Pastor Dean

          

FEBURARY 2016

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace  you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  Ephesians 2:4-10

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, anti-gay, anti-choice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.  Unnamed Critic

 

There are a lot of people in the U.S. who don’t want to have anything to do with the Christian church.  Almost half of people who are asked about their affiliation with a religion say that they don’t have one.  They answer none to that question.  How do we as Christians reach out to these “nones”? 

 

Philip Yancey has been thinking about this for a long time.  He has wondered why Christians are not seen as grace filled people because that is what God has created us to be.  He says, “Jesus had the uncanny ability to look at everyone with grace-tinted eyes, seeing not only the beauty of who they were but also the sacred potential of what they could become.  We his followers have the same challenge: ‘So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view,’ Paul told the Corinthians.  Evidently we are not doing likewise since many people think of faith, especially evangelical faith, as bad news.  They believe Christians view them through eyes of judgement, not eyes of grace.  Somehow we need to reclaim the “goodnewsness” of the gospel. 

Vanishing Grace, page 70

In the month of February we begin the season of Lent.  For our worship time this year we will be using a study by Philip Yancey called: Vanishing Grace.  It has us take a look at how Christians are viewed in the world and how we might better respond to the world around us.  The five sessions are: We’ve Got problems, What Can We Do About it”, Who Are the Grace Dispensers? Is It Really Good News? And Holy Subversives.

Ash Wednesday is the 10th of February.  Each of the five Wednesdays after that will be one of the sessions presented in Vanishing Grace.  For those looking ahead March 20th will be the Sunday afternoon that we have the first communion class.  Easter this year is the last Sunday of March the 27th. 

 

In Christ’s love,

 

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 

 


JANUARY 2016

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for                             them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children                    come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."                 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.  Matthew 19: 13-15

 

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

People sometimes complain to me about how hard it is to come to worship with a child.  It is such hard work that sometimes parents don’t bother.  The question is do children really get anything out of the time they are in worship?

There is new evidence that suggests they are getting more out of it than we ever guessed and at a younger age than we thought.  “Findings from the field of developmental neuroscience suggests that multisensory formation experiences, especially those during the first three years of life, may shape pathways in the brain in deep and lasting ways.  This phenomenon is called neuroplasticity and points to the young brain’s ability to form and strengthen neural pathways.”

“We are born with all the brain cells we’ll ever have — about 100 billion. So instead of babies growing new cells, cellular loss actually begins. Some connections between neurons are pruned away while others are reinforced to form more extensive, or arborized, pathways. The growing infant doesn’t need more brain cells — she needs the cells she has to begin working more efficiently…When dendrites are activated repeatedly, they branch out more extensively, strengthening their connections to surrounding cells. Given the treelike appearance of dendrites, this process is called dendritic arborization.”

So when a child is brought to worship their brain is making pathways that wouldn’t be developed otherwise.  They are getting to know God better and their brains are developed as a secondary benefit.  “Worship may be the first place where a young child may ‘hear the story of Jesus and his love.’ Young children rely on us to be storytellers about who Jesus is, what he did and how our life is rooted in our relationship with him.  These are deep and abstract concepts, but they have their beginnings in the first years of life as children hear stories and see images of Jesus in worship space artwork.  Let’s marvel at the ways young children in our midst are neurologically marked by the routines and rituals of worship, prayer, music and other faith practices.  These neural pathways that initially form widen into highways.  Every congregation can offer rich and varied ways for little ones to learn sounds, smells, sights, tastes and touches that create deep neural pathways that last a lifetime.” Quotes in this article are from the November issue of The Lutheran, Jesus on the brain by Dawn Rundman pgs. 31-33

Do children really get anything out of the time they are in worship?  Yes they do.  God works on connecting them to God’s self.  Their brains are developed in ways that don’t happen any other way.  Their brains are also expanded to help them out in whatever they do in their lives.  So let the little children come.  Help, befriend and encourage anyone with a child to make it a habit to be in worship for their own and their child’s sake.  It may be more work and it may seem that nothing is happening, but Jesus invites them to come and promises that he will bless and pray for them.

 

In Christ’s Love,

 

 

Pastor Dean Oelfke

P.S. Thank you to all who wished us a blessed Christmas, sent cards or gifts. Jane and I appreciate your generosity and remembering us in this holiday season.

 

 




December 2015


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1 




Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

This past week when I met with the 3rd & 4th grades and the 5th & 6th grades we worked on memorizing the 23rd Psalm. Most had it memorized by the end of the time we had together. 

Psalm 23 has meant a great deal to people throughout the centuries. It begins with a statement of faith. “The Lord is my shepherd.” I don’t have any old shepherd. The One who created heaven and earth is my shepherd. God is MY shepherd. I will trust that God is going to lead me and guide me throughout my whole life. 

The image of shepherd is often used of the leaders of the people of God in the O.T. When they are not doing a good job God says I will come and shepherd my people. Jesus picks up on this image and calls himself the Good Shepherd. I believe he is identifying with God using this image. He is telling us that he is going to work to lead us to God. 

It is interesting that it is to shepherds that the birth of Jesus is announced before anyone else. They come and then share the good news with the other people they meet. 

During the Advent services this year we will be using the theme of shepherd. The texts and hymns will be about all the Lord my shepherd, the good shepherd and some of the other shepherds in the Bible. The Advent worship times are 7:00 pm the 2nd, 9th, and 16th of December. Come and find out how you too are a shepherd in this life. 

Keep track of your Church calendar for December as there are lots of events in the coming month: 

    the 6 th is the Advent Brunch 10:15am, and Calvary Family Christmas Festival 6:00pm. 

    13th is the date for the Advent Festival. 

    20th is the Sunday School Christmas Program at the 11:15am worship time followed by a spaghetti dinner put on by the youth               for going on the mission trip t his summer. 

    24th at 4:00pm Christmas Eve family worship and 10:00pm Christmas Eve candle light worship. 


In Christ’s Love Pastor Dean    Oelfke




November 2015

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no                      church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I                          was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but                     I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than         enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:15-19

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

I had a grade school teacher that told us we should give until it hurt.  He was telling us this because the school was doing some kind of a fundraiser and they were asking us to contribute.  I thought that it was a dumb thing to say.  How could it help to give until it hurt?  Why would you want to give until you are hurting yourself or your family?

In the book by Philip Yancey called Soul Survivor, it is told about Mohandas Gandhi the great leader of India, that Gandhi read Tolstoy’s book The Kingdom of God Is Within You.  The quotes from Jesus Sermon on the Mount in the book changed Gandhi’s way of looking at life.  He decided to live the way that Jesus taught.

“While drawing a good salary, Gandhi experimented by halving household expenses, then halving them again.  At the end of every day he made a meticulous accounting of every penny spent.  From these experiments, Gandhi found that the process of spending less money and acquiring fewer possessions simplified his life and gave him inner peace.

In addition, it allowed him to identify more closely with the poor people he often represented in court.  Over time, he winnowed his material possessions down to these: eyeglasses, a watch, sandals, a book of songs, and a bowl.  To answer correspondence he used pads made from the cut-up envelopes of the letters he was answering.  He ate with a spoon that had been broken off and repaired with a piece of bamboo lashed to it with string…Gandhi pursued simplicity not out of guilt but rather out of necessity, for the sake of his own spiritual health…  Knowing well the burden of fame, he also knew the only way to combat it was to seek simplicity with all his heart.  If he did not, his soul force, the inner strength from which he got the stamina and courage for moral confrontations, would leak away.”

