Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! We greet each other with this wonderful news throughout the Easter season. Easter is much more than one day. In the church we get to celebrate Easter for a full 50 days: 7 weeks: a week of weeks. Truth is, as Christians we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus every day. We are always Easter people. For a little over half of May we are in the season of Easter this year.
On Sunday May 19th we celebrate the third major festival of the church year: Pentecost. Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Christian church. Red, for the Holy Spirit, is the color of the day. So I invite everyone to wear something red to the birthday party. “Pentecost” simply means 50. In the Jewish calendar Pentecost was a harvest festival of early summer and was celebrated 50 days after Passover. Over time it also came to be a celebration of God’s giving of the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai. Christians celebrate Pentecost 50 days after Easter and mark it as the gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers in Jesus Christ. Acts 2:2-4 says, “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
Those doing the speaking were all Galileans. The ability to speak in known languages other than one’s own and yet be understood perfectly well by others, which is the case at Pentecost, is different from the ecstatic speech (speaking in tongues) described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:1-25. As Paul himself makes clear, “For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them.” (1 Cor. 14:2) Whereas in Acts, the scene is exactly the opposite: “And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” (Acts 2:8) Devout Jews from many different countries and languages were able to understand the message about God’s deeds of power.
Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus were able to share with other people the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Peter, who certainly waffled in his loyalty to Jesus before, now boldly proclaims the good news: “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Peter sees the Pentecost miracle as the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel spoke: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit upon ALL flesh.”
The Holy Spirit is given to “all flesh”: to every believer in Jesus Christ. At baptism everyone is given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Granted, it may take years for many of us to discover and put to use our many and varied talents from the Spirit. But you do have the Holy Spirit; or, more accurately, the Holy Spirit has you. You and I are not “Pentecostal Christians”, but we are all “Pentecost Christians.” That is, we are all empowered by the Holy Spirit to share with others in word and deed the love and salvation of Jesus Christ.
Serving Jesus with you,
Ah, spring is in the air! After a long cold winter I love the spring time. OK, maybe I don’t really love the 35 mile an hour winds all that much. But I really do enjoy looking for signs of spring while out jogging or walking or puttering in the yard. It lifts my spirits to see buds forming on the trees, birds returning for the season and grass greening up. As I write this in mid-March, some crocuses and primroses are already blooming and daffodils and tulips are pushing up through the earth. Soon there will be other flowers and trees in bloom. I know it’s not safe to plant anything until Mother’s Day, but these are wonderful earth resurrection signs after the cold dormancy of winter.
In a much larger and greater way, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of our Lord, is/was March 31st this year. Of course every Sunday is a little Easter, a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin, death and evil for us. But the Easter season in the church calendar is a full 7 weeks long. It’s a “week of weeks: fifty days: a jubilee” if you will, and goes clear through May 18th this year. Our first readings during the Easter season come from the book of Acts rather than the Old Testament. The full title of that book is the Acts of the Apostles: the Actions of the Apostles. You might recall that “apostle” in Greek means “one who is sent out: one who is sent forth.” What did the apostles do after they had seen the risen Jesus? They powerfully preached and taught Jesus crucified and risen as the saving good news to any who would listen. They baptized a whole bunch of people. They prayed and studied together. They ate the Lord’s Supper together and shared their food and belongings. They acted through the power of the Holy Spirit. Some have said that the book should really be titled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”, since no fruitful action would be possible without the leading and guiding of the Spirit. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit usually works through people: people who are sent forth in the name of Jesus Christ: people like us.
In the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit led the Apostles to cross boundaries and social barriers in order to share the saving good news of Jesus with other people. The Spirit urged Philip to run up to the chariot of an Ethiopian man and share Jesus with him (Acts 8). The Spirit urged Peter through a strange dream to go to the house of Cornelius, a Roman army officer, and share Jesus with him and his household (Acts 10). The Spirit led Paul on many missionary journeys after the risen Jesus convinced Paul to stop working against him and start working for him (Acts 9, 13-28). Let me challenge you to read through the Book of Acts during the Easter Season and then consider, “What is the Spirit leading me to do?”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
You know the old saying about the month of March. “In like a lion and out like a lamb,” or “In like a lamb and out like a lion.” The weather is changeable and unpredictable in March as winter gradually gives way to spring. But regardless of what the weather is doing, this year March will definitely go out like a lamb: the Lamb of God. Easter, the resurrection celebration of our Lord Jesus is on March 31st this year.
