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December Message

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Have you ever seen those videos people make when they have their kids wait? The parents set up a camera and place a bowl of candy between the camera and their children and then they press record. They tell the kids they can have some candy, but they have to wait. The parents leave the room with instructions not to eat the candy until they return, and then the camera continues rolling to see what will happen. The videos are popular because it’s funny when the kids cannot wait. The videos that get shared the most are the ones where the kids give in to the temptation and don’t wait and often with a guilty look, take the candy before the right time. It’s a fun test and a lighthearted look at the reality that waiting is hard. Once again we are in Advent, and Advent once again reminds us that God’s people are waiting people. 

Waiting is hard. Like the people of God so often demonstrated by their actions in the Old Testament accounts, we can be tempted to turn in other directions. Like the Israelites with Moses waiting people often begin to grumble and complain. Yet like the Old Testament church had to wait for Christ to come when the time was just right, we too are waiting with them for the coming of Christ and Waiting is hard.

In Advent we are not just waiting to celebrate Christmas, most of us have already enjoyed decorating and singing along to favorite songs, but the even harder wait that we have no choice about is waiting for Christ to come again to judge the living and the dead. That day we wait for will bring the joys of paradise to us who are waiting with the Name of the Lord emblazoned on our lives purchased and won by Him. Waiting for this can be hard.

As we wait, we are not alone in our waiting. God has gathered us into a community in this congregation and we find the strength we need to wait with others. In the videos I mentioned at the start of this, you can often see the benefits of not waiting alone. Children with a sibling sitting beside them seem to have the best -- and often most comical -- chance of waiting successfully. It’s a great reminder to us that because we are not alone, and we can draw strength and encouragement from our fellow believers as we wait for the things that are to come.

Christmas is worth celebrating every day (and NOT just the days between Halloween and Christmas proper) yet the return of Christ is worth waiting for and something we must wait for. In the season of Advent we practice our waiting. We often increase in our devotions. We seek out more opportunities to worship with midweek services. We share the “reason for the season” with others we may not usually do religious talks with. This season leading up to the day we mark with giving is a season when God gives us a chance to slow down as the world speeds up. 

Give yourself the gift of waiting with your family of God. Join us for Advent midweek services on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary. The wait is worth it and being together in the midst of this waiting is time well spent. Christ will soon return but until then we wait. Lamps filled and burning with the love of Christ for all the world, we wait in Him strong and ready.

Waiting with you IN Christ. 
Pastor K

Vicar's November Message

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of god, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Revelation 7:13-15. 

Greetings to you who are loved by God and called to be saints,

Many of us at various times in our lives have spilled something on a nice white shirt or pants. Maybe it was a glass of red wine, or watch a child or grandchild spill some red Kool Aid all over the front of their t-shirt. Then you thought to yourself, it’s ruined! You might have tried applying some Oxiclean or even bleach, but in most situations, the stain couldn’t be completely removed. 

Well, our old Adam is much like a bright white shirt that has been stained, in fact, it’s much   worse! Oxiclean or bleach, wouldn’t even scratch the surface. This stain of original sin can’t be removed by human effort, or any innovations from mankind that were created and claimed to do such that. 

Like Adam and Eve who made aprons of fig leaves, trying to hide their guilt and shame, people today try making their “sin stained” robes white by their own human endeavors. But what’s the problem? What’s wrong with being “stained” with original sin? 

One it’s the fruit of that original sin that results in guilt and shame, which no amount of new bright manmade white clothes can hide. But second and most important, it separates us from God eternally. Which was not God’s intention when he made Adam and Eve. But intended to be with them for all eternity, which included us as well. 

In our Revelation text, Saint John is showed a vision of a great multitude of people, clothed in bright white clothes, standing before God and His throne. Having come out from great tribulation. A tribulation that we all know far too well. A valley of tears and pain caused by the fallen world around us. And also, from the stain of corruption that we all bear. 

 But praise be to God, the vision that Saint John shares with us, also pertains to us! We like those saints in heaven, have also had our stain of corruption washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Your robes are bright white and clean! But you might ask, how can this be? Well, simply put if you been baptized onto Christ, you have put on Christ! (Gal 3:27).

And as you come on bended knee to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, you do so with all the saints who have gone on to be with our Lord. Which includes all those who were members here at Concordia. And quite frankly, still are! A membership that all believing Christians are a part of, and where the dress code is very simple. White robes washed in the Blood of the Lamb! Have a blessed All Saints Sunday!

In Christ, Vicar Mapus 

October Message

Dear friends in Christ,

Change is upon us! It’s all around us. The seasons shift in their usual order but it seems to taunt us at times suggesting that beauty doesn’t last, strength fades, and the things we know flow from certainty to unknown. Along with the changing of the seasons in nature we are soon upon a remembering of changes within the church. Over 500 years ago the Reformation movement in the church began with Martin Luther calling for a discussion on things that had gone awry within the teaching and practices of the day.

For centuries the church had moved away from the work of Christ and turned its attention to the works of man seeking to find within our abilities the confidence of a secured eternity. By the grace of God, the call to return to the work of Christ was heeded by many and we continue confident in the legacy of faithfulness to God’s Word of His work for and through us.

