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August 16

“I, the Lord, am the vineyard’s keeper; every moment I water it.  I guard it night and day so that no one can harm it.”  Isaiah 27:3

“God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription:  ‘The Lord knows those who are his.’”  2 Timothy 2:19

Recently driving across the midsection of the United States, we passed vast fields of wheat in harvest time, and corn and beans watered by massive irrigation systems.  There is news about severe water shortages elsewhere.  Some areas are using all or much of their available water, digging ever deeper wells, syphoning groundwater, drying up aquifers.    We need water to grow life-giving food, to sustain our bodies, life itself.

Some grow vegetables to eat fresh, or freeze.  Others/I grow flowers … not to eat or freeze, but to simply enjoy color.  I sense a feeling of well-being and blessings visiting Farmers’ Markets and seeing community gardens, front-yard shrubbery and door-step pots.  Whatever we plant in our little corners of the world, we nurture … weed and water, fend off deer and rabbits, protect our effort (and investment) … be it food or “art”.

Scripture depicts many comforting images of God’s loving care for us – a shepherd carrying a lamb on his shoulders; a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing; concern for a sparrow falling to the ground; praising the splendor of wildflowers in the fields; the Steward lovingly caring for the vineyard, protecting, watering, providing means for growth and sustenance.  The same Gardener who watered us in our Baptism, planted the seed of faith, continually pours out on us life-giving water.  We will feel drained, our fruit past prime, our limbs bare to the elements, our spirits thirsty; but our Gardener still walks the path beside us, tends to us, provides caretakers, dousing our withered spirits with words of comfort and peace, and life. 

“Mercy-drops round us are falling ….. Showers of blessing:  this is the promise of love. 

There shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above ….” Amen                           (Daniel Whittle)

Verla Olson



August 14

I want you to fear and respect me. Zephaniah 3:7

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Matthew 4:17

Fear of the Lord – now that sounds like we might have a very scary God. One who is waiting with a lightning bolt in hand to zap us if we stray from the right path. Luckily for us that is not what is meant by God as Zephaniah writes. The word that comes after fear is “respect.”  Our Fear of the Lord is a combination of awe and respect for God’s power and love for us.  Proverbs has many helpful verses that talk about the fear of the Lord” “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (9:7)” He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” (14:26). Or, “to fear the Lord is to hate evil. (8:13) We also have the phrase referring to a “God-fearing man or woman.” These are not people that tremble in fear, but rather those that live paying attention to God’s commandments. 

Zephaniah addressed those in Jerusalem – especially mentioning the officials, rulers, priests and prophets. They have not been conducting themselves as they should and as the responsibilities of their office demands. For the first verses of Zephaniah chapter 3 they h ear all about this. Then what does God want from them? Is it over and they will just be cut off? Well, no, they do get yet another chance. God asks for their fear and respect. Or in another translation “Surely you will fear me and accept correction!” Then the city will not be cut off, and God will withhold punishments. This fear leads to knowledge of the commandments, of what the people should be doing. In response they should accept correction and try to follow the law. Of course, no one can follow the law properly, not even for a short period of time.

Although it seems they continue right on being disobedient, God is still there waiting for them to pay attention. Later in chapter 3, verse 17 Zephaniah says “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you.” And He does! As we read in Matthew at the beginning of Jesus ministry we read that we are to repent. Why? Because, the kingdom of heaven has come near and is freely available to all through Jesus Christ. We just need to repent from our disobedience and try to do better with God’s help. This can be repeated – as we again sin, ask for and receive forgiveness.  God is patient with us, loves us, and wants everyone to know the great Good News about salvation through His Son.

Forgiving God, thank you for sending your only Son to save e us from what we truly deserve. Remind us each day that our salvation is a gift and nothing of my own doing. Break our hearts with your grace and aid us in surrendering our desire to be independent of you. Take us onward as we serve You and remind us that all we do is for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Chris Gabel



August 7

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2

God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are. I Corinthians 1:28

Small, little, insignificant – not things that most people want to have used to describe them. Sometimes we feel very small and insignificant. We see things going on around us in our world and despair of being able to do anything about them; after all, we are not important or “big” enough to be noticed or to make a difference.  God however does not see things as we do.  People of importance can come from a small town as well as a bigger or very large city. They can come from poor backgrounds as well as wealthier ones. 

The example we see in Micah is the town of Bethlehem, the one we sing about at Christmas time as “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  This carol was written by Phillip Brooks in 1867, two years after he had ridden from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve to assist in a service at the church of the Nativity. He wrote it for his Sunday school to share the experience with them. It is only 6 miles from the greater city of Jerusalem, but it is the place chosen for the birth of Jesus.

