Epistle #8: Friday Updates – 4 Things to Know & Tell

1) THANK YOU FOR YOUR SHINING LIGHT
Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase “ Rising to the occasion”? Oh my goodness, but St. Paul-lites (St Paul-lights!) are special people! This unique time in our history is precisely when we as Christians can really shine.  As beacons bringing others to faith, we can share the love of Jesus through service and caring and giving.  And we can creatively bring a non-anxious Christ-like presence into this troubled world.

It has warmed my heart to see new and renewed ministry spring up among St. Paul members these days. You and your fellow brothers and sisters have stepped up to: launch a reach out/caring ministry among us; I have been privileged to witness a number of specific acts of focused financial generosity; it makes me smile to observe your call committee that continues to meet electronically for the sake of maintaining momentum even while surrounded by a “suspended” world;  a vital prayer chain ministry continues daily, along with additional prayer initiatives among us these days; intentional sharing of our own church family sisters and brothers stepping up to share EPISTLES TO ST PAUL bringing hope, encouragement, reflection, and inspiration relative to important things of God.

Thank you all! And keep up the great “Christ- follower” work that the Holy Spirit empowers each of you to carry out on a daily basis!

2) CALLING ALL MEMBERS!

I want you to know that I am slowly but surely working my way through the St. Paul membership directory, making pastoral calls to the households of our congregation.  (If you are not certain that we have your current contact information, please let us know!)

If you want to “beat me to the punch” please don’t hesitate to give me a call first! I will welcome this, particularly if there are any special needs that you might have or if it will simply be more convenient for you to establish a scheduled time for us to chat.

515-462-4270

During these touch-base phone calls, I will wish to learn how you are doing, and if there is anything that I/we here at Saint Paul can do to be supportive. I will inquire as to your health and well-being, as we wish to provide specific support in the case that your livelihood or physical, emotional or spiritual health is being impacted these days. I will ask if you have any specific prayer requests in order that those in our congregation who are committed to the ministry of intercessory prayer can assist. Prayer works.

I will also verify that our contact information for you is updated, in order that our records are current during this important time of striving to stay connected.  In addition, I will ask if I may offer a prayer over the phone with you- for you, your family, our Saint Paul church family, and our world.

It has been so very gratifying for me to be able to have the privilege of sharing in these conversations with you. Thank you to those of you with whom I have had the privilege of visiting with in this fashion! Not only for sharing from your hearts, but also for providing great strength and encouragement for me and for our entire church family through these conversations of connectivity. Bless you!

3) YOUR HELP IS NEEDED
Regarding our church family finances:

  1. A) THANK YOU! Many of you have been able to automate your financial giving in support of the church, or have gone to the necessary step of mailing, or hand delivering your regular gift of support to our wall box at the church. Bless you.
  2. B) As you are aware, these coming weeks and months will be particularly critical for us as a church family to have awareness of our current status, as well as to implement strategic and compassionate response to the personal situations of all of our membership.  We are in this together. And this is why it will be so good for us to receive a ST PAUL FINANCIAL UPDATE that will be coming to you via this EPISTLE Communication medium next week from our congregation’s president, Dan Nielsen.  In addition to a “ State of the church“ finance status review, Dan will be sharing with us key steps and requests for consideration during this critical time.

As we all know, we are all committed to the viability and sustainability of the ministry of this congregation.  As such, I know that we are also very grateful for the leadership provided during these days.  Please stay tuned!

4) PUBLIC GATHERINGS ON HOLD FOR GOOD REASON
As you would expect, at this time we plan to continue our suspension of worship and all of our program activities for the indefinite future. The absolute most important thing that we can do to slow the spread of this disease and thereby give those affected the best chance of receiving care, is to avoid gathering in groups, and to practice all of the important safety and separation protocols which the experts are advising.

So, while we are not likely to come together at Easter, (save for a miraculous turn around of the virus! And after all, we do believe in miracles, do we not? 🙂 , the resurrection power and message of Easter has never been more important for us all. A deadly virus doesn’t hold a candle to the glory of the conquering power of God‘s love for you and for me and for all the people of this world.
I am so glad that we are in this together, you, and me, and the Lord God Almighty!

