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January 17

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me.'” Exodus 10:3

“See I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Reading this verse from Exodus made me think of how pervasive slavery has been throughout the history of humankind. The Bible itself lists rules in Exodus for slavery – how many years a slave can be held, when to free him, and what to do if he marries. Even today, in our “enlightened” times people are held as slaves due to human trafficking, the forced marriage of children to adults, debt bondage, and forced labor. We are naturally horrified to think of the word slave or slavery, but we forget so easily our own slavery: sin. 

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’” – John 8:34

As we confess to God every Sunday morning (or Saturday evening) in church, We confess that we are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

And this is the good news – “If you confess our sins, God is faithful and just, forgives our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Good and gracious God, we thank you for your forgiveness. We who are of the world and love this world and focus on our desires rather than serving your kingdom, do not deserve your lovingkindness, but you constantly reach out to us with your love and forgiveness. Help us to remember your love every day and carry it out into the world to share it with others who need it so much.

Heal our hurting and broken world, Lord, and help us in our search to find the path you have laid out for us. We know our strength to do good in the world comes from you. Amen.

Peace,

Lynda Tysdal



January 16

“The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.”  Psalm 119:64

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” 
2 Timothy 3:16

Some learn easily by reading while others need to be told.  Some can figure things out by themselves, hands-on, trial and error.  There are “do it yourself” (DIY) manuals – “for dummies” even.  We learn from history and stories; from our senses and awareness of events happening around us; from observing others – (with heartfelt thanks) family, teachers, elders and friends. 

All Robert Fulghum [needed to know he learned kindergarten].  It’s a good list to live by:  take good care of your space, treat others fairly, hold hands – support each other, look.  There is another such list – not suggestions but Commandments, as the saying goes.  We should honor and show our love for God.  And we shouldn’t disrespect our elders, kill, steal, gossip, or crave what belongs to others.  Growing up I was required to memorize many Bible verses, and Luther’s Small Catechism including the Ten Commandments.  Book smarts help pass a Confirmation exam but what have I truly learned if I don’t live out the words stored in my brain?  What am I teaching others when I behave badly and mistreat others?  Though expected to obey God’s Commandments, we aren’t left on our own to figure things out.  God sent Jesus to live among us, full of grace and truth.  Jesus used stories to explain his message of loving our neighbors, and the dangers of storing up wealth and possessions.  Some of Jesus’ last words to his friends were a “new” commandment to “Love one another.”  Then he died and redeemed us, from all our failures.

Dear God, Thank you for your grace and mercy, for Jesus’ message of peace and compassion.  We ask for your help to follow your commands to love you with all our hearts, souls and minds; and our neighbors as ourselves.  Amen

Verla Olson



January 15

The Lord said to Gideon, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. Judges 6:23-24 

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

From a commentary on Gideon – “he was a simple husbandman up in the hills, engaged furtively in threshing out a little wheat in some hollow in the rock where he might hide it from the keen eyes of the oppressors. Then the angel of the Lord, unrecognized at first, appeared to him; and gradually there dawned upon his mind the suspicion of who He was who spoke.” Like many others in Bible stories, Gideon really doesn’t think he can do anything, especially since it seems he is supposed to save Israel. He tells the Lord that he is from the weakest clan and he is among the weakest of them. God tell shim that doesn’t matter, because it is the Lord that will be doing the saving. Together they will strike down the Midianites.  Gideon asks for a sign (actually several signs as the story tells) and gets one, including a visit from an angel. Now he is really scared, he has seen an angel face to face and surely this can’t be good.

Then the Lord tells him, to not fear, that he will not die. And, he is told, “peace be with you.” Finally he is ready to do God’s bidding. He builds an altar as a memorial to these events, and calls it the Lord is Peace. Rather ironic considering what is coming. Gideon goes that night to destroy the worship of Baal among his own people, and to gather some of them to confront and conquer the Midianites. Again from the commentary:  “But Gideon’s altar not only expressed his purpose in his taking up arms, but his confidence of accomplishing it, based upon the assurance that the Lord would give peace. It was a trophy erected before the fight, and built, not by arrogant presumption or frivolous underestimate of the enemy’s strength, but by humble reliance on the power of that Lord who had promised His presence, and had assured triumph.” The fear of the Lord is replaced by the Peace of the Lord.

In Hebrews too we are assured that we have someone who is with us in times of need, one who can be approached because He came to earth to live among us and experience the things that we all experience. We do not need to fear a judgmental angry God, or fear death if we get too close. God sent Jesus to be close to us, to be among us and to bring us all an everlasting peace.  

