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Pastors' Messages and Sermons

On this page, you can read  reflections and sermons preached by  our pastor, Pete Bowmer.

Special thanks to Pastor Pete's  text Study group at Glenwood Lutheran, Toledo for my inspirational thoughts. 
Pastor Pete also acknowledges the thoughts and work on www.workingpreacher.org as a source of inspiration and at times quotation.
Pastor Pete also acknowledges the work of Pastor Ed Strietelmeier at gettothefaithpoint.blogspot.com

Through the Word we understand the joy of serving in God's Kingdom.

Following Jesus – From boat to immersion

posted Aug 11, 2014, 7:43 AM by Peter Bowmer


 

Aug 10, 2014

 

Over these last months, I have been conducting reviews of the various ministries at St Paul’s. I have established some small groups to assess the ministries our church provides - our community breakfast  “Morning Blessings”, our commitment to ALT, Abundant Living Together - a Gap year for 18-25 year olds to help them discern God’s direction in their lives. Even our music ministry has been examined.

 

Apart from the formal reviews, I have been speaking with individuals, both members or our congregation and people outside our congregation. A number of important things have become apparent.

 

#1, St Paul’s has a rich history & a strong membership, dedicated to sharing the amazing Grace of God through Jesus the Christ. Without the past and current members - St Paul’s would not exist. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those who are, and have been associated with St Paul’s.

 

The second thing which has become apparent from the formal & informal reviews, is the strong belief, by many in this community, that God has placed St Paul’s in the heart of downtown, to BE the heart of downtown.

 

In other words, God has placed St Paul’s physically at 428 N. Erie St Toldeo, for a reason, & that reason is to share the amazing Grace of God through Jesus the Christ with all who live, work & play, here in downtown Toledo.

 

What has been revealed is how richly we have been blessed. What an awesome blessing God is currently making us to be, & where God is leading us.

 

Today’s Gospel story fits exactly into this picture. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, had been beheaded by Herod, Jesus & many of John the Baptists’ friends & followers retreated into the countryside. In their grief, through the work of the disciples, Jesus fed them, uplifted them, restored & healed them.

 

Then, in today’s story, Jesus sent the disciples away in a boat, while he, by himself, went to the mountain to pray.

 

So we find Jesus at the mountain, in solitude, praying with God. God’s presence, in the bible, has always been found on the mountain. Elijah found God in the quietness on the mountain. Moses received the 10 commandments from God - while he was alone with God, on the mountain.

So it’s natural for us to encounter Jesus, in today’s Gospel reading, on the mountain, in God’s presence.

 

Meanwhile - the boat Jesus told the disciple to get into, was in big trouble.

The contrast could not be more stark. The quiet holiness, of Jesus’ mountain retreat, & the chaotic, dangerous, incomprehensible journey, Jesus had compelled his disciples to undertake.

 

Yet that's where Jesus told his disciples to be, in the midst of the realities of the storms of life, not to retreat, but to go into places we don't understand. To go into places that are new and scary. And the really amazing thing is that Jesus shifts the whole reality of God’s presence for us……

 

God - is no longer encountered by the disciples on the mountain top, the place of quiet solitude, No God, Jesus, is now & forever, found & encountered in the chaos of the storm.

 

And God calls his disciples out of the protection of the boat, to be where he is, in the midst of the storm.

 

Conclusion:

 

So there are 2 parts to today’s story:

We, like the disciples have been placed in a boat. Our boat is called St Paul's. This boat keeps us safe. Here in this boat Jesus looks after us - He feeds us with his words, with Holy Communion, and with fellowship as we look after each other. And we invite our radio listeners, our friends, our families, even strangers to enjoy the safety, comfort & joy of being in the boat together. Here we all safe together.

 

But there is another side to the story.

 

Like the disciples Jesus calls us out of the safety of the boat to venture into the chaos.

This is really scary. But again, we are not alone.

Jesus is there, in the midst of the chaos. He is calling us, reaching out to us. We, hopefully will be tempted to take a few steps out of the boat of St Paul's, and dip our toes into the waters of Downtown. At times we might sink and fail, but even a few steps is closer to Jesus than where we were!