This sounds a lot like what Paul was sharing with the people in Philippi.  They would benefit from sending him gifts.  It was not a way to get more for himself.  It was a way for the Philippians to grow in their trust in God.  They would have less material things but would grow stronger in their spirit and in their relationship with God. 

I recently read a sermon where a pastor said I used to say give until it hurts. But he realized that for some people it hurt only throwing a dollar into the offering plate when it went by.  He didn’t want them to miss the joy of giving so now he says give until it feels good.  He says that means, give until you can see that you are making a difference in something you care about.

In this month when we think about the things we can be thankful for maybe we should be thankful for all the things we can give to.  We have all kinds of opportunity to give so that we can grow stronger in our faith and trust in God.  We are able to give to God for the work that goes on in the world through our regular Sunday offerings.  We are able to help the congregation by giving to that same Sunday offering.  At the beginning of December the freewill offering taken at the Advent Brunch will be given to LSS to build a teen homeless shelter in Duluth.

Give until it hurts?  We should give so that we grow in faith.  Maybe that will hurt, maybe it will make us feel good.  As we look at our giving and ask God what we should be giving to, we will grow in our faith.  I don’t think that we need to be as extreme as Gandhi to be able to grow in our faith life.  Yet we all could probably simplify our lives a little and be better off for it.  God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 




October 2015

You shall make this response before the Lord your God: "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried  to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying     display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land     flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given     me." You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God.

 Deuteronomy 26:5-10

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

We were on our way to Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  We were in the really cool Mercury Marquis.  It had a back window that could be put down electrically.  I was in the back seat behind Grandma who was driving the car.  I was leaning up against the door and in that state of mind between being wide awake and falling asleep.  I remember seeing the car next to us getting closer and closer to us and then the next thing I knew I was laying on the blacktop of HWY 494.  I could tell that there was something wrong with my arm so I held it against my belly with the other one and walked back to the car which was now smashed up against the railing of the bridge going over Minnetonka Blvd.  They took me to the hospital and put my arm in traction and then eventually in a cast.

I don’t know what happened exactly on that day, because I blacked out.  I think maybe the car I was in or another one ran over my arm.  All the bones by the elbow were broken.  I still have limited movement in that arm.  I suppose I could have decided that God didn’t care about me or protect me and that is why I was injured in the accident.  I have decided instead that God was with me otherwise I could be dead.  God reached out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  I believe that God helped me through the difficult times that came after that and healed me in the best way possible.  Even though I am not able to move my arm in a fully functional way I can still do most everything that I want.  I am able to see that God has brought good things out of that situation.  I am able to sympathize with people who have gone through car accidents and hospital stays because of my own experience.  I think that my trust in God is greater because of that experience also.

Everyone in our congregation has a faith story, some even seem miraculous.  It is important to share these stories with one another.  It helps us to hear and remember that God is with us even in the dark moments of our lives.  It is like what Moses tells the people that they should do in the first fruit service.  They rehearse what God has done for them in the past so they can see what God is doing for them now.   Our Synod Discipleship Challenge this school year is to live out our faith practices through the sharing of stories. We are living in the middle of God’s story – for us and for our neighbor. As we share stories of life and faith, we come to KNOW God’s Story for our lives and the world…to BE God’s Story of love and reconciliation in the world…and to TELL God’s Story so all can know Christ’s love in the world!

We ask the Confirmation Students to write out their Faith Story and share it with parents, council members and classmates as the final part of their confirmation preparation.  They get to talk about their faith and how they see God active in their lives.  We will be doing that on October 7th during the Confirmation Class time.  If you would like to join us that night you are welcome to do so. 

Know the story, Be the story, Tell the story – it is up to us to let people know what God has done for us in Jesus and trust that God will use that witness to help others come to faith.

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 






September 2015

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually    into a dwelling place for God.  Ephesians 2:19-22

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 At the end of the play Into The Woods there is a song: No One Is Alone.  Some of the lines in it are: “Mother cannot guide you. Now you’re on your own.  Only me beside you. Still you’re not alone. No one is alone. Truly. No one is alone… People make mistakes, holding to their own, thinking they’re alone… Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.  No one is alone. Hard to see the light now. Just don’t let it go. Things will come out right now. We can make it so.  Someone is on your side. No one is alone.”

At the end of the play a group of unrelated people form a family that will keep them from being alone.  They are there to support each other and help each other through life.

The singing group Mumford & Sons has a song called Timshel, the first stanza and chorus are: Cold is the water, it freezes your already cold mind, already cold, cold mind.  And death is at your doorstep and it will steal your innocence, but it will not steal your substance.  But you are not alone in this.  You are not alone in this.  As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.

The apostle Paul when he is writing about the church reminds us that we are not alone.  God has set up a whole community around us that helps us make it through life.  We get to support one another in our difficulties and rejoice with each other in our joys.  That community may not be our physical family.  It may be that we like the people in Into the Woods may find greater community outside of relatives and inside our faith community. 

In an effort to build community in our congregation we are going to put ourselves into twelve different groups.  Each of those groups has a couple who are group leaders.  They will be inviting you to help out with the greeting, ushering, reading and fellowship on a Sunday morning.  The lists will be posted so you can see which month you have been included in.  We will also include them in the monthly newsletter. 

We have tried to get everyone in one of the groups.  If you have not been included let the church office know.  Oversights can happen.  We have noticed that there are some names missing in our church directory.  So we apologize if you have been overlooked. 

We do know that God does not have problems remembering or keeping track of people. You also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.  Each of us has a special place in God’s heart.  We are all a part of the building and each have different functions in that building. You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.  You are not alone you are a part of this greater gathering of God.

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 



August 2015


Jesus answered, "The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jane found a flier from one of those mega churches while she was out shopping the other 

day and brought it home. I took a look at their website and watched a part of a talk their pastor 

gave. The thing that interested me the most on the website was the four priorities that they listed 

that would keep a person connected to God and not drifting away. The four were: Attending 

Weekend Services Regularly; Join A Group; Be Generous with Your Resources; and Invite Oth-ers. 

The thing that interested me most was that the things they said kept a person close to God 

were very similar to what we say are the work that we should do as Jesus disciples. The Marks 

of Discipleship are: Daily Prayer, Weekly Worship, Daily Bible Reading, Serving in and Beyond 

the Congregation, Nurturing Relationships, Giving a Tithe and Beyond, and Invite.

Weekly Worship, Nurturing Relationships, Giving a Tithe and Beyond, and Invite are al-most identical with what the other church had. I notice                   though that the four they chose seem to 

focus more on their own congregation. Working together as Lutherans we recognize that some 

congregations may have worship other days of the week than on the weekend so we make the 

statement more general. We also don’t worry about people only participating in the groups that 

we have as congregations. We know that God wants us to nurture relationships that are both in-side and outside the church.

The other part that interested me were the priorities that didn’t get on their basic four list. 

Daily Prayer, Daily Bible Reading, and Serving in and Beyond the Congregation seemed really 

important to me to leave out of a list of things that keep you closest to God. It was like they in-cluded all the ones that would keep the institution               up and running but left out the ones that an in-dividual needs to keep their faith going. If one leaves out regular contact with God from one’s 

life or serving the neighbor then life itself runs out of meaning. It is like the Bible verse at the 

top of the page. We do need to nurture our relationship with God both individually and corpo-rately. If we don’t we do begin to wander away from            God and each other.