Prince of Peace, in these tumultuous times, we need your presence more than ever. Our angry thoughts are often at war with thoughts of good will. We ask boldly for your peace to rule our minds. Help us extend peace to others, so together we m ay infuse the world with reconciling love. Let there be peace, and let it begin with me. Amen 

Chris Gabel



January 8

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22 

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 

Psalm 33 is a song of praise, referred to sometimes as a “liturgy of praise.” It is structured somewhat like a liturgy in which the choir and the people have alternating portions to speak. It starts out with a call to praise in the first three verses, perhaps spoken by the choir leader, then middle verses for the choir and ends with a three verse response from the people. Our verse for today is the last in the Psalm and is a petition to the Lord, to remain with them as He has promised as their hope remains in Him. 

This Psalm is not attributed to David like many others are, but may actually be in response to events at a later time where God has again delivered the people from harm. Some suggest it actually was written during the time of the Maccabees. Whoever wrote it, and for whatever occasion, it is a good model of how to pray to God. Start out with thankfulness and praise. Continue with what we know God has done for us, and end with our hope in His promise to save all of us, his children. The Psalm is used this way in some Jewish traditions, it is read at the beginning of the day as it is good to start with praise and thankfulness, then later in the day add the petitions and needs. 

The writer of Hebrews reinforces this   we too can have hope in God’s promises because He is faithful.  No matter our doubts along the way, on those days when everything seems overwhelming, we can still have that hope that our faith instills in us. We are to have hope without wavering. God is steadfast and continuously faithful to us. We can, with the help of the Holy Spirit and prayers, keep our hope without wavering. 

Thank you, God, for your continued faithfulness toward us. We rejoice in your promises. Yet, at the same time we are filled with fears and doubts. Rescue us and transform our fears into trust. Help us to hold on, be strong, love faith and walk with Christ. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Chris Gabel



January 7

The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he made. Psalm 145:9

Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

In the world around us, people are loved on the basis of their performance. Athletes, actors, musicians, we love them for what they provide for us, their performance. When someone pleases us, when someone stimulates us, we appreciate what they do and use the term “love” to describe our response.

But God’s love is not based on our performance! God’s love, instead, is unconditional.

When Christ died for us, was he responding to something good in our performance? No, Christ died for ordinary folks like us, not for people who look like they have it all together.

So why did God love us? We are not lovable people. But despite our problems it was God’s pleasure; it was God’s will to us to be adopted as his sons and daughters. God’s love has nothing to do with our goodness; God’s love has nothing to do with our performance. God’s love is unconditional. 

Now I don’t know about you, but to me this truth is tremendously freeing. I don’t have to look over my shoulder all the time, wondering if God is going to abandon me because I blew it. I don’t have to worry that God might change his mind about me because of my poor performance. God already knows the worst about me — and he chose to love me! God’s love is unconditional — delight in that statement. How cool is that?

Compassionate Father, thank you for being the foundation of my life and faith. Your love has affirmed and sustained me each day of my life. I rejoice in knowing that it is your that has allowed me to love others. Help me to share your goodness with others today by affirming and encouraging them. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!



January 3

“The Lord will send his angel with you and make your way successful.”  Genesis 24:40

“Jesus says, ‘Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.’”  Luke 10:3

There is a story told by Mother Teresa.  A group of professors from the United States were visiting her in Calcutta.  They asked what they could do in their daily lives to make them better people.  She told them to smile at people.  She added that we are too busy to even look at each other, so LOOK and each other and SMILE.  One then asked her if she had ever been married.  She answered yes, and that sometimes it is hard to smile at Jesus because he, too, can be very demanding. 

A close, high school friend once told me that she was frightened as a young girl to hear stories about missionaries at her church.  She felt preaching in foreign lands, living far away from family, facing hardship and danger, lay ahead for all Christians, and therefore, herself.  Some pastors were asked to start new churches in difficult neighborhoods. 

Jesus himself received the ultimate “call” and went – came, to us – like a lamb into the midst of wolves.

We may not be called to “faraway places with strange sounding names”.  But we cannot foresee where we will feel led during this new year.  What issues and concerns might pull us to speak out and help?  What might we have to cope with?  What demands might be made on our faith and trust? 

Today’s verses demand that we go with a promise of God’s presence, God’s angels, to protect us on our way.

“Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.

“Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure.
Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.”  Amen    

(prayer text:  Isaac Watts)

Verla Olson



January 1

O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts. Psalm 95:7-8
 
Be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
 
“Tis the season,” isn’t it? Along with worship, music, good wishes, family, feasts, gifts we are reminded of why we have this time. Jesus, the gift of this season is the gift beyond compare.  It is a time of worship and listening to the Word of God. It also reminds each of us that we are aways commanded to act on what we know to be right and good. 
 
It is such a time even when we face difficult times during the Christmas season. God still speaks to us and listens to our voices, even when he feels far from us. He still instructs each one of us to be filled with the Spirit. Maybe that comfort feels far away, but it is still there. He listens to our deeply buried hurts that shut out his love and the love of others. 
 
