Dear Friends in Christ,                                                                                     May 2021

This day I find myself flirting with various thoughts to share with you. It’s Spring and life is bouncing forth. So, I share several thoughts with you in this pastor’s message. As I look out the window at the blue sky filled with sun, I am joyously reminded, Spring is back! Warmth is in the air. The grass, trees and flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. New life has begun.

Welcome to the Season of Easter, with weekly reminders of Resurrection, Jesus and how we are to live as resurrected followers. WOW, and I thought Easter’s Resurrection was all there is. Nope, there is so much more for each of us. We are called to live a resurrected life. A giving, non-self-centered life, filled with the love of God for others and ourselves. Let this Spring bring you new life, filled with grace and love for self and for all, regardless of who they are.

By now I believe all have received a copy of my notice of resignation. First, I want to add a piece of clarity which was accidently left out of my letters final copy. According to the Call Agreement I signed upon your inviting me to be your Pastor, for all settled Pastors, there is a ‘90’ day notification process. My letter was just this, I gave the Council, the Congregation a ‘90’ day resignation notice. To clear up some confusion, this means the 90 days runs through July 15th, 2021. Unless the Council allows me to leave a few days earlier or a few days later, this is the tentative date I would complete my serving here.

When I came here, I believed I would be here for 8 – 10 years, if you’d have me that long. This past year, with all of the changes impacting us all, I was called to discern my ministry here and see how I could best serve you, and meet your needs.

During this time, I spent much time in: Prayer; Sharing with my Spiritual Director; A few days in a Silent Directed Retreat (via Zoom) of prayer and scripture and sharing with a Retreat Spiritual Director; Sharing with a Wisconsin Conference UCC – Community of Practice group Facilitator; and Speaking with a Ministry Coach.

All of this was in-between learning how to do Live-streaming worship, trying a different internet live-stream worship format, learning additional computer and video technical programs so we could put the full service from in-Sanctuary Worship on our Facebook page, and send it to TCC Cable, so our community of faith would be more visible for not only our members, but also those out in the community.

In late January, I learned of a position for a Designated Interim as a half-time pastor or, they were also given the option to do a direct Call, near where I used to live (this meant, they would have the option to Call me as pastor). It is a small congregation in a larger community searching for a Pastor to help them be a healing presence in the broader community. Our conversation led to them wanting to pursue further discussion and asking me if I would be interested in doing so. We both agreed to see where our conversation led us. Well, the rest is now history. A history where God has fully been in midst of this process through all those steps listed above.

I shared this with you as I hope you will understand this was not an easy decision. The questions I, others and scripture raised, well they weren’t easy to answer. At times, they were painfully challenging. It’s a journey God walked every step of the way with me.

This congregation has been wonderful. It struggled with me as I struggled with many of the sermons I preached. I had lost the sermon style I used to preach. God led me to see a book on the internet when I was looking up another book. I ordered the book and also enrolled in a sermon preparation program, learning a whole new way to approach my sermon writing. I have been blessed by the program, and I hope you have found the sermons meaningful to your spirit.

I have enjoyed working with you, sharing God’s Holy Meal together, and the times of sharing fellowship and food with you. I love the ministry this congregation has shared with the Dove Center on the days our Church leads worship there. The gift of non-institution bakery items following the Worship service, the help you give to the residents during worship. What a beautiful ministry. I know it takes a lot, and it tends to fall on the same folks, but always remember the special gift you give them, and then, your taking time to share conversation with so many of them.

Your ecumenical Lenten services, brings the ministries of our area together in multiple congregations. A special time of sharing.

This list could go on, yet I will stop for now. Thank you each for your gifts you give here through your ministry.

Please come and worship together if you are able. We aren’t singing yet, but we are sharing in God’s word, prayer and love.

God’s Peace & Love, Pastor Lois

Dear Friends in Christ,                                                                                                APRIL 2021

Are you ready? Are you ready for the end of the journey to Jerusalem and all which came with it? Did you join us for the triumphant celebratory ‘Hosanna to the Highest’ entrance where, seemingly, all hailed and worshipped Jesus? Are you ready to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, then into the courtyard as Jesus is held captive like a common criminal and virtually all now cry out – ‘Crucify Him, Crucify Him’! And then, to the solemn walk up the Hill to Golgotha and the nailing of Jesus to the Cross, and the waiting and watching for Jesus to die?

What changed in these few days from the ‘Hosannas’ to the ‘Crucify’ him cries? Why was Jesus such a threat to the people, to the religious authorities, and yet not a real threat to the rulers? What caused the turning of the people?