 

Carlo Works - from Working Preacher www.workingpreacher.org - puts it this way. "In Matthew's Gospel, the story is meant to reveal who Jesus is. But that revelation is only possible in the midst of chaos. If Jesus had not forced the Disciples to embark on this uncertain journey they would have missed the opportunity to see God revealed in their midst."

 

Jesus has brought us together into this amazing boat called St Paul's. Those of you who are here today are in the boat - those who are listening today are in the boat too - those who have journeyed with us over the last 150 years & more, are in the boat too.

 

But now Jesus, having strengthened & blessed us, is calling us to step out of the boat, to be with him, to truly be in the heart of downtown Toledo, in the heart of the downtown. Step out, he won't let us fail, because every step we take in Jesus' name, means we are getting closer to where he already is!!

 

Just like the disciples we don't always recognize Jesus at first. But with hindsight, we see him in the face of the stranger, in the time of the storm, in the faithful witness of the past & in the mission field that is the heart of downtown.

 

My friends, join me, let's get out of the boat & follow Jesus!

 

Feeding the 5000

posted Aug 6, 2014, 10:44 AM by Peter Bowmer

We have all heard the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. I’d imagine if there was a survey, many people would list this miracle as one of their favorites. It’s a story about Jesus’ power, it’s a story of Jesus feeding us all - as he is the bread of life, it is a story about how God is abundantly generous, and it is also a story which reminds us about how we are fed through the Holy meal of the Lord’s Supper.

With very familiar stories which we hear often, we can sometimes overlook not so familiar details. In today's story, the very first words caught my attention,

“When Jesus heard what happened.”

What had happened?

And so, as with many Bible stories, we need to investigate to get a fuller understanding of the story.

 Well, what had just happened was that Herod was celebrating his birthday with a feast. This was a self indulgent feast. A feast of power and corruption. A feast which resulted in the beheading of John the Baptist. His head served on a silver platter. An absolutely disgusting self indulgent party. John’s disciples took his body and buried it. Then they told Jesus what had happened.

 

Today’s story of the feeding of thee 5000 is the sequel to the story of Herod’s abhorrent feast. Jesus withdrew in his grief. He withdrew to a lonely place. And that lonely place began to fill with people who were also withdrawing from the city. probably disciples of John who were also grieving.

Jesus saw this great crowd and he had compassion on them. And what I learned this week is what the word compassion means. It cakes from latin words.

Com: means coming together

Panis: has a similar sound to a latin word which means 'bread'

 

Jesus had compassion for them and that literally means , they came together, Jesus and the people, in the bread, in the meal. Contrast this meal, a meal of sharing, a meal steeped in grief, a meal that ultimately was a celebration of God’s abundant gift of life. Contrast that to Herod’s feast of death. 

One life giving. One life taking. 

One so generous. One so selfish. 

And out of the meal of death, came the opportunity for the meal of life.

 

That’s so often how it is my friends. Out of the deepest darkness, comes the opportunity for the celebration of life. 

Another thing I noticed about this reading was Jesus’ words, “you feed them.”

Yes, Jesus’ followers were told by Jesus to become the agents of God’s generosity. That is the choice we all face. Do we behave with self indulgent use of resources or do we generously share the blessings God has given us?


We can answer that as individuals, as a church, as a community, as a nation. How do we party? 

Do we, individually, as a community, as a nation, keep the best for ourselves? Do we in fact take and destroy for our own pleasure or do we share abundantly and offer to welcome all people to our feast?

Jesus said, “you feed them.”

And we do so willingly, because Jesus has so generously fed us. He finds us in our grief. He finds is when we are down and out. He finds us when we are scratching around trying to find meaning and purpose. He finds us in death, and raises us to life, to purpose, to community.

 

You know, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. But my friends, here at church, in community we experience the generosity of hospitality. Here, we feel like we belong. Here we know we are valued. Not perfect but together. So come, be fed, be raised to life. Know the generosity of Jesus so that we can be the generosity of Jesus to the community.

 

Come together to be healed. Come together to feel the warmth of human touch. Come together to be blessed generously by the Lord of life. 

Wheat is nothing more than a domesticated Weed!

posted Jul 29, 2014, 7:02 AM by Peter Bowmer

Life is all a matter of perspective. It depends on how you look at things. Some people see their cup has half full. Others will look at the same cup and see it as half empty.

