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Message From Pastor Leon

posted May 30, 2017, 9:26 AM by Tracey Morris

A LOOK BACK: 

    Congratulations, Pastor Gordon on your retirement!  Thank you for your twelve years of ministry at St. Paul’s.  May God bless you and Rikka as you enter this new season of life.

A LOOK AHEAD: 

    The first step of the call process is to give all the members of the congregation the opportunity to offer their input on where we have been as a congregation and where we would like to go.

    The LCMC suggests beginning with a Transition Team.  This group’s purpose will be to gather the information needed to help the Call Committee as they seek our next senior pastor.  Previously, this information gathering was done by Church Council or Call Committee.  Having a Transition Team divides the work load, and it helps us to be more intentional and thorough about this part of the process.

    Our Church Constitution requires that the Call Committee consist of seven members that are elected at a special meeting of the congregation.  This will come after the Transition Team submits its report to the council (serving on the Transition Team does not mean you cannot serve also on the Call Committee).

    The Transition Team is not required by the constitution and can be appointed by the Church Council.  The council is now seeking people willing to serve in this way. 

    On May 11 there was a meeting to describe the task of this team.  Those in attendance asked for a more detailed description of tasks and time commitment.  It will be a part of the team’s work to determine the details of how they will accomplish their tasks, but here is a basic outline of what the Transition Team will do:

    1)  Research and select methods to learn from St. Paul’s members their views on the current ministry and programs of the congregation (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), their hopes for the future of our congregation, and what the Call Committee should look for in our next Senior Pastor.  Methods would probably include a survey, open meetings, and team members being available for conversations with individuals.  

    2)  Gather information for the Congregational Profile that is a part of the Call Packet, including congregational and community demographics, history, and description of current congregational life. 

    3)  Assemble and interpret the information gathered to prepare the Congregation Profile, and, to write a preliminary Job Description to submit to the church council.

    Resources for the above tasks are available at the LCMC website.  There are also documents already prepared (such as the history of the congregation) that can be adapted from previous Call Committee work. 

    The necessary time commitment will depend on the committee’s own decisions about how to proceed.  As we looked at the tasks and the available resources, the Church Council estimates that this could be done in 8-10 meetings over a 5-6 month period, with some members having to do a bit of homework between meetings.  (The 8-10 meetings could probably be accomplished in three months, but this is allowing for the scheduling challenges that will inevitably come with starting in the summer).

    If you would like to serve on this transition team, call Helen at the church office by June 10.  The council will appoint the team members at their June 15 meeting.  If you have any questions you may call council president Bruce Duley (612-986-1785) or Pastor Leon (952-201-5787).

    Communication is important during this transition process, and the church council wants to keep you informed.  This monthly column will be the primary source of that communication. 

    Most important of all is that we keep St. Paul’s and this call process in our prayers.

--Pastor Leon

 

Message From Pastor Gorden

posted Apr 25, 2017, 8:50 AM by Tracey Morris

Endings and Beginnings

Summer is almost here. We have experienced the change once again that signals new life to be born out of the grasp of winter. Yes, there is a definite ending to the bleakness of late winter and the clouds of early spring. This ending ushers in a whole new beginning. This is what life is all about, endings and beginnings.

This is my final communicator article to you as your Pastor. Our days have been filled with excitement over the new season of life in which the Lord is leading us. As a Pastor, I have made some very difficult decisions in the past couple of months. Rikka and I have leaned on the Lord mightily for discernment and direction. Our family and their needs have been very much a part of this decision. We will miss you, this we cannot deny. However, I look on the positive side of being blessed with almost twelve years of ministry at St. Paul’s. The relationships we have made will continue in a different way. We will long remember the love and care shown us while at St. Paul’s. We thank you from deep within our hearts for the partnership in the gospel we have shared.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) 

What we have done here together is just a beginning. God in Christ will continue to lead and direct you as long as you remain faithful to your calling. Individually we will continue to follow our calling as God’s children. This means you will continue to share in the powerful message of the gospel, which is “good News” for those who choose to believe it. This message of life found within scripture will continue to be our common bond.

Pastor Leon is ready to lead the congregation during this time of transition. He has the benefit of knowing many in the congregation and has experience in leading congregations during a time of transition. He will do a good job. It is my firm belief that the very best in the life of St. Paul’s is yet to come. This will be an exciting time for the church family to pull together and forge a path into the future.

For some time we have known that we would one day retire and do something new. Our retirement date is clear. However, we are waiting for the Lord’s guidance as to what will come next. We plan to stay in our home for the time being and do some traveling this first year.