Peace to each of you, in Jesus-
Brian Mortenson, Interim Pastor

 

Epistle # 7 – Good Infection??

In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis reminds us that: “Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection.”

Hmmm……

Lewis goes on to describe a type of common sense basis for this concept, though perhaps we don’t often think of it this way.  If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. Lewis says “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.“ And that “thing” that has them of course, is God. Lewis reflects on the notion that once one is united to God, “…how could they not live forever? But if one is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?”

So my question to you is this: Even while social distancing, washing, sterilizing and following protocol, are you nevertheless engaging in the pursuit of some very critical infectious behaviors these days? Because you should be! (I know, it’s kind of like when I first learned that there was such a thing as “good cholesterol”.  Initially, that seemed counter-intuitive.)

Here’s what I ask that you do today or this weekend: engage in contagious “faith-talk” with someone who has great conviction and enthusiasm for God‘s love for people. Do this over the phone perhaps, or, if in person, from more than six feet away to be sure! Either way, allow for the mist of the Holy Spirit of the living Christ to envelop you, and then breathe it in deeply!

And get on your knees sometime today. (Unless your orthopedic physician advises a more agreeable posturing, which is just fine!) Close your eyes, humble your heart and talk with God. Begin by saying: “Lord Jesus, please embrace me.  Fill me with the infectious joy and peace and courage which is of a strain that can only come from You!” Repeat as necessary… And then pray praises to God. Praise Him for His love and and for His deep care for you and your family and all people of the world. Praise Him for His forgiveness and salvation. Praise Him for His intimate (way closer than six feet!) companionship with you right this very moment. Praise Him for being with all who call upon His name during whatever dark or troubled or challenging times this world might bring.

And finally, think about what it is that rests most heavily upon your heart.  Name those things. Name them, one need or one burden at a time. Surrender yourself. Release the natural tendency to hold up that wall of immunity through your own sense of human pride or self-protection and become humble in the sight of the Lord. And trust each one of these things to God’s care and grace. And then, I invite you to enjoy and experience the “lightheadedness”, in a blissful and joy-filled type of way, and also the feverish warmth of God’s Spirit emanating, burning in your heart with the love that comes from the creator of love itself.

It is true; there is no question that the wildly contagious and potential deadliness of the corona virus has brought the world to its knees.  While we are there, let’s be intentional about seeing God’s love and God’s glory and saving grace in our midst.  Hang on tight, and know that God is God.

Pastor Brian Mortenson

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867

 

 

Epistle #7 – Good Infection?

In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis reminds us that: “Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection.”

Hmmm……

Lewis goes on to describe a type of common sense basis for this concept, though perhaps we don’t often think of it this way.  If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. Lewis says “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.“ And that “thing” that has them of course, is God. Lewis reflects on the notion that once one is united to God, “…how could they not live forever? But if one is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?”

So my question to you is this: Even while social distancing, washing, sterilizing and following protocol, are you nevertheless engaging in the pursuit of some very critical infectious behaviors these days? Because you should be! (I know, it’s kind of like when I first learned that there was such a thing as “good cholesterol”.  Initially, that seemed counter-intuitive.)

Here’s what I ask that you do today or this weekend: engage in contagious “faith-talk” with someone who has great conviction and enthusiasm for God‘s love for people. Do this over the phone perhaps, or, if in person, from more than six feet away to be sure! Either way, allow for the mist of the Holy Spirit of the living Christ to envelop you, and then breathe it in deeply!

And get on your knees sometime today. (Unless your orthopedic physician advises a more agreeable posturing, which is just fine!) Close your eyes, humble your heart and talk with God. Begin by saying: “Lord Jesus, please embrace me.  Fill me with the infectious joy and peace and courage which is of a strain that can only come from You!” Repeat as necessary… And then pray praises to God. Praise Him for His love and and for His deep care for you and your family and all people of the world. Praise Him for His forgiveness and salvation. Praise Him for His intimate (way closer than six feet!) companionship with you right this very moment. Praise Him for being with all who call upon His name during whatever dark or troubled or challenging times this world might bring.

