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Pastor's Message

June 2020

posted Jun 4, 2020, 10:57 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

    We so look forward to having in-person worship services again! The governor surprised us all by allowing up to 50 people in houses of worship during Phase 2 of reopening.  So, starting this Sunday, June 7th we can have up to 50 folks in the sanctuary for our 10 am worship service.  We will need to continue practicing safe social distancing (6 feet).  So every other pew will remain vacant in the sanctuary.  We will need to wear face masks.  Love thy neighbor: wear a mask.  I will wear a mask, although take it off while preaching and speaking.  Otherwise it will just sound like mmghmmgh.  The pulpit is quite a ways from the pews and no one sits in the front row anyhow!

    The goal is no-contact worship.  We may prop the front door open, weather permitting.  Ushers will not hand out bulletins.  Bulletins will already be in your pews.  No handshaking.  We pastors think we need to shake everyone’s hand, so remind me if I attempt to shake yours.  Passing the peace can just be a verbal “Peace of the Lord be with you” accompanied by a peace-sign, hand wave, bow….. Offering baskets will be in the back and not passed during worship.  No contact Holy Communion is more challenging, but I think I have a solution.  Stay tuned!

    If you are quite elderly (whatever that means) or you have an underlying health condition, it is better that you continue to worship with us by means of the radio or zoom.  Sorry!  But the last thing we want is for someone to get really sick with the Covid-19 virus as a result of worship.  We won’t be taking temperatures at the door, but if you feel at all ill, please stay home.

    Let me say a sincere thanks to all who help make worship happen during this pandemic.  Jim Stolte—sound operator and offering counter/financial secretary, Chuck Boss—zoom man, Betty & Ralph Kramlich, Tor Blaisdell and Judy Ragland—music:  assisting ministers and scripture readers.  Thanks to Christine Rice for producing worship bulletins, electronic and print, and also paying the church’s bills.  Thanks to Carla and Isak Bergman for extra cleaning.

    Even as our county moves to the next phases, allowing gatherings of more than 50 in worship, (July?  August? September?) we will want to still stay 6 feet apart and wear face masks.  If anyone in the sanctuary ever feels too crowded there is plenty of space in the fellowship hall and  you can still hear the worship service well.  Perhaps, eventually, we will need to add an early Sunday service around 8:15am to safely accommodate everyone.  We have thought of that possibility.  We could have one service in the fellowship hall and one in the sanctuary to keep both spaces clean.

    And if you are worshipping from home, remember we are always on 1240 AM Radio at 10 am.  If you miss a worship service you can always look it up by date on our website flc-eburg.org. The service usually gets uploaded to our website by noon.  We also plan on continuing to do Zoom worship for a while.

    Thank you again everyone for continuing to support your church financially during this epidemic.  Many folks are mailing in their offering, giving electronically, dropping it off Mon-Thurs 9am-noon at the church office, or giving by phone via the Vanco GivePlus app.  We are surviving financially.  Thank You! Praise God!

    May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.       

 

Pastor Dennis

 

March 2020

posted Feb 26, 2020, 9:01 AM by Christine Rice

Dear People of God,

             During the month of March, we are in the season of Lent.  Lent is 40 days of preparation for the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus.  Lent does not include Sundays, which are always “little Easters: little celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection from death.  Walk back 40 days from Easter, April 12th this year, and you come to Ash Wednesday, Feb 26th. Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “lengthen”.  The daylight hours are lengthening now.  This is good news for your seasonal affective disorder pastor! 

              So, in one sense, Lent can mean spring.  People, well, some people anyhow, do some spring cleaning during Lent.  Just don’t look closely at my office.  They start to do some of those tasks which are just too hard to do in the cold and snow of winter.  I like to say that Lent is spring cleaning for the soul.  Perhaps we need to clean up some of those not-so-great spiritual habits we have acquired since Christmas?  Joel 2:13 is always part of the Old Testament reading for Ash Wed.  I think it is a good verse for the whole season of Lent. “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”  We sometimes sing these words as a gospel verse on Sundays during Lent.