As I close this letter I would like to share the reason why I came to St Paul’s in 2005. These words from the Apostle Paul have been my guide throughout my ministry.

“When I came to you, people, I did not come preaching to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) 

Once again, thank you for your love and friendship. May your blessings always be numbered in the richness of your faith. You will be in our prayers.

God’s grace and peace be with each and every one of you!
Your friend in Christ,
Pastor Gorden

Message From Pastor Leon

posted Mar 26, 2017, 9:40 AM by Tracey Morris



We began the season of Lent on March 1st with our traditional Ash Wednesday service and the imposition of ashes. Everyone came forward to have ashes put onto their forehead as a symbol of our future state. Along with the ashes, we heard these words from the first pages of the Bible, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The ashes on the forehead are a graphic reminder of the most significant and certain fact of life, which is that life will end.

William Willimon is now one of the top preachers in the country. Fifty years ago he was in basic training for the Army ROTC. Here is what he says now about that experience: “They took a group of us college boys over to Fort Bragg for summer camp. The first day, they marched us in and shaved our heads down to the skin. They couldn’t do much worse to a 20 year old in the 1960’s. Then they made us strip down and paraded us around naked for three hours of examinations. It was humiliating and pointless, I first thought. Then I got to know more about the Army. Turns out, they had worked with college boys before. They knew that we were smart, self-confident, arrogant, and independent, and the Army knows that people like that don’t make good soldiers. So what they do is they strip you of your individual pride, wrench from you all that you were holding on to, and then they make you shut-up and fall into line. You find out that you aren’t so self-sufficient, but that you have to cling to your platoon and rely on your buddies to survive. It works.”

Life, says Willimon, is like Army basic training. Life has a way of shaving your head and stripping you naked, so to speak. It has a way of showing you that you need to rely on something greater than yourself. Life has its way of breaking through your pride and your self-sufficiency.

Self-reliance is a good thing in life’s secondary concerns. We should want to pay our own bills, for example. But in life’s biggest things, like the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, self-reliance will get us nowhere, because that ‘self’ which we must rely on, will, in just a few years, be dust and ashes. Only the power and the grace of God will be able to bring anything out of that; or, as we Christians say as we bury our dead: “Out of the dust you are taken, unto the dust you shall return, and out of the dust you shall rise again.” That is the message of Easter which we will celebrate April 16th.

At the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are but dust and ashes. The season of Lent ends on Easter Sunday with the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the promise that, believing in Him, we too will rise out of the dust and ashes to live eternally with him.

At our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship services (7:00) we will remember the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. On Easter Sunday we will worship Christ as the risen Lord, and his victory over the grave. Join us for worship.

"He is Risen!"

"He is Risen, indeed!"

Pastor Leon

Message From Pastor Gordon

posted Feb 22, 2017, 3:18 PM by Tracey Morris   [ updated Mar 1, 2017, 4:15 PM by Carolyn Isch ]

Each year the church calendar sets aside 40 days (plus Sundays) to hear again the story of the last week of Jesus’ life. This Season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Holy Week. For centuries Lent has been a time of humility, repentance, self-denial, and soul searching as one draws closer to the Passion of Christ. Various churches have developed different traditions to observe the Lenten Season, and many individuals observe Lent by making it a time of self-sacrifice or renewed spiritual discipline. At St. Paul’s we continue the tradition of having additional weekly worship services on Wednesday evenings.

Easter is Sunday April 16th this year so Lent begins Wednesday March 1st. That day we will have our traditional Ash Wednesday worship services with Holy Communion, along with the Imposition of Ashes. Services will be at 5:30 and 7PM. A lenten supper will be served at 6PM each night. Each week a different serving group provides the meal.

This year marks the international observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. To honor Martin Luther and this anniversary, our midweek Lenten series will focus on Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther wrote this book to be used not just in church, but also in the home. Luther’s intention was that the faith be first shared and taught at home. He created the Small Catechism as a simple explanation of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments.

Each Wednesday of Lent we will learn more about the faith, Luther’s way. During worship we will have readings, which draw our attention to a portion of the Small Catechism. You may bring your Small Catechism with you to church on Wednesday nights. Or you can bring your Free Indeed devotional book. The Daily Text devotional also includes the Small Catechism. Each night there will be a meditation on a portion of the Small Catechism.

During worship on Wednesday nights you will receive a handout. Included in the handout will be a dialogue shared each week before the message. You will have two or three questions on the handout for conversation. My hope is for us to engage in a conversation with our neighbors in worship about the topic for the night. This sharing time has been a rich experience the past couple of years. We might also get acquainted with a new person!