Paul in I Corinthians also talks about how God choses the small, the low, the despised by the world as His people. Jesus associated with people that the “proper” and religious Jews of His day would not be with. He ate dinner with sinners, he actually spoke to women, and He talked to and healed lepers.  Jesus sets an example for us to be with all the people He created.  Plus we know that these “low and despised” people listened to the Gospel and spread it on to others.  No one is too low or small or insignificant in God’s eyes. We can do a lot no matter how small we sometimes feel. 

Thank you, God, for the potential of little things. Your blessings come to us, both the small and the great, to be experienced by all. Journey with us as we seek to right our wrongsForgive us when we limit ourselves by questioning whether we are able to accomplish the ministry opportunities you place before us. Use us to share your gospel today. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Chris Gabel



July 30

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

To the thirsty I will give the water of life. Revelation 21:6

In the verse from Psalms, David proclaims his confidence in the Lord and further, says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” The verse from Revelation promises the water of life to all who believe. These are gifts that bring us back to the Lord no matter how we indulge our doubts and fears. Sometimes it seems as though nothing helps, yet in our heart of hearts we know that God is listening and is waiting for us to return to his welcoming fold.

This month the sermons at Christ the King have focused on Creation. As we listened, learned, and contemplated all that is created by God, I was again reminded that our God is a mighty God. What he planned and created as our home and universe is beyond anything we can imagine. He also left his creation in our care.

This is an immense challenge. What does God think of the care we give to his creation? I do not have the answer, but I do know that he has gifted us with ingenuity and energy to work unceasingly to believe in his promise and to always work for good. God’s plan is to give each of us a path of life. We are blessed to live in his creation and to follow this path. We know that as we live such a life we are assured the gift of eternal life. 

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

You give us your creation in which to live and breathe. Let us always thirst after your promise of eternal life. You give us the water of life, a priceless gift. Help us to turn from the things of this world and to always follow your path for our lives. Amen.

Florence Smallfield     



July 29

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Human beings seem to feel a need to be “doing” but I believe there is much to be seen, learned, appreciated, in doing … “nothing”.  From my repertoire of favorite quotes:  “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”  (John Lubbock)  Sometime ago an ELCA publication “Living Simply with God” recommended we go outside, and for fifteen minutes look at the smallest and largest evidence of God’s created beauty.

We love day hiking.  Pack a lunch, find a trail, and spend the day outside.  There are small wildflowers and air ferns on the forest floor; insects; perhaps raindrops and yes, in June in the mountains – snowflakes!  We walk amongst lofty trees; see the grandeur from a mountain summit – small human beings, engulfed by largeness.

We have enjoyed reliving, and once again marveling, at the vision, innovation, and courage that led human beings to the moon.  The photographs of Earth from space and the reactions of the astronauts are humbling, and yet massive – our small planet within the expanse of the universe.  Neil Armstrong said “… I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth.  I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” Michael Collins said “… that little thing is so fragile out there.” and of course, the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis on Christmas Eve, 1968.  God’s Earth, and it is very good, is indeed fragile – Handle with Care.

May we never take for granted the beauty and marvels that are all around us.  May your Spirit help us love and take care of, preserve and share all that you have made, in our own back yards, our communities, our nation, the earth.  Amen

Verla Olson



July 22

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

We want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.  Hebrews 6:11

“Steadfast”, “diligence”, words which suggest to me strength, responsibility, faithfulness persistence, tenaciousness.  Words which describe characteristics found in many Christians.  In fact, characteristics which are helpful as we weather the storms of life and cling to our assurances of hope.  Oh, and trust, perhaps the most important characteristic of all.

In worship on Sunday, we became immersed both mentally and emotionally in stormy weather.  Pastor Rory, aided by visuals, talked of storms which threaten our safety.

On a blank canvas there soon appeared black clouds, raindrops, lightning, and other reminders of blustery, squally weather.  But in the midst of these dark images, there also appeared a cross and a sun spreading its rays on this small world.

We Minnesotans are used to thunderstorms, driving rain, hailstones,even tornados.  Buy we also know that eventually, the sun will come out again.  So it is with the stormy times in our inner lives.  We can call on our God who will sustain us, encourage us, comfort us and make our lives sunny again. No one says it”s easy.

Our Lord who suffered mightily for us knows that.  Thus He is able to help us if we ask and trust in his immortal goodness.

Faithful God, we falter and stumble under heavy loads sometimes. Like the earth, we dry up and need the wetness of the rain and the warmth of the sun to make us healthy and whole again.  Thank you for giving us hope, help us always to trust in your promises.  Amen

Joan Perlich



July 19

I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. Psalm 119:109

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:6

Further reading of Psalm 119 reveals and gives examples of the glories of God’s law and the good that comes from following God’s law. When we live our lives as God would have us to live we hold a gift that lets us open our hands and hearts to all. All of us will fall short, because we are human and experience trying times; however, we are instantly forgiven the moment we turn to God for forgiveness. He comes to us through the Holy Spirit and is waiting with open arms to take us to him in love, no matter how far we have strayed.