               Prayer, fasting and alms-giving: traditionally these are the 3 disciplines of lent.  Intentionally spending a few more minutes in prayer each day is a great practice for the 40 days.  On Wednesdays at 7 pm during Lent, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and April 1, we do the half-hour Holden Evening Prayer service.  Of course, the prayer services are preceded by soup and bread suppers at 6pm.  Thank you in advance to the ministries for hosting these!  Supping together is not exactly fasting, but it is great fellowship time.  And the soup suppers are intended to be simple meals.  Perhaps the money you save on dinner those nights can be used to “give alms/offerings”.  Wednesday night offerings during Lent will be given to ELCA World Hunger.  ELCA World Hunger does a great job of helping to feed hungry people and lift them out of poverty both in the U.S. and around the world.  Another great way to “give alms” is by giving to our local FISH Food Bank.  As part of our own in-house “Munch Madness” this year we are encouraging folks to bring cans of soup and/or protein items, like tuna, spam, canned ham, beefy mac-n-cheese…..for FISH.

             I admit that I am not great at physically fasting from food.  I have a hard time thinking clearly or functioning well if I am too hungry.  On the other hand, physical fasting can remind us and help us to be in solidarity with the billions of people on our planet who go to bed hungry.

             Isaiah 58:1-12 was one of our Sunday readings on Feb 9th.  The prophet reminds the people that fasting is never just a me-and-God thing, but always involves our neighbors in need. God says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly: your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:6-7.

            Prayer, fasting and giving alms are good ways to deepen our walk with our Savior Jesus.  During Lent we follow our Savior Jesus to his cross and grave and finally, at Easter, his glorious resurrection.     

 

 

Blessings during this season of Lent,  Pastor Dennis

 

 

February 2020

posted Jan 29, 2020, 11:25 AM by Christine Rice

Dear people of God,

           During the month of February we are in the season of Epiphany, at least until we get to Ash Wednesday on Feb 26.  Epiphany is the season of light: light in the midst of winter darkness.  The daylight hours are getting longer now, but there is still so much darkness in our world.  I am greatly disturbed by the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, white supremacy, xenophobia and hate crimes in our country and world.  To combat the creeping in of these sins, I would encourage all of us to read authors from different cultures and, whenever possible, listen to and make friends with people whose life experiences are different from our own.

            I am remembering a wonderful class I had the last semester of my senior year at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.  By that time most of us were finishing up our core requirements for graduation and needed a few more elective credits.  Prof. Jim Limburg offered a 2 hour class one evening a week on the works of the great Jewish author Elie Wiesel.  Every week, the 7 or 8 of us in the class read a book by Elie Wiesel and wrote a short paper.  Then, during class we sat around Prof. Limburg’s fireplace, read our papers and discussed the book.  We started with Wiesel’s classic and disturbing little book, “Night.”  “Night” is Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical account of being in a Nazi death camp as a youth during WWII.  In my humble opinion, “Night”, should be required reading for everyone.  I don’t see how anyone could be a holocaust denier after reading “Night.”  Other works by Wiesel which we read for the class include, “A Beggar in Jerusalem” and “The Town Beyond the Wall.”

            February is also Black History Month.  We give thanks for the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and many others.  I think of African American friends I knew at Fordham Lutheran Church in New York City. Half a lifetime ago, I did my year of internship at Fordham Lutheran in The Bronx and rode the subways everywhere.  I remember Nat & Naomi Baxter and their daughter Edith, Madgie Johnson, Una Richardson, Jeannette Puryear and her son Walter.  At that time the little congregation was about equal parts black, white and Latino.  When we passed the peace of the Lord during worship, everyone got up and gave everyone else a hug.  Some of the older black women gave me a motherly or grandmotherly kiss on the cheek or on the lips.  Looking back, I think they felt a little sorry for this skinny 25 year old white boy from Washington State who looked like he was 19 or 20.  They were welcoming me and accepting me.