Join us each Wednesday evenings for worship, fellowship, and a meal. As we take time to reflect on how God’s unconditional love has made a difference each of our lives.

Message From Pastor Leon

posted Jan 23, 2017, 5:41 PM by Tracey Morris

          When I was in seminary, the writings of Ole Hallesby were still popular.  I don’t hear much about him anymore, but I still have a few of his books.  I have always appreciated his down-to-earth insights into the Christian faith. 

          Hallesby grew up on a small farm in Norway and did not lose the common touch after he became pastor, and then a world famous theologian and author.  The following quote is typical of his deep, but still practical faith: “I need not exert myself and try to force myself to believe or try to chase doubt out of my heart.  Both are equally useless.  I have let Jesus into my heart, and he will fulfill my heart’s desire.  I need only to tell Jesus how weak my faith is.”  

          Hallesby might have been referring to that story in the ninth chapter of Mark where a man come to Jesus to ask him to heal his son.  Jesus makes a comment to the father about the need for faith, and the father replies with words that have become a prayer for doubters ever since: The boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24).

          Faith in Jesus is not the same as feelings for Jesus.  Faith is stronger than feelings.  It is stronger than knowledge.  Faith often becomes a sheer act of will.  A person may say, “I don’t feel like believing, but I want to believe.”  And it may very well be that if a person were to say, “I don’t know whether this Christianity is true or not, but with all my heart I want it to be true,” then in God’s sight he has faith.

          To be sure, feelings are important.  In fact, Jesus will give us deep and lasting feelings.  He will help us to feel joy, to feel repentance, to feel hope, to feel love, to feel faith.  But when the dark days come, and these feelings seem to slip away, Jesus has not abandoned us.  He does not make feelings a condition for his being with us.  He is with us, even in those gloomy and depressed days when we hardly dare to think that he cares at all.

          Former Luther Seminary president Al Rogness told of how a man once said to him, “I feel that God has left me.”  Rogness replied, “Perhaps that does not make any difference to God.”  

          After all, God is our Father, and Jesus is our great Brother and Savior.  He has promised never to leave us or abandon us.  He has given us his Word.  We rest there.

--Pastor Leon

 

Message From Pastor Leon

posted Dec 27, 2016, 9:19 AM by Tracey Morris

 Many movies have been made about the life of Christ, and I am always interested in seeing how each movie portrays the Biblical account. Some movies follow the Gospel record too closely, and the words and action seem artificial and unrealistic. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are Gospels, not movie scripts, and one expects the moviemaker to use some creativity in telling the story, even if it means adding some dialog or rearranging the context. However, many other movies do not respect the Biblical record at all, and end up telling an entirely different story. They are free to do that, but I am not interested in seeing those movies or recommending them to others.
In my opinion, the best life of Christ ever portrayed on film was the four night television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. This was first aired forty years ago, on NBC during Holy Week in 1977. The film may to some people seem slow moving at times, but many of the scenes are unforgettable. To this day, whenever I read the Gospels I am often reminded of how the story I am reading was portrayed in Jesus of Nazareth. Order it from Netflix or Amazon, or watch for it on TV. The 382 minutes it will take to view it is well worth your time. A 270 minute edited version is also available.
Two more recent wonderful movies are The Nativity Story (2006) and Risen (2015). The Nativity Story tells the story of Mary and Joseph, from the time of their courtship to their escape to Egypt after the birth of Jesus. The 100 minute movie adds much to the brief Biblical account of these events, but what is added respects the story that we do have, and it true to the historical context of the New Testament. Risen (as you may have guessed) tells the story of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, but does so from an interesting and creative angle. The main character is not Jesus, but a tough Roman centurion who has no time for religion of any sort. But Pontius Pilate gives him the job of finding the dead body of Jesus after there are persistent rumors in Jerusalem that he rose from the dead. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t find a dead body.) This movie also respects the Biblical account and context, and tells a powerful story.
In January and February I will teach a four session class on these two movies. We will watch both movies in their entirety, stopping for explanation and discussion at frequent intervals. These movies have added much to my appreciation of the story of Jesus, and perhaps you also will find them educational and inspirational.
Classes will be on the second and fourth Thursdays of January (12th and 26th) and February (9th and 23rd), from 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. in the Mary Room. No sign up is necessary and the only textbook for the class will be your Bible.
I wish you God’s blessings in this New Year.
Pastor Leon

Message From Pastor Leon

posted Nov 28, 2016, 10:41 AM by Tracey Morris

A pastor friend told me of a time when his congregation was invited to set up a Christmas display in one of the town’s shopping malls. This was back in the ‘old days’ when such public religious displays did not result in court cases, but were welcomed and encouraged.