As Concordia has experienced many changes this past year (and the Lord knows we can expect many more to come) we can do no better than to remain confident in the Word of God which does not spoil or fade or change. Indeed, the Word of the Lord endures. And its endurance is for our good. Without the promise of eternity won for us by Christ’s suffering and death we would be continually influenced and forced along by nothing but the changes and chances around us. But God has not left us to weather the fickleness of the world on our own. 

It is not up to us to sort out the way to go or even the seeds to sow. God’s love and mercy revealed in Christ continue to be our sole source of life and purpose in life. We receive freely the grace upon grace lavished upon us by our God and we are granted endless opportunities to share this grace with the world around us.

As God continues to be the same for us as He has been yesterday, is today, and will be forever, may we listen even closer to His Word of truth and knowing His love, be held constant as the unlasting things around us shift. Pray with me that we would be held steadfast. As we are held fast by God, may we be about watching for and carrying out the work He is prepared to accomplish through us.

Blessed to serve with you, in Christ’s love and peace,

Pastor Kleimola

July Message

Dear friends in Christ,

“Something has to happen.”

Since I began assisting at Concordia seven months ago, this has been a phrase I have heard from a number of Concordia. It delights me whenever I hear it. 

In recent decades, the Christian church in America has seen steady and even at times rapid decline. The number of churches closing and near closing is staggering. Add to the equation the stressors on organizations during the pandemic and we have a recipe that can result in fear and uncertainty.

Something has to happen. In the early church there was much suffering and persecution of the first churches as the good news of Jesus began to spread. Peter wrote a letter to the Lord’s people encouraging them in the Lord as they faced certain suffering for the sake of the Gospel.

In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter after speaking of the foundation of the gospel that had been proclaimed to the recipients writes, Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He was telling them in a way, to be ready because something has to happen. Peter gave them three ways to be ready: 1) Prepare your minds for action. 2) Be sober minded. 3) Set your hope fully on the grace of God.

How can we follow this guide? 1) Prepare your minds for action. Means to learn and know the things we are given to know. We can take an inventory of what is good and what the opportunities are that exist around us. Our minds are invaluable tools God has gifted us with. We can sort through what we have taken in and we can draw conclusions based on what we know. The best source of knowledge for the things of the church is not the past or the analysis of practices for the future, but rather the Word of God, or the “things above” as Paul says in Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

2) Be sober minded. When we stop to consider where we have been and what is going on around us, we can react in many ways. A non-sober reaction may be to panic, or to get angry, or to give up. Peter’s words telling the people to be sober minded reminds us that there are more factors at play in the work of God’s church than external indicators. We must remember whose church this is and what he promises to do for it. As 1 Thessalonians 5:24 tells us, “He who calls us is faithful, He will surely do it.”

Finally, 3) Set your hope fully on the grace of God. One of the greatest temptations when wanting something to happen is to forget the necessary basics that have been taking place all along. For nearly 90 years, since 1932, when Concordia began, the Lord has been showing up and making things happen in this congregation. Baptisms, the forgiveness of sins, the meal of Christ’s body and blood. These things have happened and will continue to happen. Not only are these the foundational things that make a church, this is the grace that gives us full hope, not only for the future, but for the days we are in now as we seek to do the Lord’s will in our community.

Hudson Taylor a missionary to China in the 1800’s once said, “God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply.” What a great reminder for us in the midst of wearing chances and changes of this world that God is in control and He is giving us work to do.

Thank you for praying with me that the things that continue to happen and that will happen will be God’s doing His way and with His supply. 

May God continue to guide us. 

In Christ.

Pastor K

QUESTIONS FROM THE BIBLE

Bible questions sometimes tell us deep things about ourselves and God.  For instance, this question, “Where are you?”  That is the question that God asked Adam and Eve in the garden after they had fallen into sin.  Now God knew exactly where they were, he is God after all.  The question was one for them to answer for themselves.  Where are you?  How do you answer that question?  I mean yes you can say well I am at such and such address, but God’s question is much deeper than that.  It is more like where are you in your relationship with God?  Where are you in your relationships with others?  Here is another one, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain asked that of God after he murdered his brother Abel.  It is a fundamental life question.  It isn’t just one of is it wrong to murder my brother, but do I have a responsibility to take care of those around me?  Who is my brother and how far do I go with this care?  Here is another one, “Will not the judge of the earth do right?” This question was asked of God by Abraham as God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  What do things like natural disasters or tragedies tell us about God’s will and why he allows bad things to happen?  Do we have a right to question God and his will?  What is the impact of prayer on God?  Here is one last one, “Who do you say I am?”  Jesus asked this of his disciples and Peter responded with, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  It is a question that all of us must answer, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” 

Many times, when we study the Bible, we are looking for the answers; maybe we should be looking at the questions first.  I am slowly developing a bunch of these questions into a sermon series for some time later this year.  I am doing this for two reasons.  First, I think some of these questions will help us develop and understand our faith and our relationship with God better.  Second, when we witness to people in our community about Jesus, we many times are quick with our talking points and our outlines of presenting the Gospel, but often don’t really pay much attention to their real questions. The result is our presentation just comes off as good information to know, but doesn’t deal with what is really bugging them, what they are really thinking about.  These questions and others can also make people think about their life in ways they hadn’t pondered before. 