The words written by Isaac Watts for the hymn say it well.   
 

Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways

To keep his statues still!

Oh, that my God would grant me grace

To know and do his will!
 

Order my footsteps by your Word

And make my heart sincere;

Let sin have no dominion, Lord, 

But keep my conscience clear.

 

Assist my soul too apt to stray,

A stricter watch to keep;

And should I e’er forget your way,

Restore your wand’ring sheep.

 

Make me to walk in your commands, 

‘Tis a delightful road;

Nor let my head or heart or hands

Offend against my God.

 

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the example for living that you have given to each of us. Guide our ways; order our footsteps; restore our ways when we wander; lead us to walk in your commands. In your name we live and pray. Amen.

Florence Smallfield



July 17

he Lord our God is righteous in everything he does. Daniel 9:14 NIV

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 

There is a long prayer to read in Daniel, most of which is a confession that the people have been wicked and disobedient. In the middle he twice says that God is righteous, and also merciful and forgiving even though all of Israel has sinned and turned away from their God. God is so righteous that He cannot have these disobedient people go unpunished, and that is why they are in exile. Daniel then ends his prayer by appealing to God’s mercy for all these people who are certainly not righteous. He is actually asking for God’s mercy in order to save the people who bear the Name of the Lord. It sounds as though Daniel is appealing to God and reminding Him that these are His chosen people, even though they sure don’t behave like they are. These are the people to whom God made promises.

God had promised to always be with His people. And, God keeps His promises. Another translation of James 1:17 says that God “does not change like shifting shadows.” What He has promised is what He will do. He created the heavenly lights, and we see that even they do some changing. We people manage to change all the time. At one moment we are aware of our sins, and confessing and vowing to do better, and the next we are back acting as usual. God is unchanging; He is always righteous, and merciful and loving of us, His creation. He gives us good things and, of course, the greatest gift of all, His Son, our savior.

We have a God that loves us and has always loved us. Much of chapter one of James is about temptation leading to sin, about being tested and sins leading to death. It begins to sound like we have to do a lot of the work in saving ourselves; we have to avoid the temptation and pass all the tests. That probably won’t work out so well. However, with grace from our unchanging loving God, we can be secure in our salvation.

Almighty God, we thank you for the gifts you have given us. Present us with opportunities to use these gifts to grow your kingdom. We thank you for the perfect gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. May His light shine so bright and clear that even the shadows point to His kingdom. Amen.

Chris Gabel



July 16

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore. Psalm, 125:2

God will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

There are two kinds of people when it comes to comfort, those who need it and those who give it.

Maybe you could use some comfort from God or from other people. Life is tough, jobs are lost, homes are lost, and people are cruel to each other.  Then there are those who need to provide comfort. You know, the whole people need people thing.

The apostle Paul was a hand holder, and he was an encourager, and he encouraged other people to in turn to help and comfort each other. And this is very important because we become hardened, we can become cynical, and we can forget that people need people. We have to be reminded that God wants us to have soft hearts, not hard hearts.

“God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun with out rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.”

Lord God, what a comfort to hear that you surround me in such a marvelous fashion! Forgive me for not always seeing that you are doing this for me. Open my eyes to see where you are present and working in my life so that I can encourage someone else in their walk with you. Amen

Peace,

Susan Hanson



July 15

“The Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.”  Deuteronomy 13:3

“We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Romans 5:3-4

History knows lots of “characters” … people who have suffered much – one thing after another, living a downward spiral; but who manage to open their eyes each morning, put one foot in front of the other, and somehow endure another day.  Frankly, I have no idea how I might respond to such persistent adversity, not until I am faced with the same awful situation.  I see myself crying for help, for mercy.  Like Tevye (“Fiddler on the Roof”), I too might question God:  “Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were” …..… less tested?  I want solutions.  I want (“right”) answers (now).  I want to pass the test ….. and the test to pass.

We try to go it alone, muddle along, look to on our own strength to fight our way through and persevere – “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”.  Not me; I want/need some help.  My hope and trust are based on the grace and presence of God.  And I humbly acknowledge it is not my own “character” but that of others – their support, encouragement and comfort, that lifts me up and passes along some answers.

Modern-day trials of Job … the fear of unfamiliar surroundings and non-acceptance, the loneliness of loss and grief, the consequences of a bad decision, fear of oppression and violence have no quick solution and can be lifelong.  We can offer compassion and hope to others in their suffering, bend down and help them pull on those boots; just as others, through God’s grace, have done for us.

“Blessed be the Lord, my Rock … my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge …” (Psalm 144:1-2).  Stay with me in the dark times.  Thank you for the “angels” you send, who share your message of comfort and peace, and lift me up.  Amen

Verla Olson