 

We celebrated our 6th month anniversary of being in the USA last week. For us the time has gone so fast. But for our family in Australia, no doubt, the time seems slow.

 

It’s a matter of perspective. My father from Australia recently visited and he commented that we are sounding more American. There are many listening to me today who would disagree –

It’s a matter of perspective.

 

In todays gospel reading Jesus told a story many rural people would understand .The mixing of wheat with weeds, and what to do about it.

 

I’m a city boy. So I need a city perspective!!

 

When we bought our house it was the middle of winter. The garden was covered in snow.

 

The previous owners were very proud of their garden so that showed us photos of how amazing it looked in the warmer months. So many different variety of flowers!!!

 

So we were looking forward to the thaw. But spring and summer has brought a problem.we have never had a garden like this. All our previous gardens have been tropical.

 

All the plants are new to us – and so are the weeds. Some we thought were flowers turn out to be weeds and vice versa.

 

So this year we will let them all grow out and we’ll learn and we will evaluate.

 

After all what looks like flowers to us, may turn out to be weeds. Its all a matter of perspective!

 

And I think that’s what Jesus was saying in todays parable.

 

It can be so easy for us to judge.

They are in – wheat.

They are out – weeds.

 

But when we judge in this way we are forgetting that Jesus has the power to transform. After all he is the one who turned the ugly tortuous cross into a beautiful resurrection.

 

So Jesus reminds us to be who we are – wheat, without judging the weeds – it is god’s job, and God’s job alone to judge – not ours!

 

You know Jesus had a tendency to turn the accepted perspective upside down. So when we get too comfortable, expect God to give us another point of view!

When God does this we can gain a new perspective.

 

Who is to say that the weeds aren’t thinking that the wheat is the problem . After all, wheat is nothing more than weeds that have been transformed and domesticated.

 

Or if you want that from a religious point of view . – As Martin Luther would say – we are transformed from sinner to saint.

 

And that brings me to this observation.

 

If we – the wheat – are nothing more than transformed weeds – if it is true, and I believe it is, that we have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Baptism, from sinner into saint, then we still have the same genetic code as weeds.

 

Ah yes my friends, SAINT AND SINNER Wheat and Weed,

Who can tell the difference?

 

And from my perspective that is a really big deal.

 

Being Saint and Sinner means I’m set free. Free from judging others, because having to judge is such a burden .

 

Judging is God’s job – and we are told that we will be judged favourably, without blemish, because of what Jesus has done for us!

 

From this perspective I fully expect to see more people in heaven than we could have imagined – because the one who tends the wheat is also the one who loves even the weeds!

 

I’m set free – to be simply who I am – wheat – a weed transformed at baptism.

 

A child of God – a flawed child but a child of God none the less . Thanks be to Jesus!!

 

Its all a matter of perspective and from God’s perspective, through Jesus the Christ – all people are God’s children.

 

The Holy Spirit works through us when we love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

 

Weed or wheat – Who can tell? We are simply commanded to love all people as God loves us and that my friends is the Lutheran Christian perspective.

That is the perspective of ST Pauls downtown Lutheran church!!

 

Love has come to town!

 

Forgive yourselves in Jesus' name

posted Jul 28, 2014, 7:28 AM by Peter Bowmer


This last week I had a bit of trauma in my life – I lost a night’s sleep through worrying over it.

 

I needed to transfer some money from my Australian bank account into my Untied States account.

 

I have done this before…. Pull out the laptop, fill in the details, press the send key and hey presto – the money is transferred – automatically changed into US dollars – exchange rate taken into account and each bank charging their service fee!

 

Normally a transfer takes a few hours. It leaves your first account immediately, but arrives in your other account only a few hours later.

 

Last week I checked… the money left my Australian account immediately. I checked nearly every hour thereafter to make sure it arrived in my US account.

 

Lunchtime – still nothing, mid afternoon nothing – Dinner time  NOTHING – my panic was beginning to rise!!

 

What would I do? Of course I had done the right thing – I had printed a receipt of the transaction so I knew one of my banks would be able to fix the mistake……

 

2am – still nothing!

6am nothing.