A committee of volunteers went to work on the project. They decided to use for their theme a line from the second verse of the Christmas carol Good Christian Friends, Rejoice: “CHRIST WAS BORN FOR THIS.” They printed those words on a large banner, which they put across the top of a screen. Then, while that hymn played continuously in the background, a variety of images were shown on the screen, one after another. There were photos of families decorating the Christmas tree, congregations worshiping at a candlelight service, and children acting out the nativity story for their Christmas program. Interspersed with these familiar and pleasant images, were also images of more unpleasant scenes; images of poverty, war, disease, and floods, along with images of hospital beds, accidents, and graveside services. Through it all, the hymn played on the Christmas message that “Christ was born for this.”

“That is a great display,” I told the pastor, “and really true to the Christmas message.” Christ was indeed born for happy times and for sad times; for all of us, in whatever situation we find ourselves, all the time.

But after two days the mall management called and asked them to either change, or remove, their display. It was a creative idea, they said, and the happy pictures are fine, but they did not like all those sad pictures mixed in. “It’s too depressing,” they said, “and bad for business; people don’t want to think about those things during the holidays.” Even though Christ was born to offer hope and healing into all those settings, they did not like the mixture of images. Christmas was supposed to be only joyful.

But to quote another line from another well know Christmas carol, we sing of the birth of that Christ child that “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Jesus was born to bring us hope for a better world now and for the life to come, and to speak a word of comfort into our fears and sadness. To ignore that part of the Christmas message is to miss the whole point.

Christmas can be filled with joy, though for many people it is not a happy time at all. But either way, the message of Christmas is true, and hopeful, and offered to everyone, and at all times, for as the angel said to the shepherds, “A Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:11).

Have a Blessed Christmas!
Pastor Leon


Message From Pastor Gorden

posted Oct 25, 2016, 9:40 AM by Tracey Morris

“Gratitude, the Cornerstone of Generosity”

Each year in November we take time to highlight a “stewardship” theme. Stewardship is simply our caring for all the blessings God wishes to send our way each day. This year our theme is “Gratitude, the Cornerstone of Generosity.” We are simply managers of all God’s blessings because we own nothing; it is all God’s to let us share. How gracious we are with our time, talent and treasure is how successful we will be at creating a spirit of generosity. This spirit can become infectious.

 

On Sunday November 6, All Saints Sunday we will show our gratitude for those who followed the call to start a church in Hanover, MN. On June 7, 1900 a group of sixteen concerned, faithful people gathered to organize a Lutheran congregation. On July 22 of that year deeds for the church property and cemetery were signed and a new church was born. This happened because people felt a sense of gratitude for the life they had in this country and with hearts of generosity they forged ahead in creating a thriving congregation.  We give thanks for those charter members of St. Paul’s.

“Now, our God, we give thanks, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and   who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”               

 (2 Chronicles 29:13-14)

 

This year we are privileged to welcome the Service Coordinator of Lutheran Congregations In Mission For Christ (LCMC), Mark Vander Tuig. My heart is filled with gratitude for Mark’s willingness to spend the whole weekend us. He will be our guest preacher for Sunday, November 13. He is a dynamic speaker and will help us focus our attention on establishing a heart of gratitude. As he shares with us this cornerstone of giving it will become clear how generosity flows. Mark has been around the world preaching the good news to everyday sinners like you and me. He knows clearly why we encourage one another to be grateful and thankful. Mark will also be with us for our Appreciation Luncheon following the worship services. We create a spirit of generosity because of the love we have for our Lord Jesus. Here is one of Mark’s favorite verses.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed; do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 4:17)

 

I would like to think we could raise the bar of gratitude in our church. In my mind this spirit starts as we assess our relationship to Jesus and whether or not we have a heart of thankfulness.  In order to create a spirit of generosity we must be thankful in season and out of season. This means we give thanks to God when the blessings come our way or when tragedy or hard times befall us. Sharing gratitude for the grace you have received will change your whole perspective on life.

 

Rick Warren speaks of this when he talks about creating an “Attitude of Radical Gratitude.” The Iversen family has experienced this radical gratitude in a monumental way. Keegan was in a tragic motorcycle accident last October and is now in a wheelchair being cared for at his mother’s home. Amy, his wife and Kerry, his mother are his 24/7 caregivers. Amy posted one night about this radical gratitude, “you can’t look at what is lost but focus on what is left.” They are living proof that “The Attitude of Radical Gratitude” does in fact happen even when awful things happen. You cannot experience this gracious spirit without having grounded yourself in a faith that can move mountains. As a family their faith has grown in exponential ways.