            Recently I read “Dear Church”: a good and disturbing book by Lenny Duncan.  Lenny Duncan is an African American pastor at an ELCA congregation in Brooklyn, NY.  The full title of the book is “Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.”  I commend it for your reading.  The book shows the ways we white folks unknowingly participate in racism.   Did you know the ELCA is the whitest denomination in the U.S.?  I didn’t.  I knew we were largely white, but not the whitest.  When the ELCA first formed in 1989, we had a goal of becoming at least 10% persons of color in 30 years.  But we are still stuck at about 3% in 2020.  It all goes back to the way Lutheran immigrants mostly settled in the northern parts of the U.S.  But for all of our inclusive statements, ecumenism and friendliness, people of color still mostly stay away from ELCA churches.  I don’t have any answers other than to read the works of people of color and listen and befriend and invite whenever possible.  I know that is easier said than done in Eastern Washington.  At least we have a good university which provides some opportunities.

            We do know that our Savior Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, came to break down all artificial barriers of race, class or nation.  Fully living that out as disciples of Jesus in this world is very

challenging.             

 

 In Christ,  Pastor Dennis

 

January 2020

posted Dec 26, 2019, 12:52 PM by Christine Rice

Happy New Year Dear People of God!

            2020: It feels strange to write the year 2020.  I remember back in the year 2000, how odd it felt to write that date at the dawn of a new millennium.  And now it feels strange, especially when I write this in December, to write the year 2020.

            But one thing we can say for sure is that our God is with us in all times and in all places.  Immanuel, “God with us”, dared to be born as a helpless human baby.  Our God chooses to forgive all human sin through the humiliating weakness of the cross of Jesus.  And our God chooses to give us new and everlasting life through the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection over death.  The Incarnation of Jesus, his enfleshment, is completed in his life, death, resurrection and in his ongoing presence in our lives through the baptismal gift of the Holy Spirit. 

            For the secular world, Christmas ended on Dec 25th, except for the returned gifts of course and after Christmas sales.  But Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday, the miracle of God becoming human for us, for a full 12 days (just like the song says).  On January 6th the season of Epiphany, which means revelation or manifestation, begins with the visitation of the wise men to Jesus.  But even then we are thinking about offering our gifts to Jesus and worshipping him.

            A little choir anthem we used to sing at First Lutheran in Baker City, Oregon kept running through my head.  It’s based on a poem

written by the tremendous black writer, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader Howard Thurman and is entitled,     “The work of Christmas”

            When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,

            When the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock,

            The work of Christmas begins:  To find the lost, to heal the

broken,

            To feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations,

            To bring peace among all, to make music in the heart.

 

May the life changing good news of Jesus, Immanuel, give you peace, hope, joy and love in 2020.  And may the Holy Spirit work through us all to carry on the work of Christmas.

 

Pastor Dennis

 

December 2019

posted Nov 26, 2019, 11:31 AM by Christine Rice

 

Prepare. Prepare the way of the Lord.

 

 

             In the church year, December is the season of Advent and then Christmas.  Advent means  “the coming”.  And the watchwords during Advent are simply watch and prepare. We hear the prophetic voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  And “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Matt 3:3. 

            Many, many outward preparations for the celebration of Christmas happen in December.  Many of them are good.  Some are driven purely by consumerism.  But John the Baptist calls us to the bigger task of preparing our hearts, our minds, our lives for the Lord Jesus.  Now, we certainly prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming among us as the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.  This is his soft and sweet coming as a new born baby 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.  Many have tried to predict the date of Christ’s second coming over the last 2000 years.  And, as you know, they have all been wrong. 

            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.  This is the miracle of Immanuel, which means God with us.  And the working of the Holy Spirit within us, within the church, makes this possible.

          This year, the first Sunday of December was also the beginning of a new church year: the year of Matthew.  That is to say, most of our gospel readings this year will be from Matthew, just like most of the gospel readings in the past year were from Luke.   You might be interested to know that only the gospel of Matthew uses the word “church”: ekklesia in Greek: church in English.  Matthew also quotes the Old Testament more than any other gospel, to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.  And you would have to say that in the Gospel of Matthew, living the life of faith is more about what one does, than what one says.  In the Gospel of Matthew, living the life of faith is about bearing good fruit for the Lord.  Of course this is not about earning our salvation somehow.  We don’t have to try to do that.  We can’t do that.  Jesus does that for us through his birth, life, death and resurrection.  But in the gospel of Matthew, following Jesus is more about actions than words.