 

I had breakfast, went to Morning Blessings – I thought I will have to go straight to the bank as soon as it opened.

 

One last check. And there it was!! Finally – what sweet relief!!

After nearly 25 years of being a pastor and after my whole life of being a Christian – you would think I would get it: Romans 8 says “ for I am convinced neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.”

 

I AM CONVINCED!! REALLY??

 

In today’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew; Jesus tells a number of short parables, short stories if you want, to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like:

 

It is like a small mustard seed. It grows into a large bush – which can provide protection for many birds. Sounds like the kingdom of heaven is right here in St Pauls.

 

We have a community breakfast, which we call ‘Morning Blessings’, every Tuesday and Thursday morning.  Everyone is welcome at this free Community meal. It is just like early church, where everyone was sharing everything together!!

 

Something small, growing into something large. Morning blessings started with a handful of people. Now around 250 people gather each time!! Yes my friends the kingdom of heaven is at hand here at St Pauls Lutheran Downtown Toledo.

 

But – we are not perfect. Remember last week’s bible message? We are wheat – saints to be sure – but we are at the same time to weeds!! One thing is for sure: where we imperfect people gather the perfect Jesus is also there making his beautiful kingdom alive.

 

 

 

 

Jesus not only told us this short parable, but others too – the pearl in the field, the other one about yeast allowing bread to rise and grow and so on.

 

Little things grow into amazing things. That is the sign that the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

 

And then Jesus said to his disciples.

“ Have you understood all of this?”

and they answered ”yes.”

 

I think they may have been saying “yes.” At the very same time as they were shaking their heads “No.”

 

And that brings me back to my bank transfer. I nod my head – yes Jesus I know you’ll look after me.

Whilst at the same time shaking my head “no.” in unbelief and doubt.

 

 

Last week we were reminded not to judge the weeds in the field. We might be wheat – God’s chosen, but we are ourselves, no more than domesticated weeds.

 

I know we get that – after all we are good Lutherans – we are good St Paul’s Lutherans; the heart of downtown in the heart of downtown. We get the doctrine of justification.

 

We know that we can include all people – in Christ there is no male nor female, slave nor free, Jews nor gentile. We are all included and so we welcome everyone.

 

But I suspect what we are not good at, is accepting that personally, for ourselves.

 

And so we worry – we can forgive others – but it is so much harder to forgive ourselves – RIGHT?

 

Today I want to share a parable, a story with you.

It involves this large urn I have before me in which a substantial plant could grow.

I got it cheap from Walmart. It is after all, cracked with a hole in it.

 

I can make bigger cracks and holes with this hammer. BANG BANG.

 

Now it looks more like us – less than perfect – full of cracks. If people look closely at us, we fear and reason, they will see us as flawed and as imperfect as we know ourselves to be.

 

Look at the person next to you – look!! They are not perfect – like you they have cracks that they try to hide – imperfections just like you that they want to cover up:

 

We are so busy covering up our imperfections we worry and worry and forget that Jesus lives in us.

 

Listen to these words from the book of Galatians in the Bible.

“I have been crucified with Christ – I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

 

Watch as I place a candle in this broken cracked flower pot.

 

The light shines out of the imperfections. It is precisely in the darkness, the flaws, the mistakes, that Christ’s grace and love shine most powerfully.

 

In fact if we had no flaws – if we had never made a mistake – then the grace of Jesus would not be seen.

 

My friends – in Jesus’ name we are able to forgive others– be inclusive.

But my Friends – forgive yourselves also in Jesus’ name.

 

From small things God can grow powerful messages of grace.

The darkness is real and it may seem impossible that the dawn will ever come; but rest assured. Christ already lives in you. You are forgiven. God’s grace flows through you and out of you into the community.

 

“ Do YOU understand this?

Our God is with us always!

posted Jul 28, 2014, 7:26 AM by Peter Bowmer

Our God is with us always!

 

Do you remember the story of the fleece?

 

Gideon wanted a sign from God.

He said, “I shall put a fleece of wool on the floor overnight. If in the morning there is dew on the fleece only and it is dry on the ground all around it, then I know that you will save Israel.”

And that’s how it was. In the morning he squeezed out a bowl of water from the fleece, but the ground was dry. But, like a normal human being, he doubted.