So during the last week of March we come to the main things in our Christian faith: the trial, suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus. On Palm/Passion Sunday, March 24th, we celebrate Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem and proclaim, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! (Luke 19:38) A few minutes later we hear the dramatic reading of Jesus’ trial, suffering and crucifixion.
On Maundy Thursday, March 28th, we see the Last Supper acted out and share in the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus. On Good Friday, March 29th, we remember the pains Christ bore for us to take away our sin and the sin of the whole world. And we hear the seven last words of Jesus from the cross.
Throughout the month of March we will be in the season of Lent and attempt to walk with our Savior Jesus to the cross. Worship, prayer, Bible reading, fasting, and deeds of love will help us to be intentional in our 40 day Lenten journey.
And then, finally, when Easter dawns on Sunday March 31st, we will be able to fully celebrate the joy of our Lord’s resurrection from death. With Easter hymns and horns and loud voices and Bible readings and friends and breakfast and flowers we will celebrate Jesus’ victory over death. And then we will join the feast of the lamb once slain: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and sets us free to be people of God. Christ is risen and he calls us forward to the abundant life of God and to be full participants of the peaceful kingdom of God on earth.
A blessed Lent and Holy Week to us all,
The season of Lent comes early this year, because Easter comes early: March 31st. Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after or on the Spring Equinox (March 21). So Easter can occur any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. To find Ash Wednesday, which is February 13th this year, and the beginning of Lent, we then back up 40 days from Resurrection Day, but don’t include Sundays, which are always “little Easters.” Don’t worry! There won’t be a test on this!
But why are there forty days of Lent? Well, forty is a very biblical number. Noah and family were in the ark 40 days while it poured rain. The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness while they learned to trust God. Jesus was tested for 40 days in the desert by Satan. And our Lord Jesus spent about 40 hours in the grave of death before God raised him up.
Lent is a time to be intentional about our faith walk with Jesus. Lent is a time to struggle against everything that gets in the way of our loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Repenting of our sins, prayer, fasting, worship, Bible study and works of love and charity are some of the disciplines of Lent. These are ways to help us draw closer to God. We journey with Jesus to Jerusalem to his trial, his cross and his grave. We think on the extreme sacrifice Jesus gave to save us from sin, death and evil. Then when Easter comes we shall be able to celebrate his resurrection and life with true joy!
Everyone is invited to begin the season of Lent with worship at 7 pm on Ash Wednesday, February 13th. The imposition of ashes will be offered and the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated. Since Old Testament times, ashes have been an outward sign of inner repentance. Lent is a time to, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Joel 2:13.
Happy New Year! May God bless you in 2013 and may you be a blessing to others. Through January 5th the church is still celebrating the feast of Christmas. For the shopping malls it all ended on Dec 24th, except for the returns. But for Christians, we think the birthday of our Savior Jesus is worth celebrating for a full 12 days. On Sunday, January 6th we begin the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the season of light. In the midst of a cold, dark January we look to the light of Jesus Christ. Epiphany means a revelation, a manifestation, something is brought to light and clearly understood.
The January church calendar starts out with 3 epiphany events which spell out the good news that Jesus is Lord and Savior. First off, the naming of Jesus on January 1st spells out that Jesus is the Savior. What’s in a name? Jesus or Joshua/Yeshua in Hebrew literally means “He saves” or “God saves”. As the angel told Mary “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” Luke 1:31 Like all Jewish babies, Jesus was named on the 8th day of life. In our modern calendars, this is also New Year’s Day. How appropriate to start off a new year in the name of Jesus, the one who saves.
Next, we have the Visitation of the Wisemen on January 6th. The magi from the East followed the star and traveled long and far to see the child who was born king of the Jews. When they finally found the humble child with his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. The magi brought him gold, frankincense and myrrh: gifts fit for a king. The visit of the magi is an epiphany and reveals that Jesus truly is our good and gracious heavenly king. The wisemen help reveal the truth about Jesus. Wise men and women still seek him today.