Christmas Day 2019 and a fire breaks out in the Drake Hotel in downtown Minneapolis displacing over 200 people each of whom has suffered losses far beyond that which most of us can imagine. It is a structure which was being used to house those who might otherwise be homeless, or living in substandard housing. Where is the hope? Hope comes when so many generous folks donate diapers, blankets, clothes, etc, until no more can be accepted. Hope comes when the Red Cross and other resources mobilize and step in. Hope comes when fund-raising opens the hearts and wallets of thousands. Comfort may seem far away for many of these folks; yet, they are receiving glimmers of hope through the avenues of the hearts of those who are filled with the Spirit, and who care and reach out.
 
May this Spirit of love and compassion continue to fill hearts and lives throughout the days ahead. God asks no less of us, his chosen family. We are to be filled with the Spirit and to help one another through countless selfless acts of kindness. In giving such we each receive blessings beyond compare. God bless us every one, and he does.
 
Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Thank you for being the mender of hearts and lives. Help us to reach out in compassion and love just as you have to each one of us. Help us to forgive others and to live in love as you have taught us to do. Thank you for being there during the difficult times. Amen.
 
Florence Smallfield


December 31

Keep far from a false charge.  Exodus 23:7.

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 anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8.

 The writer of Philippians has given us a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution, to think only about what is good and pure and worthy.  Could we keep that resolution, as commendable as it is?

A new year begins for us tomorrow.  What will be new and pure and excellent about it?  The old stares us in the face, unrest in the world, chaos in our national government, starving children, homeless people, diseases, weather disasters, on and on.  We must think about these things if we hope to make a difference in the lives of people. 

Our congregation boasts a new member, born in September.  A babe in arms, he joins another boy about a year older who is joyfully exploring his surroundings on pudgy little legs.  Both have a parent who leads us in worship. If there is an appropriate word for the futures of these two babes, I would choose hope.

Hope that they will both grow strong and healthy, hope that they will be the future of our church. 

Hope is what we need as we face this new year.  Hope, instilled in us by a loving God who knows what we need as imperfect beings in this imperfect world.  “And this hope will never disappoint us because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts.”

Romans 5:5.

Happy New Year.  Be at peace.

Loving God, help us to face this new year with confidence in your promises.  Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to guide us each day.  We long for peace and justice in our world.  Give us what we need to do our part.  Amen

Joan Perlich



December 30

“This assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear.”  1 Samuel 17:47

“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”  James 3:18

“Peace on earth …” we sang.  Peace is elusive.  Even an optimist such as myself knows an end to fighting isn’t likely.  Human beings are too self-centered and greedy for control and possessions.  There are cultures where vengeance is a sign of strength and honor, expected and accepted.   Grudges last for lifetimes, generations, centuries.    We need a savior.

Even if our nation is not at war many live in cities and neighborhoods with gang violence; drive-by late night, early morning, anytime shootings.  Even if our neighborhood feels secure and free of violence, there is division within homes and relationships.  Peace would be heavenly but I can’t sleep, struggling with my own doubts and insecurities, anxieties and worries.  I need a savior.

“… and good will to all” we sang.  “Let’s share God’s peace with one another” the pastor says … my pew, pews close by, a wave across the church.  The pastor really means … Share God’s peace beyond the church walls, beyond one hour of worship time.  If I needle and barb I am sharpening my sword.  If I respond in anger or hurtful cynicism I am not forging plowshares.  If I am filled with fear and mistrust, a mean fighting spirit, if I am quick to react in anger, live with anger, cannot forgive, I am not a peacemaker.  I need a savior.

Isaiah said he would be called Wonderful Counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father … the Prince of Peace; that a little child would lead us to peace.  They named him Jesus – for he will save his people from their sins. 

May “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Amen  (Phil 4:7)

Verla Olson



December 20

Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Isaiah 50:2

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us. Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV

We are blessed to be chosen by God as his adopted children. He sacrificed his son, Christ, to give us redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ and therefore, forgiveness of our trespasses. He has lavished us with the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:4-8 paraphrased).

His power inspires us. There is no other baby whose birth is celebrated as is the birth of Jesus. As we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded that because Jesus was born, died, and rose again on the behalf of each one of us, we are inheritors of the hope to which he called us; that is the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints. No matter what, God is there to redeem each one of us. May we rejoice in this marvelous inheritance and share this good news during this season of celebration, and reach out to those who feel lost.

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

It is a glorious gift that we have been chosen as your adopted children and inheritors of eternal life. Thank you for never giving up on us and for welcoming us back into your fold no matter what has caused us to stray. Let us share the good news of you glorious inheritance. Help us to realize again and again what a marvelous gift it is for each of us to be counted among the saints. Amen.

Florence Smallfield