So he said, “Don’t be angry with me God but… if I put a fleece out overnight and in the morning it is dry but the ground around it is wet from dew, then I know I can trust God!”

And it was so.

 

We are all full of doubts. Doubts are not bad. In fact, I see them as something of a gift. A doubt means that you are asking questions and that leads to growth and strength. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus met the disciples at a mountain in Galilee. There they worshiped him, but they also doubted.

 

Remember, this is right at the end of Matthew. They had seen everything: the healing, the sermons, the expulsion of evil spirits, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. They worshiped and they doubted.

 

It sounds so much like us. We could have been those disciples, seeing everything, cheering Jesus on, celebrating his Healings, admiring his teachings. At the end of the day we, like the disciples still have doubts.

 

When I first started entertaining the idea of moving to the United States, I was presented by the Assistant to the Bishop with 2 or 3 possible congregations. Of course I checked them all out on the web. I came across some photos on the St Paul's Facebook page. There were photos of the crowd at Morning Blessings. The interesting thing was that I could see myself in the photos - not just imagining - it was like a vision, I could literally see myself there. I thought, well maybe it’s a sign. But doubt can be stronger than faith. Well, at least logic could be stronger than faith. So, I thought, if I got that call to St Paul’s maybe it was a vision afterall. If I don’t get the call, it would just be a figment of my imagination. Now, I am convinced it was a vision. Reality has confirmed it and doubts are put away (for the time being). I’m human after all.

 

What is really amazing is that is was these doubters who Jesus chose to be his ambassadors; to go and baptize and teach. Their commission was in fact easy. Be who God created you to be, people of faith and doubt, people living between the mountain top and the deep valley. Their commission was easy: be real, be authentic; love and you have been loved. After all, that’s what Jesus commanded them to do.

 

One day someone, in an effort to test Jesus, maybe in an attempt to be self righteous, or in an attempt to prove Jesus was an impostor, asked Jesus what was the most important commandment.  Jesus answered, love God and the second is the same, love your neighbor just the same as you would love yourself.

 

When we love God and our neighbor, we are doing all God commanded us. Sounds easy, hey?

 

I’m sure you have heard of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Did he desert? Was he captured? The debate is intense, is a a hero, an ordinary human or a traitor? I have seen some very disturbing comments both on the TV and the internet.

One said, “they got five Taliban leaders. We got one deserting weasel.”

 

So I ask: people of faith and doubt, disciples of Jesus, how do we go and love God and neighbour in this situation? Maybe being a Christian is not so easy after all? Maybe being a Christian sometimes means allowing our faith to overcome our doubt, our belief to overcome our logic and emotions.

 

It’s easy to love when they are people like us, but what if they smell different? Believe different? Behave different? When they are less than perfect? Sometimes it is easier being a Christian amongst fellow Christians, rather than in the real world.

 

If only we had a sign from God. If only Jesus were with us, giving answers and directions.

But hang on, the Gospel for today says, “I am with you always.”

Right at the end of the Gospel, Jesus says, “remember my name, Emmanuel.”

 

Remember when the Angels announced the birth of Jesus and the shepherds were amazed and the wise men brought their gifts? What was the baby’s name? Emmanuel. Which means God is with us; and right at the end when Jesus sends his disciples, us, those who worship as well as doubt, into the world he reminds us of the original vision,

“I am with you always.”

Next time you doubt, or worry, or accuse, or judge - in other words, next time you, like the disciples, find yourself between the mountain and the valley, in the reality of the pain and the joy of the world - remember God is with us.

 

Love your neighbor as though they are God. Love the neighbor as though they are you, a person of faith and doubt; and never, ever forget, that’s exactly how you are loved by our father in Heaven, fully, unconditionally, and authentically. 

Independence Day!

posted Jul 16, 2014, 9:16 AM by Peter Bowmer

Matt 11: 28 – 30

 

I think Independence Day is what links the United States and Australia so closely together.

 

On July 4 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, declaring independence from Great Britain.

 

Australia had been discovered by English explorer Captain James Cook in 1770, 6 years prior to American Independence. It was no means co incidental that two years after the American Declaration of Independence in 1778 the British began colonising Australia. That American Independence meant Australia would become a dumping ground for convicts is a story for another day!

