First Lutheran Church
Hello good and faithful people of First Lutheran –
It’s hard to believe another month has past under COVID-19. I want to thank you for your patience and support during this time. I know it is hard being surrounded with so much uncertainty, but I am proud of our church. We continue trusting in God, and taking each challenge in stride. We are living into our identity as the body of Christ as we look out for each other and love one another. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
You have already received a letter from Gene and our synod outlining when it will be safe to return to in-person worship. At the very earliest, if cases decline steadily, we may be able to worship within 42 days. The likelihood of that is fairly low, though. So, as you’ve guessed, we will continue our online worship through the month of June, and probably into the month of July.
I know this is disheartening to hear, especially with Governor Walz allowing churches to open back up at 25% capacity. We all want things to get back to normal: to be able to worship together, to see our church family and friends, etc. As your pastor, my heart aches to see you all in person. But the council and I agree that we would rather everyone stay healthy and safe, than rush into in-person worship too soon. The consequences of being impatient now are life and death. And frankly, I don’t want to plan any of your funerals.
For those of you who are not able to worship on Facebook, know that the council and I are looking for creative ways to make sure you are more easily included. For now, though, if you do have a computer and are able to access the internet, you can watch our Sunday services on our webpage: https://www.first-eidsvold.com/live-feed. These are posted by Sunday Evening at the latest. If you do not have access to the internet, and are not already receiving my sermons, please call the office, and Eldonna will be sure to put you down on our list of sermon recipients. And always remember that we are thinking and praying for you constantly.
Outside of COVID-19, for the summer months, we are continuing our Year of Intention. For the season of Easter, we’ve been focusing on confession – who we believe God to be. We’ve heard several of our church members’ confessions on our Wednesday evening devotions. A special thank you to all those who participated, as well as those who messaged me after with their own stories. We’ve all been blessed to hear where you have seen Jesus in your life.
For the summer, we are focusing on the Word. As Lutherans, studying scripture is one of the pillars of our faith. Whether it is studying our Bibles, participating in Bible studies, or reading devotional books, being grounded in God’s holy word is what nourishes our faith and keeps us grounded in Christ. For the next three months, we will be studying three different letters from the New Testament: Philippians, James, and 1 John. These three letters are written by three different apostles: Paul, James, and John, so we’ll get to see different theological ideas, and what they thought was important for our Christian faith. My prayer is that these three letters will inspire and challenge you in faith.
The first book we will look at is Philippians. This short letter was written by Paul to Christians in the church of Philippi. This was a Roman colony in the providence of Macedonia. Acts 16:11-40 tell us that Paul, Timothy, and Silas visited Philippi around the year 50 CE. This church was predominantly Gentile (meaning non-Jewish), and had a good relationship with the Apostle Paul. Paul writes this letter while his is imprisoned. In it, he encourages the Philippians to focus on the things that truly matter in faith, and to live a life “worth of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27, NRSV). One of the major themes we hear in this letter is to have joy, rejoice, and be glad.
As for Sunday worship, itself, we will continue using Setting 3 in our hymnals. However, instead of using our traditional Canticle of Praise, we will use ELW 513 “Listen, God Is Calling”, and to welcome our scripture reading we will sing ELW 512 “Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil”. Otherwise, everything else is the same. I highly encourage you, during our online worship time to use your personal Bible to follow along with the scripture reading. And for our Wednesday devotional times, I will spend each Wednesday reading a different short book of the Bible. You are encouraged to listen to that book, and comment on what stood out to you most in that reading.
Finally, just for funzies, I would love to have your favorite hymns be our closing hymn for each Sunday. Please call the church office or email me your favorite hymns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it for now. Remember how deeply I love you, and that God loves you even more.
Pastor Caitlin Jensen