The stone has already been rolled back – Alleluia!! (April Newsletter Article)

 

5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “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.

Mark 16:5-6

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

 

Dear friends in Christ,

As you read this newsletter we will be into the Easter season, yet as I write it we are just entering Holy Week. After a season of turning to God (again and again!) and attempting to dwell and abide at the foot of the cross, I am experiencing a tangible yearning to again proclaim:

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

 

We yearn for this part of the story. The part of the story that we too often are tempted to call “the end.” I have frequently given thanks for knowing “the rest of the story.” However, in reality, we are still in the midst of the story. And the gospel of Mark, our primary companion in this years liturgical readings, is a good reminder that the story continues as the Easter story in the gospel of Mark ends quite abruptly and highlights the unresolved hopes and fears of the disciples.

 

We too still have unresolved hopes and fears. We live in an already and not yet time in which resurrection is ongoing with the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and the life of the church. We carry the story of the risen Christ out into the world as a part of our own stories. And as the body of the Christ, the people of God in this time and place, we are called to live out the possibilities of resurrection as we live out this ongoing story.

 

While pondering the connection of God’s ongoing story with our own this week I was drawn to a quote from the Easter sermon given three years ago by Rev. Carrie Ballenger Smith while preaching at sunrise on the Mount of Olives. She said in part:

“As people of the cross, we are called to continue on the path to peace, justice, and reconciliation—even when it is difficult. Even when it is dangerous. Even when others call us foolish. Even when the world insists the stone is too large, too heavy, too complicated to be moved. But on Easter morning, we are reminded of the good news that the stone has already been rolled back!

 

Therefore, as people of the resurrection, we walk not with heads down and backs bent with grief, but with eyes on the empty tomb. As people of the resurrection, we lift our eyes to the hills and mountains of Jerusalem, the city of resurrection, from which we draw our help and strength. As people of the resurrection, we have nothing to fear: no stone, no terror group, no extremist rhetoric, no unjust policy, no racist agenda, no diagnosis, no wall.” (You can read the full text here: http://knitpurlpraypreach.blogspot.com/2015/04/easter-sunrise-sermon-5-april-2015-mt.html)

 

The stone has already been rolled back – Alleluia!!

 

As we celebrate with joy this Easter (and beyond!), may whatever is weighing you down, be rolled away to reveal new life and peace. As we transition not only from Winter to Spring, but also from Lent to Easter, may we live our stories in the light of Christ.

 

As we continue to look to prayer and scripture, I share below and Easter prayer and blessing that you may experience when worshipping with us during this season, so that you may pray along with us at home as well.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Tami

 

An Easter Prayer of the Day

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Blessing

May God who has brought us from death to life

fill you with great joy.

Almighty God, Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit,

bless you now and forever. Amen.

 

Dismissal

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

You are the body of Christ raised up for the world.

Go in peace. Share the good news.

Thanks be to God.

Sundays and Seasons v.20180102.1014

Copyright © 2018 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.

 

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Prayer Chain Requests

prayerhandsMoving forward prayer requests for BOTH CHURCHES will begin with a request sent to Pastor Tami, and then will be sent out to each church prayer chain (or both if requested). This allows Pastor Tami to connect directly at the time the request is made, to verify if the individual would also like to be listed in our ongoing prayer list (printed in bulletins and newsletters) and follow up as needed.

Simply contact Pastor Tami at 608.385.9848 (text or call) or email at tami.harvestministries@gmail.com

If you prefer to talk to Pastor Tami in person, it may be helpful to have details of a prayer request in a written note, this is especially true on a Sunday morning when Pastor’s attention is focused on worship and she may not have the ability to create a note while talking with you. As always, your help in keeping prayer requests updated is appreciated. Prayers of thanksgiving to share are also welcome!

March Newsletter article

12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13: 12-14 and 34-35

Throughout March we continue within the season of Lent, a time when we are called to return to God. On Sundays our Hebrew Bible scripture readings include those of covenants or promises made with the people of God, our Psalms respond to those readings as well as being primarily psalms of Lament during this season, our second readings are new testament epistle readings that remind us of the cross of Christ, and then our gospel readings prepare us for Holy Week and the path to the cross. In this season of returning to God then it is natural to turn that focus directly to the cross.

cross

Our midweek Lenten worship services provide a space for such focus with a meditative and participatory worship acknowledging that we indeed live our lives beneath the cross of Jesus, that is beneath God’s love and grace that reaches to us even from Calvary. Together we explore what it is to abide at the foot of the cross as we confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness.

 

Throughout our weekly service in addition to listening and exploring scripture we also explore images from our weekly gathering hymn, ELW 338, Beneath the Cross of Jesus. The third verse from this hymn, includes the phrase: “I take, O cross, your shadow for my abiding place.” Our Lenten invitation is indeed to take the cross as our abiding place.

I look forward to exploring and experiencing what it to stand “beneath the cross of Jesus” as we continue this worship series at 7 pm Wednesdays: March 7th at St. John, March 14th at Salem, and March 21st at St. John. I also invite you to join me from 6 to 6:40 pm prior to our Wednesday services (come and go as you are able) to nourish your soul with time to dwell in scripture, prayer, and conversation. And, as always, please reach out for conversation at any time.

It is in that abiding place that we then hear Jesus’ words to us that we hear in worship on Maundy Thursday (John 13: 12-14 and 34-35 printed above). These words of Jesus humble us and convict us.