Life can get pretty busy - work, family, vacations, and so on. When things get too hectic, 

our relationship with God can start to slip. So don’t forget to keep on practicing The Marks of 

Discipleship: Daily Prayer, Weekly Worship, Daily Bible Reading, Serving in and Beyond the 

Congregation, Nurturing Relationships, Giving a Tithe and Beyond, and Invite.

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke  



July 2015

We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!  2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

Who are we to work together with?  Do the verses above mean that we only work with other believers in our congregation? 

Last month we celebrated the 30th year of my ordination.  In my ordination vows I not only pledged to work for the congregations that were calling me but for all the ELCA and to witness to all the world, at least as much of it as I can.  Thinking of those vows I would say that I am responsible to at least all the other ELCA congregations.  That is one of the reasons we have conferences and synods so we can work together to do more than we can separately.  We work together with Christ to do God’s work here on earth.  God’s work, our hands; to quote the ELCA tagline.

Those kinds of thoughts lead me to think about the four congregations in the Mora area (Calvary; Grace; Immanuel, Brunswick; Hope, Grasston) and ask; how are we working together?  While I was thinking about that I wondered if the other congregations ever thought about it.  So I invited the pastors, council presidents, and any other member of congregations to come and talk about how we might work together.

We have met a couple of times now, have another date set to meet, and have set a date for all of our councils to meet.  The area that we worked on the most was working together with our youth.  We have been doing some of this already.  The confirmation student from Hope is coming to our confirmation class.  We have done the 30 hr. Famine with Grace.  Immanuel has a Sr. High student that is going on the Synod Journey to the ELCA youth gathering with us.  We will be gathering confirmation classes again to be blessed by the Bishop.  We have talked about working together to feed hungry people and have talked about other things we can do together.  The youth people there thought they might start meeting together to plan events.

I also presented to the group some bigger ideas that may or may not develop but would be worth thinking about.  We are moving into a time when there will be a shortage of pastors in our country and congregations are having a more difficult time coming up with salaries for them.  I share three different possibilities that may help provide pastoral leadership for all the congregations in our area as we adjust to changing times.  The possibilities include having a Multiple Point – Multiple Pastor cluster; we could create new parishes; or smaller congregations could contract for pastoral services with larger ones.  A multiple point – multiple pastor cluster could be all four congregations coming together and calling four pastors to serve them, or 3 pastors and a lay preacher.  There could be all kinds of variety to this model.  It is being used effectively in MN and North and South Dakota.  Creating new parishes might be Hope and Immanuel or Calvary and Immanuel becoming a parish.  Again there are all kinds of possibilities. 

As ambassadors for Christ our motivation for working together always needs to be to see how we can more effectively share the grace, forgiveness and acceptance that God wants to give to the world.  We have been called to work together with all Christians to do that, not just believers in our own congregation.  Stay tuned for further developments.  Share your ideas about this with pastor Dean or council members.

 

Now is the day of salvation!  We are given that by God and we get to share it with the world.

 

 

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke


June 2015

The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient… proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 2 Timothy 2:24, 4: 2 


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 On June 9th I will have been ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament for 30 years. There have been a lot of Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals during that time. There is a proverb that says a pastor’s job is to hatch, match and dispatch. From the outside looking in that may be what a pastor’s job might be. I think it falls short of the real reason for pastoral work. 

The Apostle Paul gives the advice above to Timothy. He wants him to be the very best pastor that he can be for the congregation that he is serving. He also wants him to be able to help other people learn about Jesus Christ and come to faith in him. Preaching and teaching about Jesus are the main things Paul wants Timothy to do.

 I have served eight congregations as their pastor. I have probably preached in another 20 or so doing Lenten services or being on call for funerals or weddings when a pastor was out of town. I can probably count on one hand the number of times a Sunday Worship has had to be cancelled in those 30 years (because of snowstorms) so that is a lot of sermons. I thank you for being one of the congregations that have called me to serve as your pastor. I have enjoyed the eight Christmases and Easters I have been with you. I hope God has used my preaching and teaching to help you and others grow in their faith. 

It may seem all that work is a big deal but, I feel like Paul when he talks about his call to preach in his first letter to the Corinthians 9:16: “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.” It has long been my conviction that God has entrusted and commissioned me to be a pastor. The ALC and the ELCA have confirmed that, as well as each of the congregations that have issued me a call. I don’t have anything to boast about. I have done what I thought God wanted me to do. It really isn’t about me it is about God and what God has done, is doing and will do in the world. God has created the cosmos, redeemed it in Jesus, and continues to make it holy by the work of the Spirit. 

Jesus says in Luke 7:9-10: “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'” I have only done what I have been ordered to do so I hesitate to have a celebration of the years I have served. But members of the council convinced me that we should. So on June 21st following our 9:00 worship during fellowship we are going to hold a celebration of 30 years of ministry. 

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we celebrated my 25th anniversary of ordination. At that time I asked that if people wanted to give a gift in honor of those years they should give it to ELCA world hunger. I know that the Property and Grounds Committee would like to replace the carpeting in the Sanctuary, Narthex and Fellowship hall. So I would suggest that if you want to give a gift you would choose either world hunger or the carpet fund. 

Thank you for sharing the work that we do to plant the seeds of the Gospel here in and around Mora. It will be interesting to see what the next decade of ministry will bring.

 In Christ’s Love 

Pastor Dean Oelfke



May 2015

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the 

Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey every

thing that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the 

end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe 

will be condemned. Mark 16:16


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What is a Sacrament? I ask the question every time I gather a group of children together for first communion classes. The answer for Lutherans is that it is an event that has a 

physical tangible element in it and it has both been commanded by Jesus and has a promise 

from Jesus about it. We have two Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The Bible verses at the top of this page are the command and the promise that Jesus 

gives about baptism. We are to go out into the world with Jesus making disciples, baptizing 

them and teaching them. Jesus gives us this command to remind us that this is not a gift that 

we are to keep to ourselves. We are to share God’s love and grace with the world, not just 

with people like us. We are to go to all nations. We get to bring this sacrament to everyone 

and help them get to know God.

The promise is that we are saved in Baptism. “Baptism… now saves you—not as a re-moval of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:21 God forgives our sin, delivers us from death and the 

devil, and gives us everlasting salvation. This happens because Jesus exchanges his holiness 

for our sinfulness. He takes on our death and gives us his life in baptism. The book of Ro-mans says how this exchange happens: “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism 

into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we 

too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

We can come to God without fear knowing that God has forgiven and accepts us. We 

don’t have to worry about God being out to get us or punishing us for things that are not right 

in our lives. God wants us to trust that God is working for our good in all things in life. God 

wants us to communicate with God all of the things that are going on in our life and trust that 

God hears and responds to us.

Martin Luther was beset in his life and faith by what he called anfechtung. In English 

it means something like struggles, trials, difficulties, or afflictions. Whenever he felt these 

doubts and struggles coming on he would say, “I am baptized.” Luther would not put any 

confidence in himself but would trust what God had done for him and how he received that 

gift. We too can trust in the great gift that God gives to us in Baptism that God is for us in the 

world.

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke


April 2015

Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

What is God’s mission for our congregation?  What is God’s mission for each of our lives?  In some ways that is what we were trying to get at with the questions that we asked at the annual meeting.  We continue to look at the information gathered there.  The council has set some goals from the answers that were given. 