            So, in December we watch and prepare for the Advent of Christ.  We prepare our hearts and minds and lives to welcome again, Jesus our Savior, Immanuel.

                                                                        

Serving Christ and neighbor with you,

                                                                        

Pastor Dennis

 

November 2019

posted Oct 28, 2019, 12:18 PM by Christine Rice

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

             Gratitude to God or taking God for granted—in life we are often confronted with these 2 possibilities.  Are we living with gratitude to God? Or are we mostly taking God for granted?  In some churches, the gospel reading appointed for Thanksgiving Day is Luke 17:11-19—Jesus healing the 10 men with leprosy.  Ten men with leprosy call out to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests.  In that day, priests determined whether a person had a contagious skin disease or not.  As they went the 10 were made clean.  “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.  He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan (a foreigner).”  Jesus marvels that only one returns to give praise to God and says to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

            Gratitude to God or taking God for granted.  The reformer Martin Luther was asked, “What is true worship?”  And Luther replied simply, “The tenth leper turning back.”  The tenth leper turned back to praise God and thank Jesus for healing him, for making him well, for giving him a whole new lease on life, for saving him.  This man was a double outsider: he was a leper and a Samaritan.  The Gospel of Luke often lifts up outsiders and people on the margins of society as examples of great faith and thankfulness.

            The original Greek verbs used here suggest that all ten men are made clean, but only one is truly whole, healed and saved: the one who turned back to thank Jesus and praise God.  Gratitude to God or taking God for granted.  Every day all of us have times when we can offer gratitude to God or basically take God for granted.

            Some folks interpret Jesus’ healing of the 10 men with leprosy to mean that if you only have enough faith you will be healed of all your physical ailments.  I do not agree with that.  We can all think of very faithful, whole, saved, well people who suffer from diseases and ailments.  In his earthly lifetime, Jesus did not heal everyone from their illness or infirmity.  When he did, it was always with the greater goal of leading them to faith in God through him.  Christians do not have perfect bodies, but we do trust in Jesus for salvation in this life and the life to come. 

                In the U.S. we set aside one day a year as a National Day of Thanksgiving. At present, our nation has its share of problems.  But we also have very much for which to be thankful. And it is right and good that we do so.  It is wonderful for families and friends to gather and enjoy good food together and thank God for all that God has given us. (Which is everything: it’s all a gift from God’s gracious hands.) But for Christians, every day is really Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving to God is our way of life.

 

Peace in Christ, Pastor Dennis

 

October 2019

posted Sep 26, 2019, 8:56 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

    On October 4th, the church commemorates St. Francis of Assisi, renewer of the church, who died in 1226. Pope Francis takes his name from Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant.  In a public confrontation with his father, he renounced his wealth and future inheritance and devoted himself to serving the poor.  Under his leadership the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) was formed, and they took literally Jesus’ words to his disciples that they should take nothing on their journey and receive no payment for their work.  Francis had a spirit of gladness and gratitude for all God’s creation.  He called the animals his brothers and sisters.

    You who have pets know that they become a member of the family.  The Hickman’s “brother”, Buddy the dog, died September 5th at the ripe old age of 14.  That’s 98 in people years!  Buddy, who was a Black Lab mutt, was originally a rescue from the animal shelter.  He was never well trained, so he was always an outside dog.  Don’t worry. He had a heated dog house and water dish for winter time.  He had the whole run of our fenced back yard and he lived for walks.  I always wished I could be as enthusiastic for each day as Bud was for his daily walks.  He would start dancing around with his big doggy grin as soon as he saw the leash.  Bud was Kyle’s dog.  Walking Bud together was always quality father/son time.  But Kyle has been away at college the last 5 years, except for Christmas and summers.  So, you know who, did most of the walking, feeding, watering, petting and poop-scooping.