“Sink your roots in him and build on him. Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, and overflow with thanksgiving.”

(Colossians 2:7)

 

At St. Paul’s we have so much for which to be thankful. We have been blessed in unbelievable ways. Let’s join together as a church family and create an attitude of Radical Gratitude. With grateful and thankful hearts, generosity will flow like a river. Please join us for a special weekend of worship and fellowship on November 13. You will not be disappointed.

 

A friend in Christ,

Pastor Gordon

 

Message From Pastor Leon

posted Aug 21, 2016, 6:30 AM by Tracey Morris

In last month's column I told you about the Voice of the Martyrs organization which ministers to Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith. VOM has recently published the book I Am 'n' which consists of 48 stories of Christians who are facing persecution from Islamic extremists. This is the book I spoke about in the sermon on August 14th. The 'n' in the title is short for "followers of the Nazarene (Jesus)." It is the mark sprayed painted on the homes and business of Christians targeted for persecution by ISIS. In many places, to say "I am 'n', a follower of the Nazarene, and I will not deny my faith," means your business will be destroyed, you have to leave your home, and you may be killed. The book tells the stories of many people who have given up everything to follow Jesus.

As I wrote last month, we can learn much about following Jesus from reading the stories of these Christians. The book is divided into six sections, with stories in each part to teach us about various aspects of the Christian life-- Sacrifice, Courage, Joy, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Faithfulness. It is inspiring to read how, in such extreme circumstances, these Christians are able to persevere, keep the faith, forgive others, and still be courageous and joyful.

This book (and other resources that go with it) will be the focus of our adult education opportunities this Fall. Beginning Thursday, September 15th I will teach a class based on the book and a six-part DVD that accompanies it. The class will be held every other Thursday evening, at 7:00 p.m. in the Mary Room.

Some of the small groups may use this as they continue meeting at their usual time. Others may join the Thursday class for the six sessions. Some individuals will do both.

You may also get a copy and read the book on your own.

Copies of the book I Am 'n' is available in the church office ($6.00). That book contains the 48 stories. There is also a supplementary Participant's Guide ($4.00) which contains background information, Scripture readings, and prayers. That also is available in the church office.

The lives of these brothers and sisters in Christ will inspire you, make you grateful for your many blessings, and encourage your prayers.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Pastor Leon

 

Message From Pastor Leon

posted Jul 25, 2016, 9:07 AM by Tracey Morris

    Last month I attended a one day conference sponsored by an organization called The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). VOM was founded by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who was arrested in the 1940's by Romanian communists for preaching the Gospel. He spent fourteen years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, and was often tortured. He continued to proclaim the Gospel in prison, even converting some of the prison guards and interrogators. When he was finally released he was allowed to come to the United States, where he started this organization to serve our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. VOM is very busy these days.
The speakers at VOM conferences are always Christians from other nations who have suffered for their faith. The first speaker was a young man from Syria where Christians are facing genocide in many areas at the hands of Muslim extremists. He had many incredible stories of courage, forgiveness, and witness in the face of severe persecution. He asked for prayers for his parents who have chosen to stay and serve their church, risking their lives to share the Gospel with many Muslims who want to hear more about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The second speaker was a Christian Arab pastor who was born in Jerusalem and is now a pastor in Bethlehem. He told stories of living with terrorism as a child, such as walking through blood and stepping over body parts as he walked to school after an attack by a suicide bomber. Now, in his church, at times they have had to keep several buckets of water throughout the church during worship to put out fires caused by Molotov cocktail bombs tossed through the windows. If no one is injured, they put the fire out and continue the service. The third speaker was a woman from China who was arrested on her 30th birthday, severely beaten for not giving the names of the other Christians in her church, and then kept in prison for six years.
We can learn much about following Jesus from hearing the stories of these Christians. VOM has produced many books and video resources to tell these stories. Their most recent resource for churches is called "I Am N". The letter 'N' is short-hand for 'worshipers of Jesus, the Nazarene.' In many places that letter 'N' is spray-painted on Christian's homes and businesses to target them for persecution. The book is divided into six sections, with several stories in each section that teach us about various aspects of the Christian life: Sacrifice, Courage, Joy, Perseverance, Forgiveness, and Faithfulness. There is also a DVD with 15-minute segments on each topic containing interviewers with Christians facing persecution.
This course will be one of Adult Education opportunities at St. Paul's this Fall. I will lead a course using these VOM resources two Thursday evenings a month, beginning September 15th. Small group opportunities will also continue. There will be more details in the September newsletter and Sunday bulletin announcements. Let me know if you have any questions, or want to hear more about the small group opportunities.
--Pastor Leon


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