 

Independence day is an awesome holiday. It is as much about celebrating the past – as it is about hoping for the future. Every person strives to be independent. When we are young we are very dependant on our parents or carers. As we age and mature we want to spread our wings and fly solo.

 

Independence is so highly valued that we see co-dependence as a negative condition.

 

To be totally independent gives us great freedom. But as with any benefit there is a downside.

 

Personal freedom and independence means we also shoulder our burdens personally.

 

And sometimes those burdens that we share personally are very heavy! There are many of us who face the burden of bodies that don’t do exactly want we want them to do! Others face the prospect of a lonely life after the death of someone they love.

 

Others face the burden of broken relationships, crippling finances; still others bear the burden of wondering what they will do with their lives.

 

There are other kinds of burdens we face: burdens of temptation, sin, conflicting loyalties, providing for our families. This life is filled with situations that call us to make choices, which are not pleasant to make!

 

Independence means personal freedom but it also insures heavy burdens which threaten to squash us under their weight!

 

Jesus tells us today that we are not in this alone. Jesus has won us our freedom by his own personal sacrifice and he promises to not only share our burdens, but to the share the heavy part of the load.

 

Recently we have been moving furniture in our home. Up and down stairs. When an object is too big and heavy two people need to share the load. Inevitably the person at the bottom of the stairs whether going up or down shares the heaviest part of the load.

 

That’s Jesus’ promise. He has won our freedom and promises to bear the heaviest part of our loads!

 

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT?

 

OR SHOULD I ASK- DO YOU TRUST THAT!

 

A long time ago I trained to be an accountant – don’t get to excited I never finished the training! I worked for the Australian Taxation Office, what you would call the IRS.

 

So in Australia I was completely confident filling in my taxes each year.

 

But here in the States, I’m not at all confident. All the different rules and regulations (freedom can seem complicated at times) So I have consulted an accountant. She has many pastors on her books, so I trust her. I sometimes still have doubts and I question her, but ultimately I have to trust her because there is no way I could bear the burden of doing my own taxes here in the US.

 

That’s how it is with Jesus- we question him we doubt him. That’s called PRAYER

When we talk with Jesus, we think it sounds better if we give it a fancy name: so we call our conversations of trust, our chats: PRAYER

 

When we have burdens to bear Jesus promises to bear the heaviest part of the load, and somehow in trusting Jesus enough to talk about our personal burdens, seems to lighten our load.

 

But prayer is not just a personal thing. There is also cooperate, or community prayer. Because we have corperate or community burdens we also pray not just independently, but together. We pray together for the health and well being of each other- and Jesus promises to bear the heaviest part of the load.

 

We wonder about our future as a congregation and Jesus bears the load and probably says “I have a few surprises for you my praying faithful people!”

 

We wonder about how to care for the people in the downtown area, just as people of Israel cried out for help during the captivity in Egypt.

The Lord hears our cries and sends Jesus to bear the major part of our burden.

 

Prayer is not magic.

It is not like saying the right words and that will, abracadabra, give us what we want.

 

No prayer is simply a conversation with our brother Jesus, the one who won our Independence by dying for us. The one who bears our burdens by rising for us.

 

Come to me all of you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you a rest.

 

We are not alone- Jesus travels into the future with us – because he has rescued us and set us free from the past.

 

 

 

Pastor's semi annual report

posted Mar 26, 2013, 1:44 PM by Lars Olson   [ updated Jun 17, 2014, 5:48 AM by Peter Bowmer ]

PASTOR’S REPORT

 

Semi annual Meeting - 2014-05-21

 

Firstly, my family and I would like to thank you for the amazing welcome we have received to St Paul’s Toledo! The snow and cold seems so far away now!

 

There are six traits that all healthy Congregations share.

 

FELLOWSHIP

As I have been settling in to my new home, I have also being settling into St Paul’s.  I have attended the various groups of the Congregation – Lunch Bunch, The Circle and SPA’s. These are great times of fellowship and fun. (I understand in days gone by there was a Friendship committee organizing and coordinating fellowship events, maybe it would be good to revisit that?) I believe that a successful congregation really needs to be a warm and inviting place so I thank all involved for their efforts in building God’s kingdom here at St Paul’s. Maybe we could organize small home groups that visit each others homes for food and fun (FiSH groups are Fellowship in Somebodies Home)?