    Until Bud went deaf about 2 years ago, our thing was to howl at emergency vehicle sirens together in the back yard.  He would start in or I would start in and we would be howling together.  Pretty soon the neighborhood dogs would join in.  It was great fun and it made him so happy: me too.  Over the last 5 months Bud was in kidney failure despite several rounds of anti-biotics and a special diet.  He was not interested in eating much and had lost over 20 pounds.  Finally, he was groaning in pain and could not move anymore.  The time had come to do the kind thing and put him out of his misery.  We buried him deep down in the garden.  We miss him, but we picture him running around in doggie heaven.

    Is it true that “All dogs go to heaven”?  Who knows?  The Bible does talk about the peaceable kingdom of God, where the lamb lies down with the leopard. (Isaiah 11)  The reformer Martin Luther was supposedly asked if he thought there would be dogs in heaven.  Luther replied, “If not, I don’t want to go there.”  Luther did say, “I wish I could pray as attentively as my dog watches the meat platter!”

    Our first job as human creatures in the image of God is to take care of God’s garden and God’s animals.  God’s blessings upon pets and pet owners alike.  God’s blessings upon all who take care of God’s earth and the creatures therein, including the human ones.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Dennis

 

September 2019

posted Aug 28, 2019, 11:18 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

            I hope you all had a little time for R & R this summer.  The Hickman’s enjoyed a good family trip.  Cathy and I went to Mt. Rainier for 2 nights for our 29th wedding anniversary.  We never saw the mountain due to clouds and fog, but the wildlife and flowers and hiking were great.  Of course I did some backpacking and hiking in our nearby Cascade mountains, some kayaking with my brother and replaced the  rotten wood deck on the back of our house.  That was 5 days of sweaty, hard work!

            The relaxed pace of summer comes to an end with the energy of the Ellensburg Fair and Rodeo, followed closely by the start of public school.  Here at FLC, the pace picks up as well.  The Sunday Adult class and Middle/High School Class start Sept. 15th at 8:45 in the chapel room.  Adults will pick up studying the Book of Acts where we left off last May.  Confirmation kicks off with the annual pizza feed for students and families Wed. Sept. 11 at 6:30 pm.  The Thursday 9 am prayer and Bible study keeps going and is always open to all.  We did take a few weeks off in the summer, but we are back to praying and studying the Sunday morning Bible texts.  The quilters have been going strong all summer and they continue their good work on Wed. mornings.

            Huge thanks to everyone who brought cans of chili, stew, chicken, ham and much more for our FISH Food bank.  Our food bank really needed these protein contributions over the summer and continues to need them throughout the year.  Let’s keep the protein items coming and expand it to pretty much all foods.

            Our Weekend Nutrition Program for school kids starts up again in September.  Thanks to Judy Ragland, Debbie Butler and Louise Acheson (St. Andrews) for putting all the meals together each week for needy children at Lincoln, Thorp and Dammon schools.  Please see Judy’s article for easy to fix and eat food items we can contribute to this wonderful nutrition program for kids.

See you in worship!    

Pastor Dennis

 

July~August 2019

posted Jun 25, 2019, 9:00 AM by Christine Rice

 Dear People of God,

 

    Ah, summer time is here and it’s my favorite time of the year!  After the cold of winter (and spring in Ellensburg), it is freeing just to be able to stop wearing so much heavy clothing.  I like to ask people what brings them renewal during the summertime.  I love to sit out on my back deck in the sun, before the heat of the day, and read my morning devotions and Bible passages while having breakfast.  It’s also good prayer time and a great way to start the day and stay connected to God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

    In the church calendar, we are into the long, green growing season of Sundays after Pentecost, also known as Ordinary Time.  We are encouraged to keep growing in faith and life, just like the plants and fields around us are green and growing in the summer sunshine. The Sunday Gospel readings focus on the teachings, actions and miracles of our Savior Jesus.

    In the summer, it can be easy to get out of the good habits of worship and prayer time due to travels or vacations.  I encourage you to take your Bible and devotion booklets along with you wherever you go.  Even while backpacking in the mountains, and I carry less weight every year as I get older, I take a little pocket New Testament with Psalms.  I’m a person who is renewed by spending time in God’s marvelous creation.  Hiking in our nearby mountains is one of my favorite things to do in the summer.  Seeing the grandeur of God’s mountains, lakes and forests renews me.  I also enjoy riding my bike on the Iron Horse Trail beside the Yakima River. (I know that’s not the correct trail name anymore, but it’s the same trail.)  But I also enjoy being lazy and sitting in the shade in the back yard with a good book and a glass of iced tea.  What renews you during the summer months?