Included in this newsletter are the questions and their answers that were given at the annual meeting.  The answers are from the notes the council members took at your tables.  They have been combined a little bit so if you don’t see exactly what you said there hopefully the basic idea is still included.  We combined the answers and put them in headings under each question to try and get the main ideas.  The separate answers are in phrases behind each of the headings.  You might have to pick them apart a little bit to get the full sense of them.

Look at the council corner to find what the council set as goals for themselves and the congregation to begin work on.  These are things that seemed that we could do right away.  We also recognize that there is much more to do.  Some of the goals are items that individuals of our congregation are doing as they live out their lives.  As a congregation we may want to participate more fully in some of these areas.

One of the topics that kept coming up over and over again at the tables was youth and youth homelessness.  At the Kettle River Conference meeting a representative from Lutheran Social Service (LSS) came and talked with us about the plan that they have to bring together all their services to help homeless youth under one roof in Duluth.  They are working on building an office and living space for homeless youth.  It will be a place for kids from the East side of the state from the central part to the northern border to come to get out of being homeless.  LSS would like to help communities work on this problem where they are too.  They recognize that all homeless youth would not be able to be at their shelter.  They also realize that there is probably a need for short term stays to help people out instead of their 12-18 month program.  Their idea was that there could be shelters in every one of our communities in people’s homes so kids could stay in their own communities and work on life skills to make it on their own.  They would provide training to help people be able to do this.  Information will continue to come to us about this project and how we can participate. 

We will continue to seek God’s mission and grow into Christ in our congregation as we work together as a council and congregation. 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 


March 2015

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 





Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

I noticed an article about prayer in an AARP magazine. It was right below 8 Easy Ways to Live Longer. I don’t know if they wanted people to think those two were connected or not. I didn’t expect to see it there so I thought I would read it and see what they would say. The titles around the article should have I suppose given me a clue I probably wouldn’t agree with what was written there. Some of the titles were: The Power of Prayer, The Paradox of Prayer, and Why do we keep gazing heavenward – more than ever as we grow older – even when no answers are in sight? No answers? Power? Paradox? The author of this article had a much different idea about prayer than the Apostle Paul or I do about prayer. They also included a number of quotes like, “I pray for anyone who doesn’t have people to pray for them.” “We’re not fatalist. I do believe prayer changes things.” “As long as I get the result, that’s all that matters.” When we think about prayer as something we do to get God to do what we want, I think we have missed the point of prayer. Prayer in and of itself is not powerful. The One that we pray to is powerful. If we expect certain outcomes will be guaranteed because we pray, we may certainly think that prayer is not answered especially if those desires don’t happen. Prayer is not about getting things. It is not trying to get God to do what we want. Prayer is about connecting to God. It is conversation with God. When we think that God is not answering it may well be because we aren’t listening to God not because God hasn’t answered. If we don’t get what we ask for it doesn’t mean there are no answers or that God doesn’t want what we have ask to happen. God is always working in the world are we able to see, hear or feel it? Why does God do what God does anyway? It is a big mystery that we need to connect with to even get a hint of what is going on. The Apostle Paul says that if we are going to connect with God we need to let our prayer be constant. “Pray without ceasing.” he says. That doesn’t mean that we should be talking to God all the time. It does mean that we should be looking, listening and paying attention to what is going on in the world to see where God is and how God wants us to respond to. That is where Paul’s other thoughts about prayer come in. He says in everything pray. Let God know your requests. He doesn’t say just wait for them to happen. He doesn’t say believe hard enough and pray hard enough and they will happen. He says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We won’t be able to understand all that is going to happen. But God will give us peace and our hearts and minds will be able to experience that if we open ourselves up to God in prayer. The last part of what I have included from the Apostle Paul may be the most important. The quote says, “In Christ Jesus”. Even if we can’t understand it all we can trust that Jesus is in us and is praying for us and walking with us through whatever happens. He suffers right along with us and rejoices with us through our whole life. We can trust that as we pray Jesus is listening and responding to us. It is in his power that we live and move and have our being. Because he is with us we can live our lives for others and keep the conversation with God going. 

In Christ’s Love, Pastor Dean Oelfke



February 2015 

He (Jesus) also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained every thing in private to his disciples.  Mark 4:30-34



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

 I have been reading Life of Pi and the beginning of chapter 16 connects with the passage above.  “We are all born… without religion, until some figure introduces us to God.  After that meeting the matter ends for most of us.  If there is a change, it is usually for the lesser rather than the greater; many people seem to lose God along life’s way.  That was not my case.  The figure in question for me was an older sister of Mother’s, of a more traditional mind, who brought me to a temple when I was a small baby…A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in me and left to germinate.  It has never stopped growing since that day.” By Yann Martel

 

Jesus did a lot of teaching and a lot of his teaching was with parables.  Sometimes parables are hard to understand.  Jesus had to explain them even to the disciples.  Yet even when they are not explained they work.  We think about them and God and grow in our faith.  How did God’s reign begin in your life?  Did it start out small and become a big part of it?  Most of us who follow Jesus want the kingdom to keep on growing in our lives.  We have the opportunity to water the seed this month.

In the month of February we begin the season of Lent.  For our worship time this year we will be using the series “engage”.  It presents modern day images that could be looked at as parables of how God works in our lives.  We will be able to grow our faith as we come together to see these presentations.  The five topics that will be presented are RUST, ROPE, KINGS, HOSE and DESK.  Engage your faith this Lenten season.  Come to the studies and let the seed grow in your life.

Ash Wednesday is the 18th of February.  Each of the five Wednesdays after that will be a presentation of a different parable from “engage”.  All of the Wednesdays in March are in Lent this year.  For those looking ahead March 29th will be the Sunday afternoon that we have the first communion class.  Easter this year is the first Sunday of April. 

 

Love in Christ,

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 

 


January 2015

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to

them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understand

ing and his answers. Luke 2:46 & 47

You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And c

all no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you

to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. Matthew 23:8-10

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Now that the rush around Christmas is over you probably have some time that you are not going shopping,

to Christmas events or getting ready for family and friends to come over. Some people get depressed in

this time of year, because all the activities have come to an end and the short daylight.

I would like to propose doing something that will give meaning to life. The Mark of Discipleship that

we are focusing on in January is STUDY. Taking time to study to grow in your faith is something that was

done by Jesus while he was on earth and told us we should also be doing. He sat with the teachers and learned

from them. He also says to us that we are all students.

I would suggest reading the Gospel of Mark to start your study off this year. We will be primarily

reading from that Gospel this year in worship. It will help you to have read the book so you get an idea of how

all the lessons fit together. Sit down and read the book through all at once, then go back and study different

parts of it. If that won’t work for you read it chapter by chapter or a number of verses at a time and keep track

of what has gone on before. Do what works best for you but dig in and follow Jesus example of studying.

If that particular suggestion doesn’t seem right to you try something else that Jesus seems to be directing

you to. You might even share what you are doing with someone else and study with them. You might

even find new community doing something that will help your faith. There will be a number of opportunities

to grow in your faith at Calvary this month.

One will be a special viewing of an interview between Krista Tippet and Kevin Kling. We will be

gathering on January 6th, 7:00pm at the church to view and discuss this conversation that deals with life and

how we view it and God.

We will also continue our study of Martin Luther on January 8th, 7:00pm at the Villages. Our lesson

this month will be how Luther reacted to an over spiritualization of the faith and the people who would rebel

violently against the authorities.