 

WORSHIP

The Ushers and the Congregation also make everyone feel very welcome during our Sunday Services, which is vitally important in a healthy congregation. Along with the Counters, the Choir, the Sound and Power Point people, the Altar Guild and Readers the members of St Paul’s are doing everything right in making our Congregation as warm and inviting as possible. In the future I would like to see even more members helping in the leading of Sunday worship. We have been using a variety of liturgies and I am thankful for the many positive responses.

 

DISCIPLESHIP

Learning about Jesus is central to being a Christian Congregation. During Lent we had the joy of experiencing Holden Worship together as well as engaging in a Bible Study about the Beatitudes. The participation and lay leadership were quite amazing! During Lent several young people also received their first Communion and now a number have begun their Confirmation lessons. I hope to make what they are learning in our Confirmation program available to the entire Congregation during the Summer, so we can all be ‘on board’ together!

 

MINISTRY

How we care for each other is important not only to God, but also to the health of our Community. So it is good to see a very healthy Visitation program carried out by our Home communion Ministers. As we have only one Pastor at this time, this greatly assists me in my work. I have enjoyed visiting with people in hospital and also during times of crisis. I have been privileged to lead the farewells of both Elsie Perch and Vince Gigliotti. Shortly I will lead a Memorial for our friend Bev Vasko. Many people both publically and privately care for their sisters and brothers in this Congregation.

 

MISSION

Local Mission

St Paul’s currently engages with the local community through Morning Blessings. And truly many, many are blessed as each Tuesday and Thursday approximately 200—300 people are given meals. In so doing, we also are blessed. In addition to this mission we are also involved in knitting hats for school students and on occasion prayer shawls for those in hospital or hospice. Reaching out to others is simply obeying Jesus’ command, to love others as we love ourselves.  I do wonder how we might connect more fully with the Downtown population? Recently I was asked by the Dean, Pastor Steve Bauerle to be one of six leaders driving a vision which sees Congregations working more closely together. I am to lead the cluster of Urban Congregations. It is my hope that we can work more collaboratively with our Lutheran sisters and brothers at other congregations in the Downtown area. Recently your Church Council resolved to support collaborative efforts in Downtown Ministry.

National mission

St Paul’s supports mission on a National level through the Churchwide sponsored ALT program. THE ALT pilot year has concluded. The young people have been stretched and grown. Thanks to all who have been involved. I wonder how we as a Congregation might more effectively engage with the ALTers? Maybe this group could be key in how we engage with the Downtown Community?

Global Mission

As far as I can tell this is an area that we need to develop further at St Paul’s.

 

PRAYER

Whilst we all pray, both corporately and privately, I think it would be a good idea to have a prayer time each week for those whose gift it is to pray as well as for those who would like to receive prayer.

 

Conclusion

 

St Paul’s is a healthy and happy congregation! There are areas for growth, and I know everyone desires to see more younger people attend. But all in all we can be very satisfied in knowing that we are going about God’s kingdom work here at St Paul’s

 

Recently I decided to flesh out my Bible study program. Rather than just indiscriminately offering Bible study topics I thought an intentional approach could be valuable. The attached plan was presented to Council recently and endorsed. My proposal is for us to

  1. Affirm our identity
  2. Explore where we have come from and where the Holy Spirit might be leading us.
  3. Discover what gifts we all possess for use in the Kingdom.

 

Moving from Australia has been a big thing emotionally, financially, and for an old guy like me – physically! BUT i firmly believe that God has brought my family and I here for a reason, and it is not to watch the congregation slowly age and die. So I look forward to the years ahead as we engage with Jesus in God’s kingdom work together here at St Paul’s!

 

Untitled

posted Oct 8, 2012, 7:26 AM by Lars Olson   [ updated Jul 28, 2014, 7:27 AM by Peter Bowmer ]


Overwhelmed

posted Aug 15, 2012, 12:10 PM by Lars Olson

I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry?” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you!” - Luke 12:18-20 There is little that is more precious than restful sleep when a new baby arrives at home, and it is hard to come by despite our best plans. We did all the preparing we could. The laundry was done, the crib was set up, the meals were planned. We were well prepared for Ingrid’s arrival. We had been through this process before. We knew what was coming. Yet still, somehow, the first week with our new child overwhelmed us. 