    I always enjoy planting a little garden in the summer.  I honestly don’t work very hard at gardening, but I do plant some tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and green beans.  Getting my hands in the dirt connects me to God’s good earth.  God designed seeds and soil to feed humans and all living creatures.  Planting seeds and watching them grow, helping them along, is to participate in a miracle.  Plus there is nothing like the taste of home grown tomatoes and veggies!

    This summer, let yourself be renewed through God’s good creation, through the saving Good News of Jesus Christ in the Bible, through worship with other Christians, and through prayer time with our loving God.

    At the same time, let us not forget our hungry neighbors in need while we enjoy the summer time.  People need to eat all year round and donations to our food banks go down in the summer.  I urge you to keep on supporting our FISH Food bank and the lunches in the parks for children.  If you are a gardener with extra produce or fruit, the food bank is happy to receive it.  I like to pray for all farmers and all who work the land during the summer.  A favorite prayer of mine in the growing season is, “Lord, may there be bountiful harvests and plentiful food for all.”

    May the summer time be renewing for you.  Let yourself be renewed through the goodness of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.                                           

 

Peace in Christ,  Pastor Dennis

 

June 2019

posted May 29, 2019, 11:44 AM by Christine Rice

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

            We had a good synod assembly in Boise, the weekend of May 17-19. Ethan Bergman and I were your voting members.  The emphasis was global mission and we gathered under the theme, “We walk together.”  As Bishop Kristen Kuempel said in her sermon during opening worship, “We walk together, or we don’t walk at all.” This is an important message for Christians and all people in a world that is tending more toward fear and isolation.

            We enjoyed great global music at the synod assembly and our Eastern Washington Idaho Synod will soon have a new name.  Come August, we will be the Northwest Intermountain Synod!  We needed a more inclusive name, since we have two congregations in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming, and the ELCA congregation in Ontario, Oregon just joined our Synod.  It will take a while to get used to saying “Northwest Intermountain Synod”, but the inclusive name will help us to walk together.

            It was great to see again Pastors Moses Nwaka and Eliud Payowela, our brothers from our companion synod, Ulanga Kilombero, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.  Moses and Eliud add the words, “Bega kwa bega” to the phrase “we walk together.” “Bega kwa bega” means “shoulder to shoulder”.  What a great image of accompaniment that is!   We walk together shoulder to shoulder in the love and mission of Jesus Christ our Savior.

            Our synod also has a domestic sister synod.  I and many others often forget this.  Our domestic companion synod is Greater Milwaukee.  It was good to have with us Bishop Paul Erickson from Greater Milwaukee and he preached at the closing worship service.  In his message he shared this African proverb.  “If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.”  This is a good proverb for me, since I often tend to walk too fast.  Clearly this proverb is not limited to the physical act of walking, but applies to many aspects of life, including church life.   Walking together and working together may be slower and messier, but it is definitely more loving and inclusive and joyful than going it alone.  Walking together, we support and encourage each other and we can go a lot further than if we tried to go it alone.  “If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.”  “We walk together or we don’t walk at all.”  “Bega kwa bega” we walk together.

            I attended the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services workshop.  LIRS has been working in the U.S. for over a century helping to settle refugees of war and conflict.  LIRS accompanies people, offers counseling and legal help, language help, and helps connect people with food, clothing, housing, jobs and transportation.  After WWII, LIRS settled many refugees here from Germany and Lativia.  During and after the Vietnam War, LIRS settled many S.E.  Asian refugees, with the help of many sponsoring churches.  Right now, LIRS is helping the many immigrants from Central America, especially in the efforts to reunite children with parents.  “We walk together, or we don’t walk at all.”  “Bega kwa bega, we walk together”.  As we follow the great command of Jesus to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we can be sure that our Savior walks with us.                                            

 

 Peace in Christ,  Pastor Dennis

 

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