Shop Talk will be meeting this month January 11th at Marty Carlson’s home to see the solar panels that

produce electricity and to talk about being good stewards of God’s creation.

Former ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson will be at Trinity in Princeton, 7:00pm on January 21st. Our confirmation

class will be traveling there to see him. If you are interested in being a part of the group that goes let

me know.

To give you a good example of working on studying, I will be attending two events in January to continue

my education. First I will be meeting with our Synod Practice Discipleship Team on Thursday January

22 to discover what this year’s program will be and learn how to teach it. Secondly I will attend the MidWinter

Convocation at Luther Seminary. The topic there is Religious but Not Spiritual. I hope to learn some

new ways of reaching out to people with the Gospel.

Remember God can use everything you have read and learned to help you to grow in your faith and

deal with the problems and difficulties of life but God can’t use what you don’t know to help you.

Jesus came to bring light to this dark world. Don’t let the darkness get the best of you. Find something

new to study in your faith and grow. You will not only get rid of the darkness but enjoy the light.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Dean Oelfke



December 2014

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me be                      come night,"

Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? Psalm 139: 1, 7, 11, and 21

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

For some reason Psalm 139 has resonated with me since I was in grade school.  My aunt and uncle gave me a Good News for Modern Man: New Testament with Psalms, for either Christmas or a birthday.  I started reading through the Psalms and found this one.  I kept coming back to it because it kept being a way for me to talk to God.  It also reminded me that God was always around.  Even in times when I would wonder can God be here, I could trust that God would be there.  There was no place that I could go where God wasn’t.

Advent is a time to open ourselves up to God.  We too can ask God, as the psalmist does, to search us and know us.  As we reflect on that search we may come up with things that we want God to forgive. The church has seen Advent as a season for repenting.  That could be depressing except that at the end of this time we also remember that the one who brings forgiveness, healing and acceptance comes.  We get to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord at the end of the month. 

There was a part of the Psalm at the end that I struggled with.  Verses 19 through 22 take a completely different turn from the rest of the psalm.  I didn’t quite understand the hate, hate, loathe, and perfect hatred part of the psalm.  There still is something unfathomable in it. For the Advent services this December we will use Psalm 139 as a backdrop for our services.  We will be reading through it and adding other scripture and songs to go along with it.  You might want to take a look at the Psalm even before you get to the Advent worship times to be able to get more out of them.  Wilderness, Darkness and Hate/Love will be the themes for the three nights.  I hope you will find the joy and peace that I have meditating on Psalm 139.  We will be using Holden Evening prayer for the liturgy on those nights.

Keep track of your Church calendar for December there are lots of events in the coming month: 

7th we have Advent Brunch, Advent Festival and Calvary Family Christmas Festival.

 

14th is the Sunday School Christmas Program at the 11:15am worship time followed by a spaghetti dinner put on by the youth for going to the ELCA Youth Gathering. 

 

24th we have worship at 4:00pm Christmas Eve family worship and 10:00pm Christmas Eve candle light worship.

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 



November 2014

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your 

 concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no 

 opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; 

 for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know 

 what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In 

 any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed 

and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things 

through him who strengthens me. In any case it was kind of you to share my distress.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you for being concerned for me. Thank you for sharing prayers, well 

wishes and cards with me. I am grateful for all that you have done while I was out 

for surgery and recovery. I guess I am not quite out of recovery yet. Thank you 

for being understanding and helping me out. It is a great and humbling thing not to 

be able to do what you expect that you can do and be on the receiving end of 

things.

The Apostle Paul said that when he wasn’t able to do things or didn’t have 

something he would have liked, it taught him to lean on God and have God 

strengthen him. That is probably a good lesson for any of us to learn. There is no 

circumstance that can take us away from God if we learn to lean on God both in 

the good times and in the bad times. 

When I had my two weeks off for recovery I did find myself praying more. I 

had the time to sit and meditate. I couldn’t do much more than lay in bed or in the 

recliner for a while. While I did that I was thinking of all kinds of people that 

needed to be prayed for. Some I even called and talked to when I was up to it. It 

was a time when I felt closer to God because I was able to take more time to focus 

on my relationship with God.

In the month we celebrate Thanksgiving it would be good for us to think 

about all the ways that we can thank God for our faith and the life that God gives 

to us. Even things like getting laid up and not being able to do what you normally 

do can be a blessing in disguise. 

What brings you closer to God? Are you able to carve out time for God in 

your life? What works best for you to be able to hear God speaking to you, to see 

what God wants you to look at or feel where God is directing you in your life? 

Keep on giving thanks in all situations because they can bring you to Go



October 2014

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of every     thing, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of you righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will      produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 2 Corinthians 9:6-12

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

God loves a cheerful giver.  Give is the Mark of Discipleship that we talk about this month.  In this newsletter you are given a business card that shares information about our congregation.  You are invited to give this card to a friend and invite them to come to worship with you.  If they don’t think a traditional worship is right for them bring them to the “Coffeehouse” worship at 11:15.

Each of us is also given a gift to share with the world.  Musicians need to play music, dancers need to dance, painters need to paint, writers need to write, greeters need to greet, bakers need to bake, teachers need to teach, preachers need to preach, mechanics need to make and repair things.  The list goes on and on because each of us has a part to play in this world.  Each of us has a gift to share.  They are not all the same but they all are needed. 

Each of us has a certain amount of material stuff too.  We all have some kind of financial means that we need to manage.  God invites us to give of this too.  Mark Hanson writes, “Money is such a private issue, and so often it’s loaded with feelings of guilt, and maybe bitterness, and even resentment.  We’re living in anxiety – producing times – the uncertainty of the economy, the degree of debt experienced by us, mortgage related problems.  Many of us are afraid to admit that we’re in over our heads and need the wisdom of financial resource people to keep us healthy emotionally and spiritually.”  The anxiety we live in may make us want to keep as much as we can for ourselves.  God invites us to trust that because God has given to us in the past God will continue to give to us in the future.

We give so that we learn to trust God and not in the material things that are around us.  When we trust God we are able to share what we have with the world.  Each of us is able to give different amounts according to what God has given us.  We are not to compete with each other.  Nor should we compete with what we have done in the past. We are to look at what we have and see what we are able to give and send it out into the world.  Some of us will be able to grow in our giving because we have the ability to.  Some of us may not be able to give as much as we have in the past because our financial situation has changed.

Whatever our financial situation, God still invites us to give the gifts to the world that we have been given through the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Make thanksgiving your offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call on God in the day of trouble; God will deliver you, and you shall give God glory.

 

During this month you will be given lots of information to think about what you give to God from everything that God has given to you.  A third quarter giving statement will come out with lots of information for you to think about.  Sunday mornings will have inspirational messages and on October 19 during worship we will invite you to place a promise to God on the altar of the church.  So think about giving this October.

 

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 


September 2014

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.

 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not over power him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then  the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."

 But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

  The man asked him, "What is your name?"

  "Jacob," he answered.

  Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and  with men and have overcome."

   Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."

  But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?"

   Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.          Genesis 32:22-31

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

I have been limping because of my hip too.  I hope that I won’t have to be after this month.  I am scheduled to have a total hip replacement on September 22th.  The council has given me a couple of weeks of sick leave that I will be taking following surgery.  I have been reading and reflecting on the text above and would like to share some of what I have read with you.

The last time Jacob was around Esau, his mother told him he better get away from him because Esau was planning on killing him.