Then on January 13th we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. Jesus is baptized by John in the River Jordan. Though sinless, Jesus is baptized in solidarity with us and with all people. As Jesus is baptized, the heavens are opened, the Spirit of God descends on him like a dove and God’s voice from heaven says, “You are my Son, the Beloved: with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22. Jesus baptism is his commissioning for service. After he is baptized Jesus starts, teaching, healing, eating with people and feeding them and journeying toward the cross, the grave and the resurrection.
In our own baptisms, God claims us as his daughters and sons and commissions us for service in the name of our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. And trusting in Jesus the Savior of the world, we seek to share the light and love of Jesus with other people.
May your Epiphany season be full of the light of Jesus,
Winter is coming: Christ is here!
By December many of us do some serious winter preparation. We may get new wiper blades for the car and put on the studded tires. We put the tire chains in the trunk and a blanket and ice scraper in the vehicle. We cover the outside faucets and dig out the coats and hats and gloves and boots. We put the snow shovels and ice melt by the door. We may get the furnace checked and change the furnace filters. We don’t know when the cold and snow of winter will come, but it will come. So the wise thing to do is be prepared.
In the church year, December is the season of Advent and Christmas. Advent means “the coming”. And the watchwords during Advent are watch and prepare. We hear the prophetic voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:4-6. Jesus is God’s salvation for us.
Many, many outward preparations for the celebration of Christmas happen in December. But John the Baptist calls us to the bigger task of preparing our hearts, our minds, our lives for the Lord Jesus. We certainly prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming among us as the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. This is his soft and sweet coming and the miracle of the incarnation: God in human flesh for our salvation. But the gospel readings in Advent also call us to prepare and watch for Christ’s second coming: his glorious return to complete the kingdom of God on earth. We know not when this will be. The Mayan calendar says the world will end in December of 2012. Don’t hold your breath. We cannot know when Christ will fully return, but we can live lives of faith toward God and loving service to our neighbors in need. This is probably the best way to watch and prepare. This is also Christ’s “3rd Coming”: his constant presence with us in the here and now in Christian community and in care for our world and neighbors. The Holy Spirit makes this possible.
The first Sunday of December and Advent is the beginning of a new church year: the year of Luke. That is to say, most of our gospel readings this year will be from Luke, just like most of the gospel readings in the past year were from Mark. Luke is sometimes called “The Gospel to the Poor.” In Luke, Jesus is born as a peasant boy and is frequently helping poor people and eating with them. This is a great way for us as followers of Jesus to celebrate Emmanuel: which means “God with us.”
Serving Christ and neighbor with you,
Emma Lofgren, Lucille Johnson, Ramona Pearl, Shirley Fischer, Irene Trosky, Harriet Gornick, Lela Johnson, Loran Bollinger, Walt Larson, Iona Kuchenbuch. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ who have died in the faith since All Saints’ Day 2011. As I was thinking about November and All Saints’ Sunday this year (November 4th) I realized how many saints of First Lutheran have moved on to their heavenly homes in the last year. They all lived long, full Christian lives and we give thanks for their faithfulness among us. At the same time, we still miss them.
For us who live in the northern hemisphere, November means the dying of the landscape. The flowers are no more. The gardens are frosted and gone. The leaves on the trees have changed colors and fallen. It’s colder, wetter and darker outside. Winter is just around the corner. November causes us to pause and think about our own mortality in a healthy way. We all have only so much time on this earth. How will we use it and make the most of God’s gifts to us of our time and our talents? But whether we are blessed with long earthly lives or a shorter amount of earthly years, as Christians we can all look forward to an eternity with our Savior Jesus in the kingdom of God.
Our second reading for All Saints’ Sunday comes from Revelation 21 and gives us a glimpse of the full reign of God. Revelation 21:3-4—And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
The month of November, and the entire church year ends with Christ the King Sunday on November 25th. As we conclude one church year and before we begin a new one with the season of Advent, we celebrate Jesus as our true king: Christ as our savior and best ruler. In the Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday, Jesus is on trial before Pontius Pilate. John 18 emphasizes that Jesus is not a national or political or economic king. But Jesus is our true king because he went to the cross for us. Our king died and rose again for us so that we might truly live.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world…..For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:36-37. Jesus is not a worldly king, but in the Lord’s Prayer we do pray for the kingdom of God to come “On earth as it is in heaven.” So we ask ourselves, “In what ways can we live lives of peace and justice, so that we are in tune with the kingdom of God?”