So, what are some questions from the Bible that you think about often that bother you?  Pass them on to me and I will add them to the growing list.

Pastor Fred 

RESOLVE TO WHAT?

So how many New Year’s resolutions have you broken so far?  Have you kept any?  I can say with some pride that I have not broken a single one of my New Year’s resolutions.  You may think, obviously he is lying, but no I can honestly say I have not broken a single one, because I never made any in the first place.  I just don’t do that old song and dance anymore; it has never worked in the past so why would it work this year?  I plan on 2020 being a continuation of some of my same old bad habits and good habits.  I have no goals for myself whatsoever this year.  My doctor, on the other hand, told me the other day that he has some goals for me. He said, “I told you to lose some weight, but you have gained 5 pounds.”  When Darla and I got married over 22 years ago I weighed 145, now I weigh 212.  That is a weight gain average of 5 and half pounds a year.  Some people would call that bad; I call it steady progress.   

All joking aside, I try to avoid New Year’s resolutions, because they are generally just a set up for failure.  That is because they many times require us to change a habit.  Habits are very hard to change, especially bad ones.  Now we should change our bad habits, we should all eat better, exercise more and we could go on and on.  The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are at most wishful thinking or just a desire to be better, but they don’t take into the account the work that is going to be required to change the bad habit.  You can’t just resolve to eat better or exercise more without having a real plan with support behind it.  So the first couple of days we eat better but we don’t really have a system in place to make that sustainable and so when life gets busy we revert back to our old habits.  We go to the gym for a week but then other things start popping up and we don’t have an accountability partner to keep us going and pretty soon we are back to sleeping in or finding an excuse to skip. 

So here is a better idea; since you have probably already broke those resolutions, resolve to enjoy God this year.  Resolve to make yourself available to be blessed.  What do I mean by that?  Resolve to let God talk to you through his Word this year.  You can go, for instance, to www.biblegateway.com and select a Bible reading program and they will send it to you every morning by email.  The great thing is you don’t even have to read it; they have a program that will read it to you.  The Word of God was written for the ear more than the eye and so just sit back and listen to what God has to say to you every day.  You will be surprised to find out how much he loves you. Make yourself available to God by attending church where you can hear the word preached, take communion and spend time with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ praying for each other.  Resolve to let God pour out his grace and forgiveness into your life in 2020. You might even be surprised as you see some bad habits changed in the process.

Pastor Fred

A STARBUCKS CHRISTMAS

          I recently went to Starbucks and ordered my usual, a Venti Americano with whole milk.  When I looked at the cup later it said, “We wish you a Merry Coffee.”  I had to laugh because Starbucks has been the target in the past of groups that were offended when they went to a generic type of Christmas cup and even had the gall to wish people a happy holidays instead of a merry Christmas.  I thought that is pretty smart thinking on their part, instead of Christmas or the holidays let’s just concentrate on what we do, coffee.  I am sure that they will get flack for it too; I mean what would Christmas be without the people who enjoy being offended by everything?  I will admit I find the whole Christmas offense thing to be laughable.  I remember standing in line at a store in Phoenix one time and seeing all the gift cards with the words, “Happy Holidays” on them except the ones printed in Spanish which read, “Feliz Navidad.”  Feliz Navidad in Spanish is, “Merry Christmas.”  Apparently it is politically incorrect to say Merry Christmas unless you say it in Spanish.  I mean come on that is just funny.  I think we all need to take a drink of some strong eggnog and calm down.  Is it really the best use of our time and energy to be constantly offended during this time of year?

            I don’t think being wished Merry Christmas should be offensive to anyone; I also don’t think being wished Happy Holidays is offensive or even Merry Coffee.  My family will tell you that without coffee I am certainly not merry.  In all of these instances we are being wished something good, something positive.  Think of this way, in this hectic chaotic season some poor overworked soul is being nice to you.  Inside they may be going bah humbug but somehow against all odds they are managing to smile and wish you the best.  So don’t be offended and above all don’t be an offender by snarling at them and saying something like, “Well I wish you a Merry Christmas, so there!”  Yeah I am sure that will really make them feel better and blessed.  Don’t bring offense to Christ by cursing people with a, “Merry Christmas or else!” attitude.  Nobody was ever blessed by Jesus by getting hit over the head with him.

            I am not saying don’t wish people a Merry Christmas. You should wish people a Merry Christmas, but do it with a smile.  Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of God into our world.  The Son of God takes on flesh and becomes one of us on Christmas.  He comes to save us from our sins.  His ultimate destination is the cross and then the empty tomb.  He did all of that not just for you but for the clerk standing in front of you.  He did it for the customer at the front of the line who is holding everything up with all their complaints.  So wish them a Merry Christmas and mean it, and invite them to worship on Christmas Eve at 5:30 P.M.  So Merry Coffee, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad. 

Pastor Fred

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