As we ponder these words together at the foot of the cross, let us rest there in grace and love eternal, and let us move forward living our faith as we love one another even as we proclaim the joy of Easter!

It’s no joke – Easter is on April 1st this year! I look forward to joyfully worshipping with you on Easter morning: 6:30 am St. John Easter Sunrise Service and 8:30 am Salem Easter Morning Worship Service.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Tami

October 2017 Newsletter Article

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

–Psalm 46:10a

 

The brief verse from Psalm 46 was our class verse when I graduated with my Master of Diaconal Ministry degree from Wartburg Seminary in May 2015, and his remained a verse I return to again and again, especially during the last several months of discernment towards serving in congregational ministry and towards ordained ministry. It is my joy and honor to journey on this path while serving all of you, the people of God of Salem and St. John Lutheran churches.

 

In studying Psalm 46, I am reminded that in Hebrew “knowing” God doesn’t just mean to know with our brains intellectually, but to take the truth of God in and embody it and live in that truth. In this sense this particular verse speaks to our being as well as our living and doing as we witness God’s ongoing work in our lives and in the world. This reflects my own journey as settle into the place God has called me to in this time.

 

This calling for me does mean some additional practical learning and requirements that I must fulfill in order to be ordained to the ELCA Word and Sacrament roster. You may remember that I am enrolled in the TEEM program with Wartburg Seminary in order to meet these requirements. I recently completed my initial CAP (Capacities Assessment Panel) meeting with the seminary, churchwide representative and Western Iowa synod staff, and this means that I now have a timeline for finishing the requirements. I want to share this information so that you are aware of the timeline as well as how being a “learning congregation” may influence all of you. I also covet your prayers throughout my continued learning and ministry.

 

TEEM program information and update:

The TEEM program uses an action-reflection model with brief on-campus intensives along with both a twelve month internship process and an ongoing mentoring process with a local pastoral mentor. I have already been working with Pastor Barb Spaulding (Trinity Lutheran, Moville) as my mentor and look forward to having an internship supervisor assigned within the next couple of months. I also now know that three on-campus intensive classes will be required prior to my completion of this program. Most likely I will complete these intensives in the summer and fall of 2018 although if class schedules change, that could change.

From the Wartburg TEEM manual: “The purpose of internship is to aid the formation of the candidate for ordained ministry through an intentional process of reflection and evaluation focused on particular learning goals identified in the internship Learning Service Agreement (LSA). While interns provide important leadership for the mission of the congregations in which they serve, the primary focus of internship is learning on the part of the intern. Thus, congregations that serve as internship sites undertake a ministry of teaching, collaborating with synods and seminaries in the formation of a candidate for ordained ministry in the Church.”

An internship committee with (ideally) three members from each candidate will be formed as my official internship begins, and while this committee will be responsible for working most directly giving feedback, the entire congregation(s) will be critical in the formation process.

While both Salem and St. John have been served by TEEM educated pastors in the past, each process is unique and I will attempt to keep you updated along our journey together. My time in the official program will be relatively brief due to my previous chaplain education and service ministry focussed seminary education; however, it is still an important part of my education and formation as pastor. Again, thank you for your accompaniment and engagement in this joyous journey.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Tami

September Newsletter Article – Going Forward with God

3 When I called out to you, you answered me.   You made me strong and brave.

~Psalm 138:3 (NIRV)

 

When I pause to reflect on the last few months—the beginning of my ministry with you all as well as the beginning of my time serving as a pastor—I am grateful, honored, and inspired. Your stories, individually and together, are indeed a witness to God! As we continue to journey together as the people of God united in shared ministry through our Harvest Ministry as well as in our individual congregations of Salem Lutheran and St. John Ev. Lutheran, I invite you to continue to share those stories of faith, lament, grief, and thanksgiving. I also invite you to participate in the creation of your congregation’s ongoing story and journey as a people of faith.

As a former hospice and hospital chaplain I have witnessed the amazing and life-giving transformation that occurs when humans are not afraid to die. I have witnessed restored relationships, peace beyond explanation, pure love, and great faith. A life limiting diagnosis is not the only way this transformation happens, and many of you already experience this paradox of living fully while being accepting of death. It appears that death’s power disappears with the fear and allows us to fully live into our identity as beloved children of God.

Each congregation is itself a body of Christ even as all believers together are the full body of Christ, and as such I wonder what we could do communally when the fear of death (or failure) is removed. I invite you to ponder this with me and with one another as we begin the process of discerning our mission in this time and place(s) as the people of God.

I hear your sense of loss in many stories, and I do not want to minimize that moving forward as part of a shared ministry may have felt like a death of sorts. Our lives contain many mini-deaths even before our last breath on earth. We attempt to put happier words on it, but even positive changes can involve losses. I also hear the gratitude and great faith in your stories.

Just as a dying person discovers they have great agency, so too a transforming church may discover that they are indeed not dead yet! Or, possibly in the midst of the storm of change there has been a death or sorts, and as death and resurrection people we look forward in the hope of Christ to the resurrection work God is doing here and now.

Rachel Held Evans in her book Searching for Sunday, declares “death is something empires worry about, not something that resurrection people worry about” and she also reminds us that “no step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new.”

The Congregation Vitality process is one possible opportunity for us to prayerfully discern our steps forward in faith at this time even as we wonder what God is up to in our congregation and our communities. Whether we are led to participate formally in the Congregation Vitality process at this time (or in the future) or not, we go forward together in firm faith that God goes with us.
Yours in Christ,

Pastor Tami Groth