“As this passage opens, Jacob seems to be finding a way to protect what is his in the face of Esau’s wrath. His trickster mind engaged, Jacob has divided up his family and servants into two separate camps and has sent them away, across the Jabbok River, leaving him alone. This is a rare event. Like most twins, Jacob has virtually never had a solitary moment. Since his conception, he has been tied up and entangled with at least one other human being at any given moment. The last time that Jacob spent the night alone, he was in Bethel, having barely escaped Esau. With the threat behind him, God visited the sleeping Jacob and promised even more blessings to come -- land, progeny, and protection (Genesis 28). On Jacob’s return trip home, God again takes advantage of the brief moment of solitude, a moment when Jacob is most exposed and vulnerable, to reveal God’s self. But this time God comes posing as a dark and disguised threat, not as a protector. The text is cryptic, simply saying that “a man wrestled with Jacob until the break of dawn.” Yet several interesting things stand out. Notice the time. In folk tales as well as biblical stories, the moment of dawn is an important one; the time between night and day is the perfect point to signal an epic conflict and transforming event. Notice also that the passage doesn’t reveal the identity of the man. Jacob’s response is to stand his ground and face his attacker. Indeed, Jacob chooses to entangle himself with this threatening form. In some ways, this is not a new response, for Jacob was  wrestling even before his birth. Indeed, the Biblical writer engages in some clever wordplay to show the close connection between the name Jacob (y’kv) and the verb for wrestling (y‘vk) in verse 25. But in other respects, Jacob’s reaction is a departure from the usual. In tangling with God, Jacob foregoes the sly and indirect forms of aggression that he had cultivated as an adult. Instead of cunning evasion, he fights openly and persistently to get what he most wants -- a blessing! Just so, Jacob chooses to cling to God and refuses to disengage -- a stark contrast to his response to God’s overtures 20 years before when he could offer little more than a conditional attachment to God (28:20-22). Moreover, even as Jacob finds himself facing up to this divine opponent and surviving it (notice the language of “Peniel” in verse 31), so Jacob also finds the resources to face his brother and embrace him. In 33:11, Jacob connects the two events saying, “For truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God -- since you have received me with such favor.” The bigger picture that modern readers often miss, though, is that this is really a story about Israel and God. In fact, it is ISRAEL’S story about itself and God. How interesting to note that Israel defines itself as a people who refuses to let go of God. They tell us that they will fight with God to demand that God bless them. They are a people who are willing to be changed, even damaged in that exchange, because they know that attaining that blessing is worth the sacrifice. They are not a people of passive faith. Finally, the story also challenges any attempt to domesticate God and make the deity fit into some easy mold, whether that is “the wrathful God” or the “God who meets my needs.” Jacob came away from the encounter with unbounded blessings, but he also walked away limping -- a man permanently marked. It attests to the complex reality of a God who is intimately engaged with humans, who seeks them out, and blesses them, even it reminds us that this God is wily, unpredictable, and dangerous.” As I think about my relationship with God I find that God always has a hold of me.  God promises me great gifts of forgiveness, grace and love in spite of who I am or what I have done.  I will keep on engaging with God because I know that God is for me in Jesus.  We don’t always know how that works out.  Who is it that Jacob wrestled with?  We can trust that God keeps coming to us and promises to be with us in whatever we go through, whether that is hip surgery or any other major event. 

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 

August 2014


God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening 

and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all 

their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested 

on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and 

hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

Genesis 1:31-2:3


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

             Spiritual things are good.  Material things are bad.  That is what Aristotle taught.  It is what Thomas Aquinas brought in a systematic way into the Christian faith.  Aquinas taught that as Christians what we needed to do in our faith lives was learn to love God and detach from the world.  We move from the lower things of this world to the greater things in heaven.  We need to abandon the things of this earth so that we are free to move toward the highest and real good, which is God.  Another Thomas (Kempis) writes, “Count the whole world as nothing, and place attendance on God before all outward things.  For you cannot attend on Me (God), and at the same time take pleasure in worldly things.  Remain detached from acquaintance and friends and independent of this world’s consolations.”

Martin Luther called this kind of thinking and theology a “Theology of Glory”.  It thought that God’s love was a love like human beings have only perfect.  Luther thought that God’s love was different than human love.  He thought that whereas human love sought out what was good and beautiful, God’s love sought out what was nothing and evil and created something out of nothing, and made it good.  Tuomo Mannermaa shares these ideas in his book Two Kinds of Love, Martin Luther’s Religious World. 

Luther called his theology a “Theology of the Cross”.  Mannermaa writes, “for Luther, God is a hidden God, whose action is concealed within the paradox of the cross and in the negation of God’s ‘attributes of glory’.”  We do not find God in God’s majesty but we find God hidden in opposites.  God is hidden in suffering.  As human beings we only find God in our own suffering and cross.  Christ takes on our flesh and suffers so that our weakness, suffering, sin and death can be brought into God.  God exchanges these for God’s strength, power, righteousness and life and puts them in us.  Luther writes, “God saves no one but sinners, God instructs no one but the foolish and stupid, God enriches none but paupers, and God makes alive only the dead; not those who merely imagine themselves to be such but those who really are this kind of people and admit it.”

God gives us all this because of God’s love.  God’s exchange happens through faith.  Faith comes to us through ordinary things.  God shows up in words that are spoken or read.  God comes in the visible word (the sacraments).  This affects the way that we live out our lives.  Instead of having to do all kinds of works to save ourselves we can trust that God gives us everything.  We don’t have to earn anything.  We are free to be what God has made us.  We can trust God has given us a right relationship with God and that sets us free to enjoy God’s creation and serve our neighbor. 

That gets us back to where we started but realizing that the opposite is true.  Both spiritual and material things are good.  We do not need to detach or abandon the things of this world to be able to reach God.  We can’t do it.  God instead comes to us through the material things of this world.  We can’t be independent of the things of this world.  So God uses them to make something of us.  “Sin is not primarily about attachment to something good that God has created, but rather quite the contrary: While it should be the case that human beings’ ‘hearts will be warmed and kindled with gratitude to God and a desire to use all these blessings to [God’s] glory and praise,’ this does not happen and that is sin.  This does not mean that human beings should be grabbing and seizing the good gifts of God for themselves, but rather that they should thank God for these gifts and pass on to their neighbors both these gifts and the joy they engender.” Mannermaa Two Kinds of Love 

So as you go about in God’s creation this summer, remember God is with you.  God created it and it is very good.  Enjoy the time that you have, be grateful and give God glory and praise for it.  Pass your gratefulness and God’s love on to your friends and neighbors.

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 



July 2014

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month--on that  day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights…

     But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.  Genesis 7:11-12, 8:1-5

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

This spring it seems that all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened by God.  We have been dealing with water in our house as I know a number of you have also.  The pond in our back yard keeps getting higher and the water threatens to go across our road from one ditch to the other.  We have seen around our state the forces of water destroy roads and buildings.  We have seen how crops have not been able to be planted or drowned in standing water from deluges of rain.

 

As we go through this we trust in the promises of God: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease… never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  Genesis 8:22, 9:11 and “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” Isaiah 43:1b-2a

Even as we see the destruction of the water we also see the life that it brings.  I don’t think the trees and scrubs around us have ever been as lush as this year (at least the ones that weren’t damaged by last winter).  There is also a proliferation of water born animals: frogs, toads, mosquitoes.  Even if we don’t like all of them they are still abounding life that God has created.