May the good news of Christ’s victory over sin and death bring us peace, hope and joy this November and always. And may we follow our king Jesus more and more each day.
Peace in Christ,
“Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing.”—Martin Luther
As I write this on September 19th, the sky is clearer. After many days of thick smoke, a light breeze seems to have cleared our air, at least momentarily. We give thanks for the firefighters who continue to work busily and mightily to contain the fires. We continue to pray for their safety and for all homeowners who are affected by the flames. And we pray for a good, soaking rain soon!
Today is also the first day of classes at Central WA University so the town seems much more busy and active. “Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing.” This Luther saying was on over 30,000 orange T-shirts at the ELCA national youth gathering in New Orleans this summer. Our young people wore them as they did many service projects in the New Orleans area.
On the last Sunday of October, 10/28, we celebrate Reformation Sunday. We give thanks for the faithful witness of Martin Luther and other reformers of the church. Luther rediscovered the Bible truth that our salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, which we receive through faith. Luther emphasized the Bible truth that we do not somehow earn the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Rather, these are freely given to us through the precious blood of Jesus, who died on the cross and rose again to save us. Our lives are a “thank you!” to God as we share the love and good news of Jesus with other people. We work not to be saved. We work because we are saved through Jesus. So our faith is not an idle thing. Faith is a matter of the head (intellectual belief), but also of the heart and the hands. As Martin Luther said, “Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty, thing.”
Here at First Lutheran, October 28th will also be Confirmation Sunday. This year there are 7 young people who are ready to be confirmed in the Christian faith. Claire Luvera, Rachel Gruber, Maya Swan, Julia Wickerath, Marcus Michel, Taylor Smith and Patrick Lease are ready to affirm their baptisms. They are ready to say “Yes” to the promises God first made to them in Holy Baptism. So, come celebrate with these young people and hear their faith statements and have a piece of cake with them after worship. This prayer will be said for Claire, Rachel, Maya, Julia, Marcus, Taylor and Patrick as they affirm their baptisms.
“Father in heaven, for Jesus sake, stir up in your people the gift of your Holy Spirit; confirm their faith, guide their lives, empower them in their serving, give them patience in suffering, and bring them to everlasting life.” Amen.
Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It’s been quite a summer. Before I left on vacation on July 19th, I expected that our beloved Harriet Gornick would pass. I visited her frequently that week and she was already on hospice care and her family had gathered. Harriet was ready to move on to the heavenly life and she did. Pastor Mary Johnson was ready to officiate at her service. And she did. What I did not expect was that our dear friends Lela Johnson and Loran Bollinger would also die and move on to the heavenly life. I was in town and was able to do Loran’s memorial service on Aug. 4th, and Pastor Mary officiated at Lela’s service. Thank you, Mary. Thank you also to the women of First Lutheran who provided food and hospitality after the services. And thank you to everyone who helped with Pastor Matthew Erickson’s (Pat’s grandson) ordination service on Sat August 11th.
Coming back from a couple days at my parent’s home in Pasco on Monday, Aug 13th, the boys and I saw smoke in the valley as soon as we topped Manastash Ridge. Looking to the Northwest we could see a column of smoke rising out by the windfarm. This, of course, was the beginning of the Taylor Bridge Fire and the loss of homes and property and the all out effort to contain and put out the fire. We continue to pray for all the firefighters and for all who have lost homes. We give thanks that no one was killed in this fire and we give thanks for the many, many wonderful volunteers here. The way the community came together to help those in need, does make you proud to be a Kittitas Valley resident.