And finally, think about what it is that rests most heavily upon your heart.  Name those things. Name them, one need or one burden at a time. Surrender yourself. Release the natural tendency to hold up that wall of immunity through your own sense of human pride or self-protection and become humble in the sight of the Lord. And trust each one of these things to God’s care and grace. And then, I invite you to enjoy and experience the “lightheadedness”, in a blissful and joy-filled type of way, and also the feverish warmth of God’s Spirit emanating, burning in your heart with the love that comes from the creator of love itself.

It is true; there is no question that the wildly contagious and potential deadliness of the corona virus has brought the world to its knees.  While we are there, let’s be intentional about seeing God’s love and God’s glory and saving grace in our midst.  Hang on tight, and know that God is God.

Pastor Brian Mortenson

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867

 

 

Epistle #6 – Update & Encouragement from our Call Committee Chair

I know that the entire St. Paul congregation is so grateful to Ann Bartelt and the entire Call Committee, who has done such outstanding work in their role, even as their path in this process has taken a surprising and unexpected detour. Please read her excellent message following, and keep all of the Call Committee members in your prayers.  Committee members are Ann Bartelt, Clarice Blanchard, Don Darling, Alan Feirer, Lonna Nielsen, Jerry Swanson and Lisa Vossekuil.

Pastor Brian Mortenson

 

Call Committee Update
The Call Committee has completed the first round of interviews with multiple candidates. We have been extremely pleased with the “match” the staff of the Southeastern Iowa Synod identified between our congregation and the candidates. Throughout the interview process, we have been focusing on the Charge from the Council that identifies the Expectations and Skills of our Pastor. Specifically, we are looking for someone who 1) Is a leader, 2) is a strong preacher, and 3) embodies a high level of energy. We have found the candidates to be strong in their faith, devoted to the ministry, enthusiastic in serving, and genuine in their relationships.

We are ready to enter the second phase of the call process, in which we will invite candidates to Winterset. Unfortunately, we must pause the process not only to protect the candidates and ourselves from unnecessary social contact but also to respect the attention they must give at this critical time to their congregants, their community, and their families. The Call Committee and the candidates eagerly await the next phase, trusting in God that the right time will come.


Dear St. Paul Congregants,
This is an unprecedented time, and I’m sure you are seeking assurances, just as I am, that all will be OK. In my education career, I remember too well Columbine and 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina and the tragic deaths of local students. I remember how much emotional turmoil we felt, how we reached out to our counselors and school trauma team. I remember the presence of our pastors and our extended church family and how important it was to provide and receive emotional support.

This time seems different; we’re in both a health and an economic crisis. The uncertainty brings about so much worry. When will this COVID-19 virus pass? When can I get back to what is “normal” for me and my family? How will we care for our children who are out of school? Their parents who are out of work? When can I again give a hug during sharing of the peace at my beloved St. Paul? There’s a pithy saying, “All will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”  And we ask, where are the assurances that “all will be fine in the end”?

Assurances
For these assurances, we must turn to our faith and know in this time of Lent, that we have the promise of God’s greatest love. St. Paul, speaking to the Corinthians assures us, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

And we turn to the familiar Psalm 121, taking in the words with each breath, deepening our prayer to rest assured in God’s presence:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Psalm 121:1-3

Rest in God’s hands – commend it to God – God will provide
These three phrases of assurance are important messages the Call Committee has heard from our pastoral candidates. One shared Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34, a clear message that God will provide for us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Finally, I want to say We shall hold fast; We shall hold strong; We will hold on. We are a blessed people. May God’s love surround you; may His arms protect you, may His grace bring you comfort.

Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.
For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
Psalm 40:11-2

In God’s peace,
Ann Bartelt

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867

 

 

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