As life abounds in water so God gives life to us through water too.  The book of 1 Peter reminds us of this in chapter 3 verses 18-21: Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are brought into the death and resurrection of Jesus through baptism.  God gives us what Jesus earned for us in baptism.  Baptism has both elements of water in it: death and life.  We are drown to our old selves and made alive to the new self that God gives to us.  We are then free to live with and for God in the world.  The water of Baptism does all this because it is connected to God’s powerful word and by God’s command. 

So God continues to water the earth both physically and spiritually.  The floodgates sometimes are opened in both and sometimes it comes as gentle rain.  The seasons roll around again and we are blessed by God in whatever comes. 

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 

 June 2014

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and 

 thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high 

 positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness 

 and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

On the Seventh of May, I got to be the guest chaplain and open the Minnesota House of Representative session with prayer.  There were a number of rules that I had to follow for this prayer.  The House wanted a prayer that was interfaith and ecumenical.  They have a number of different Christian denominations represented and people of other faiths.  They wanted the prayer to focus on the needs of the Representatives and for God’s guidance and wisdom.  They also wanted me to remember that I was praying for both men and women and it should all be done in two minutes.

So thinking about those rules, I looked into the ELW and found some prayers in the front of the hymnal that I combined, edited and added to for a prayer for the session which went like this:

O Holy One, bless the representatives of this state as they meet today and always.  May they do their work in a spirit of wisdom, charity and justice.  Help them use their authority to serve faithfully and to promote our common life.  Remind them, their power is a trust from you and not to be used for personal glory or profit, but to serve all people.  Drive from them cynicism, selfishness, and corruption; grant in your mercy that they work for a just and honest government; and give them grace to live together in unity and peace; that they may work in harmony for the benefit of all the people of our state.  We pray these things knowing you are ready to give even more than we ask. Amen

If you would like to watch me go to this link: www.youtube.com/MNHouseInfo.  Go to the second row and move to the right until you get a box that says 1,000 more, click it and then you can scroll down till you get to House Floor Session part 1 for May 7.

After having done this prayer and thinking about Paul’s advice to Timothy, I was thinking that we should be praying more often on Sunday morning for our leaders both on the state and federal level.  They can use all the guidance and wisdom from God that they can get.  They deal with many complex problems that don’t have easy answers.  It is good that they have debates so that all sides of an issue get explored.  Hopefully in all of the work that they do they are working for the benefit of the people instead of their own or their party’s best interest.  We should probably all be praying for our rulers as we go through our day so that we are able to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

There are lots of things going on in June.  We take on a different sort of schedule in the Summer here at church.  Notice some of the special things on Sundays: the first Sunday of the month we will be commissioning the Camp Onomia Counselors and having Sr. Recognition.  The Second Sunday, we are dedicating quilts and have a baptism.  The last Sunday we have practice for the youth that will be going on the canoe trip this summer.  Vacation Bible School is the third week of the month so sign up your children for that.

 

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 

May 2014

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of 

God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied him

self, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in 

human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even 

death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is 

above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and 

on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 

to the glory of God the Father. 

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more 

now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, 

enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so 

that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and per-verse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. Philippians 2:5-15

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A number of you have shared with me that the Lenten services helped you to find a peace and calm in 

your soul. Each week it was a renewing experience. I also felt this and began digging deeper into some of the 

things that Mr. Rogers shared with us. He thought the book by Bo Lozoff, Deep & Simple was one worthy to 

hand out to lots of people. Jane got the book for me and I started reading. In it I found a Litany of Humility, 

used by Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity.

I have begun using this prayer in my daily devotions. It is a really counter-cultural prayer that tries to 

move us into what the Apostle Paul encourages us to do in the book of Philippians. He shares that Jesus hum-bled himself and became obedient to the point of death. Paul encourages his congregation to be humble fol-lowing the example of Jesus. He says work out your salvation with fear and trembling. We might say live 

your faith in your life. Practice what you have learned at church. Do it without complaining or whining. 

When you do, you find that God continues to change you into the person God wanted you to be all along.

So I share the prayer with you that you may continue what we have begun in Lent:

Deliver me, O Jesus: from the desire of being loved, from the desire of being extolled, from the desire 

of being honored, from the desire of being praised, from the desire of being preferred, from the desire of being 

consulted, from the desire of being approved, from the desire of being popular, 

from the fear of being humiliated, from the fear of being despised, from the fear of being rebuked, from 

the fear of being calumniated, from the fear of being forgotten, from the fear of being wronged, from the fear 

of being ridiculed, from the fear of being suspected. 

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be es-teemed more than I, that, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may 

be chosen, and I set aside, that others may be praised, and I unnoticed, that others may be preferred to me in 

everything, that others may become holier than me, provided that I may become as holy as I should. Amen

It is not an easy thing to empty oneself so that God can fill us up. We have to go against our old sinful 

self that wants to be the center of the world and live a life that is only a part of God’s great creation. God 

gives us this new self through Jesus teachings, death and resurrection. We have to drown the old life each and 

every day we live. Prayers like the one above help us to do that.

As we live in this Easter Season let’s keep on working out the gift God gives to us of new life and sal-vation in our lives.

In Christ’s Love

Pastor Dean Oelfke

P.S. I will put a copy of the prayer on an 8 ½ by 5 ½ sheet for easier use on the narthex desk. 

  

April 2014

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is any thing worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned  and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

 Philippians 4:8-9


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During this Lenten Season one of the evening presentations had a visit with Susan Linn.  She talked about Mr. Rogers and his concern for the fast pace addictive nature of television.  He wanted people to slow down and think about God.  He said in a clip, “If we take time, we can often go much deeper, as far as our spiritual life is concerned than we can if there’s constant distraction.”

Susan Linn shared a number of statistics that were quite shocking about screen time and children.  Some of you asked me to share them with you in print so here they are.  19% of babies under the age of 1 have a television in their bedroom.  40% of 3 month olds are regular viewers of TV.  The more that babies engage with screen media the less time they spend in the two activities that we know are educational for them – interacting with their parents and in creative play.  We are raising a generation that are bored or anxious unless they are in front of a screen.

The worst part about screen time that is the advertising and marketing to children is causing a lot of the problems facing children today.  Susan Linn said, “The unprecedented convergence of commercialism with ubiquitous, miniaturized, and increasingly sophisticated screen media is just a disaster for children.  Some of the facts she shared in this regard were: in 1983 companies were spending $100 million on advertising to kids; in 2013 $17 billion was spent.  Every day the average child spends 7 hours of screen time.  By age 18 children have viewed 200,000 acts of televised violence and one million ads.  98% of food ads targeted to children are for products high in sugar, sodium and fat.  Obesity rates in children have quadrupled since 1980 in 6 – 11 year olds.  87% of Americans say that the current consumer culture makes it harder to instill values in their children.  If you would like to see more statistics or read more about this situation, Susan Linn is part of the coalition: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.  They are working to reclaiming Childhood from Corporate Marketers.  Their website is www.commercialfreechildhood.org.

What should we do about all of this?  When with our kids or grandkids we can turn off the screens and sound in our homes and do something together with just the sound from our activities and talk about the day.  Instead of watching TV or a movie, we could do something together, we could read a book or play a non-screen game together.

