s people around the globe as well as change through the years.

I was brought up with the implicit understanding that the way we worshiped in our church was the right way; other churches and other kinds of music were inferior, if not downright ungodly. Since then I have been blessed to be part of worship in many different places and with all kinds of music; from joyful and exuberant to serene and quiet. And all of it was blessed by God and infused with the Spirit. I will always treasure singing “The Church’s One Foundation” with a thousand voice congregation and a prodigious pipe organ. Singing “Al Banquete-Let Us Go Now to the Banquet (523ELW) at Pan de Vida Lutheran Church in El Salvador is a lasting memory. There was Clara, a young woman, offering her interpretive dance on Good Friday. There was Tim singing “Jesus Is Love” on choir tour, bringing everyone to their feet. I was a tenor in the Chicago south side Combined Lutheran Gospel Choir; our daughter, Hannah, sang in that choir too.

We owe God our worship AND we bless each other when we worship together. [In other words, when you are not here for worship the blessing of the service is less.] Worship deserves our best energy and devotion and participation and talents. Everyone, of every age has gifts to share for worship. It is good when worship is familiar enough that we feel comfortable with it, but also fresh enough that it does not become simply rote repetition. So, we have been using a different worship setting, and chanting the psalm, and I have picked some hymns and songs you may not have sung before. We are trying the Monday evening service in the gathering room. During the Epiphany season the two Sunday services will be more similar to each other. We are exploring, with the goal of enriching our worship life. Please share your reflections with me, or anyone on church council.

– Pastor Jon