We are never really ready for what God has next for us. Just like the man in Luke 12 who built larger and larger store houses until he believed that he had enough that he could relax, eat, drink, and be merry, we too believe that our preparations and experiences are enough to get us through life. For many of us that is the goal! Having done all that is required, and perhaps just a bit more for good measure, we think we can handle whatever is to come. But who knows what God has in store for us tomorrow? A new baby? A sick friend? A fight against your old sinful self that you lose day in and day out?

Fools that we are! We look for lives filled with rest, where we can work as we choose, while God gives a day of rest and demands a life where we are always on our toes to work wherever we are called. It is enough to overwhelm.

Give me a break, Lord! Isn’t it enough that I’m caring for my family that I should be able to take a break from this newsletter? Haven’t I done enough since Easter to store up points that I can take it easy on visiting the sick? It is summer after all, and it would be really good for my mental health to sit on the beach and rest on all that has been accomplished. I’m not the only one either. If we band together I’m sure we can justify a few minutes to put our feet up and tilt back.

And as much as the pressures of life press down upon us and overwhelm, it is often in our failures to love neighbor and believe that in Christ Jesus God has carried our burdens, that we come to know that God’s grace is sufficient for life, rather than stockpiles of our own.

See you in Church! - Pastor Lars

April 2012

posted Mar 31, 2012, 7:56 AM by Lars Olson   [ updated Apr 17, 2012, 1:07 PM ]

The Inbreaking of Easter

from Bishop Marcus C. Lohrmann, Northwestern Ohio Synod


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Northwestern Ohio Synod,

“He (the young man) said to them (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome), ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised: he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him just as he told you.’”

What would you do with such a shocking, bewildering experience? The smell, touch, and sounds of death still fill their memories. Now comes the incredible announcement that the beloved who was dead is alive. What does this mean? What would the women do with this directive? Mark records, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” (v.8)

If “terror and amazement” was the first reaction, by the Spirit of God these women and the other disciples would, in fact, be moved “to go” and “to tell.” Throughout the centuries the cry “He has been raised” has been received by those who lives were filled with “terror.” As we prepare to celebrate “The Festival of the Resurrection of the Lord” we are those who now get to receive that very good news and, better yet, to trust ourselves to it. The directive also comes to us, “Go and tell….the risen Lord Jesus is going ahead of you!

At our May Synod Assembly I expect that we will adopt a new Vision Statement, “Marked with the cross of Christ, we who belong to the congregations, ministries, and agencies of this synod will be signs of and participants in God’s inbreaking reign in Christ Jesus.” As we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection may the Holy Spirit so work among us so that when others see us individually, as congregations, as ministries, and as agencies in this synod, they also will see something of the risen Lord. Now, what might that look like?

Some Signs of God’s Inbreaking Kingdom:

· Two youth from our Companion Synod in Tanzania, the Dodoma Diocese, and two from our Companion Synod in Serbia, God-willing, will be coming to the National Lutheran Youth Gathering in July. What a wonderful sign of what it means to be one in Christ!

· Plans continue for a very different Synod Assembly, during which we will hear many stories of how God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is reigning among us, through us, and within us. Then we will imagine and dream about new ways in which God might work among us. Keep us in prayer!

· $125,000 “extra mile giving” enables us to provide additional support for Trinity Seminary, Lutheran Outdoor Ministries in Ohio, Mission Partners (Threshold, Salem and Redeem Lutheran Churches, St. John at the Bay, and others); in addition we are able to make grants to the Dodoma Diocese and to the Malaria Initiative. Thank you! We praise God for such generosity.

· Three seminarians have been assigned for their First Call including Robbie Ketcham, Jaci Tiel, and Brenda Piper. We praise God for these gifts. Pray for these candidates and for the congregations in call processes.

May you and your congregation have a most joyous celebration of the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord.

Your brother in Christ,

Bishop Marcus C. Lohrmann

 

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