I do hope you were able to enjoy at least a little rest and relaxation and visit with family and/or friends this summer. The Hickman’s attended a family reunion in Nebraska (Hot!) and visited with family in Spokane and Pasco. What I honestly enjoyed most was hiking in our own Cascade Mountains. I had a number of good day hikes and also a beautiful 3 day backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail north of Snoqualamie Pass. The sun was shining, the wildflowers were in bloom and the lakes were finally thawing out above 5000 feet. I saw deer, marmots, mountain goats and the ruggedly beautiful peaks and valleys which God created. It was warm and I often soaked my hat and shirt in the streams melting off the snow patches. I had my water purifier with me and drank between 8 and 10 liters of water a day. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things when out hiking all day in warm weather.
In John 4, Jesus is hot, tired and thirsty and sits down by a well in Samaria. When a woman with a bucket comes, he asks a drink from her and then offers her the water of eternal life. Jesus’ own physical thirst becomes the opportunity to offer spiritual, living water (the Messiah himself) to a woman of questionable reputation. She accepts and becomes a changed person and tells the people in her city about Jesus. The woman at the well becomes a well woman.
Are you thirsting for the word of God this summer? Are you thirsting for Jesus, the Word of God? Just as we need to drink plenty of water in the summer heat to stay healthy, we also need to drink often of Jesus, the water of life. Perhaps it’s been a bit of a spiritually dry summer for you. If so, I invite you back to the water coolers of worship and Sunday School and Bible Study and Christian fellowship in September.
Worship is always at 10 AM on Sundays and Sunday School and adult education start up again on September 16th at 8:45 AM. Everyone is welcome to the Thursday morning Bible Study. We begin at 9:00 AM with prayer and then read and discuss the Bible lessons for the coming Sunday. Women’s Bible Study meets on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm. Our Confirmation ministry will start up again on Sept. 12th at 6:30 pm with a pizza feed and orientation.
Remember to eat and drink often of Jesus, the bread of life and the living water. And remember to invite others to dine on Jesus. He is true nourishment for our hungry and thirsty souls.
Serving Christ with you,
Dennis Hickman, pastor
Greetings in the long, green, growing season of the church year: the Sundays after Pentecost. I hope you are able to find some time this summer to relax, refresh, renew and perhaps do something new or change things up a bit. At First Lutheran we will change things up a bit for several summer weekends.
On Sunday, July 15th at 10 AM we’ll have our (almost) annual Service in the Street with our friends from First Christian Church. We’ll set up chairs on 6th Avenue between our church buildings and “Connections” will lead us in singing hymns and praises to God. Folks from both churches will read the Bible passages and Pastor Don Green and I will both give short (!) messages. I know it’s dangerous to have 2 pastors preach at the same worship service, but we promise to keep our sermonettes brief. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. First Lutheran will bring wine and bread. First Christian will bring grape juice and bread. It is First Lutheran’s turn to host the fellowship time afterwards. I’d like to suggest that we bring a couple of our light weight tables outside and continue our fellowship outside. We trust that the weather will cooperate. It will be wonderful to worship together in the great outdoors.
On Saturday, August 11th here at FLC, Matthew Erickson will be ordained as an ELCA pastor. Matthew is Pat Erickson’s grandson and has many fond memories of First Lutheran and his grandparents. They were instrumental in his Christian upbringing. We are glad that Matthew has chosen to have his ordination service here and you all are cordially invited. The worship service will be late morning or early afternoon. Bishop Martin Wells will be here. Matthew’s friends and family will be here and they’ll take care of any food. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Matthew has been working with a church in Colorado and has now accepted the call as pastor of Calvary Lutheran in Post Falls, Idaho. So he will be in the Eastern Washington/Idaho Synod with us. Mark your calendars for Saturday August 11th and come celebrate with Matt Erickson.
The very next day, Sunday August 12th, “Heavenly Harps” will lead our 10 AM worship service. This mother and daughter harp team play spiritual songs and hymns and intersperse Bible verses and brief messages into their program. Heavenly Harps was here in August 2011 and gave a great musical worship service.
Of course we do have worship here on Sundays at 10 AM throughout the summer. That doesn’t change. The Thursday Bible Study and prayer group also continues to meet throughout the summer at 9:00 AM. But we will change things up a bit with worship on a couple of weekends this summer. I hope you can join us for these special events. Remember to take time to relax, refresh and renew yourself this summer. Prayer, Bible reading and worship are great ways to let God help you do this.
Peace in Christ, Pastor Dennis