As adults we need to slow down ourselves.  We need to take time to explore the deeper levels of who we are and who we can become so the younger people around us see this as an important part of life.  We need to exercise our faith.  Like any other kind of exercise it is work.  It takes time and practice to build up muscles.  It takes the same to build up our faith.  The apostle Paul gives a whole list of things that we should think about.  Our lives will be more full if we seek things out that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and anything worthy of praise.  If we take time to do devotions at home or just read a Bible Story book, we can build up the faith in ourselves and the children around us.

That is why our Synod has focused for a while on the practices of discipleship.  We need to keep working on our faith or it becomes like an unused muscle and atrophies away.  The Discipleship Challenge is to love like Jesus.  This month we remember and celebrate the most important story of the Christian faith: Jesus suffering, death and resurrection.  We learn how much Jesus loves us and by that learn to love others.  There are lots of opportunities to take time out of the fast paced lives that we live to strengthen the faith, take advantage of them.  Take some time and look through the schedule of events in this newsletter and make plans to participate in them.  Jesus story gives us the hope that we need, to know that death to our old selves does not mean an end to us but allows us to live a new resurrected life in Christ.

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in Jesus, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Dean Oelfke


 March 2014

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit   eternal life?"

He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?"

He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus       replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of       robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.'  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?"

He said, "The one who showed him mercy."

Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  Luke 10: 25-37

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

America’s favorite neighbor Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian pastor.  He decided that he would not carry out his ministry in a congregation but instead work to have a good television show for children.  His spiritual life directed him in the work that he did for his television program.  Mr. Rogers always wanted children to have a safe place that they could talk about the scary things in life.  He also wanted people to know that you didn’t have to kill people because you disagreed with them.  He believed that one could strongly disagree with someone and talk about that to work out your differences.  One’s emotions could be worked through in a way that wouldn’t be destructive.  In a lot of ways, Mr. Rogers wanted to be the neighbor that helped the wounded person begin to heal and find shelter.  If  we all did that we would all live in wonderful neighborhoods.

Mr. Rogers’ spirituality was never blatantly shared on the television show.  Yet daily he would present the love and compassion of God with the children and adults that watched his program.  Mr. Rogers thought that life should be deep and simple instead of shallow and complex.  He said, “Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”  He got the deep and simple idea from Bo Lozoff who wrote a book titled Deep & Simple.  Mr. Rogers kept on handing out the book because he thought it was so good. 

Mr. Rogers thought too much of our modern living as shallow and complex.  He said, “The cause of all our personal problems and nearly all the problems of the planet can be summed up in a single sentence: Human life is very deep and our dominant modern lifestyle is not.”  There is so much to get through every day and so much new in the world that our lives can become very complex.  Everyone seems to be busier and busier.   So living deeply and simply would be a change from the regular routine and help us be who we were meant to be. Bo Lozoff writes in his book that it takes commitment, attention and persistence to live deep and simple.  Sometimes we can live deep but not simple, and brood over the mysteries of life being too serious, and heavy so that we are always struggling and confused.  We can also live simple but not deep.  We think that by our positive thoughts we can make a good and happy life but that leads to fear and denial.  The solution is not easy.  It is to work on living deep and simple.  Lozoff says we need to have spiritual practice, live simply and be dedicated to service.

For Lent this year instead of giving something up, lets take something on instead.  Lets dive into living more deeply and simply.  To help us understand what that means and to be able to practice it, for the Wednesday evening worship times I will share each week part of a PBS show about Mr. Rogers life.  I hope that it will help us to live more fully and completely the way God intended us to. 

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 


February 2014

If anyone is in Christ, that one is a new creation: everything old has 

passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who 

reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of 

reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, 

not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of 

reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making 

his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to 

God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him 

we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A king gives his son in marriage to a prostitute. She is changed because of it. She is 

cleaned up, put in glorious robes and becomes royalty. It transforms who she is. The transformation takes place when she hears the voice of the king’s son who tells her, “You are my be-loved and I am yours.” Because she believes it she no longer has to go back to her old life. 

She is free from her old life and is able to live a new life with her beloved. All because of the 

promise the son makes. She also gets all the wealth of the king’s son. In turn, it is her job to 

help everyone in the kingdom. She is to distribute the wealth of the king for the benefit of the 

kingdom.

This parable is trying to give us an idea about how God looks at us. God is the king who 

sent God the Son into the world for us. He came to free us from our sins and change and trans-form us. When we believe Jesus words to us that we are his beloved and his is ours we are 

freed from our old lives. We are able to live as royalty. We are charged with bringing what 

God gives us to the world: forgiveness, grace, acceptance, peace, joy, love, etc…

The prostitute may have a difficult time trusting the son and believing. She may have a 

difficult time to get through some of the places that she went before her new life started. She 

may have people that would entice her back to her old life. We may have those same problems 

as people of God. We may fall back into our old selfish way of living. We will fall short of 

what we would like to accomplish as people of God. If we look at ourselves and our works we 

will always fall short. If we look to Jesus and what he has done for us and in us; we will al-ways find God in love with us.

In this month of the heart, we can remember who loves us. God first and foremost loves 

us with an everlasting love. There is nothing you can do to disqualify yourself from that love. 

You are a changed person because of it. All the other loves that we have are only small repli-cas of this greater love and yet each of them help us to understand this greater love. So cele-brate your love. Help the love you have received from God go out into the world both in this 

month and every month.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Dean Oelfke 



January 2014

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was  valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:1-4

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

I start off my newsletter with a quote from chapter 10 of Orson Scott Card’s book, Speaker for the Dead.  In a Roman Catholic community an outsider who seems to be from a different faith tradition, comes to speak a eulogy for one of its members.  He begins to ask questions about the man’s life of people in the community Dr. Navio is the first.  After the visit from the Speaker for the Dead, Navio comes to the local Bishop and complains to him.  Here is part of the conversation:

Navio almost at once launched into an account of his painful meeting with the Speaker for the Dead, complete with elaborate explanations of what the Speaker had threatened to do if noncooperation continued.  “An inquisitor, if you can imagine that!  An infidel daring to supplant the authority of Mother Church!”  Oh, how that lay member gets the crusading spirit when Mother Church is threatened – but ask him to go to mass once a week, and the crusading spirit curls up and goes to sleep.

Here in the New Year after all the Christmas activities are over it is easy to have our spirit curl up and go to sleep.  We are tired of all the extra work and activities that come with the season and sometimes feel like we need a break.  It is nothing new.  Even in the book of Hebrews the writer warns that we should not drift away from the message of Jesus.  He warns his readers that they need to pay greater attention to his message so they don’t lose the great gift they have been given.

We don’t have anyone threatening our faith and so it is easy to become apathetic and lazy about our faith.  We expect that the church will be there for us when we need it so we think we can go away for a while and nothing bad will happen.  The church however is diminished by anyone not being around.  One never knows when a Sunday sermon is what God especially wants to say to us.  The longer one stays away the harder it is to feel a part of what is going on.  The writer to the Hebrews even says that if one drifts too far one may lose the salvation that Jesus came into the world to win for us.

So don’t let that Christmas Spirit grow cold in the cold month of January.  Don’t let the fire of your faith slowly die. Rekindle the gift that God gave you in the incarnation by your continued presence in God’s community. Keep the faith burning bright by your participation in what is going on in your faith community. 

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Dean Oelfke

 

P.S. Thank you to all who wished us a blessed Christmas, sent cards or gifts. Jane and I appreciate your generosity and you remembering us in this holiday season.