Let me suggest this is what changed, or probably more accurate, this is how the change began and grew in the society in Jesus’ time and yet in our times today. It’s called the “STATUS DEGRADATION RITUALS”.

What are “Status Degradation Rituals”, or today also known as ‘Degradation Ceremonies’.

In Jesus time, Jesus’ opponents felt they couldn’t do anything about Jesus because the crowds were astounded by Jesus’ teachings; or they feared the crowds because they regarded him as a prophet. These are indications Jesus’ honor status in the public mind rendered him invulnerable. In order to destroy Jesus, it became necessary for Jesus’ opponents first to destroy his standing in the eyes of the people. How one does this is to destroy any and everything about them. Their reputation, their personal history, where they came from, everything they did.

The process of publicly recasting, relabeling, humiliating, and thus recategorizing a person as a social deviant. These rituals express the moral indignation of the denouncers and often mock or denounce a person’s former identity in such a way as to destroy it totally. Usually, it’s accompanied by a revisionist account of the person’s past, indicating they were deviant all along. A variety of social settings – trials, hearings, political rallies – can be the occasion for this destruction of a person’s public identity and credibility.

Even the disciples took part in this ritual – they ran, stood at a distance hiding from those who might recognize them as his followers. Some verbally denied Jesus as someone they knew, yet alone followed. One, yes one, betrayed Jesus for the power of some money, to clearly point out Jesus to the authorities.

For Jesus, the 1st of these actions took place when he was blindfolded, struck from behind, and mocked as a ‘prophet’. Reviled and insulted as well. Public Humiliation where Peter and others stand by… at a distance… It’s how Jesus’ status, in the eyes of the people, begins to crumble – (and in our holy week readings – it crumbles fast). Yet it continues through the stripping of Jesus and hanging him on the cross – naked. In this ritual, this is the most humiliating form of Humiliation!

Are you ready? Are you ready to move on to the next part of the story? Well, probably this year even more than any other year, I would guess we all are. We want to move on even as COVID-19 is rearing its head again, this time with up to ‘3’ new strains, much more contagious and dangerous. We are so ready to move on, to new life. To Resurrection Life!

I pray you are able to join us in the Sanctuary for Easter Worship, and if not, I hope you will take the time to open our Facebook page and listen to the service anytime later in the day or during the week!

Pastor Lois will return home following worship and begin the downloading process of the video, and once it is processed, she will post it. Hopefully it will be posted prior to my leaving for the Easter Worship Service at the Dove Center. Yes, Dove has taken some steps, with help from Osseo Plastics & Supply, to safely bring clergy back in for Worship Services (beginning in April), for the residents in the Care Center. I volunteered for the Easter Service. There won’t be music or bulletins, or snacks served by our wonderful ladies, at this time, but we will hear God’s Word and Worship together. And, a bonus, See Each Other’s Smiling Faces Beneath Masks!

It truly is Resurrection Time! Please come and join us. There’s plenty of safe distancing room.

If not for yourself, come for your fellow community of faith family and friends! We all miss each other!

God’s Peace to All!

Pastor Lois

‘Status Degradation Ritual’ information is from the “SOCIAL SCIENCE COMMENTARY: THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS”

by Bruce Malina & Richard Rohrbaugh with some definitions off the internet.

Pastor’s Article March 2021

PRAYER

Why do you pray? What’s the point of prayer? Anyway, what good does it do? These are a few of the many question’s folks both churched and unchurched ask about prayer. 

Why do we do pray?

Prayer for me, simply put, is a way I share with my best friend. It’s a way I commune with God, I sit in silence and just be with God. Our spiritual lives are often the last things we take care to nurture. It’s easy to get away from prayers of thankfulness and gratitude, I think even more so in our world today, due to all of the needs our neighbors and we ourselves face.

It seems like in the past year, people have lived through major crisis after major crisis, all while dealing with COVID-19, and hopefully being masked and safe-distancing. Hospitals have been over-filled to capacity with the Coronavirus patients, and emergent other medical issues. Families have not been allowed to be with their family members in the hospitals or nursing and related facilities. People in multiple states endured forest fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes, to name a few. We have been stressed and stretched about as far as we think we can go. And yet, we still go on. And many still pray, though the outcome of their prayers isn’t what they have hoped or prayed would occur.

Reflecting, I am reminded we are to love our God fully, with our whole being, heart, mind, soul. How do we practice this love? I think one way we practice this love is through taking time, intentional and sporadic times of prayer. In our Lenten reading this week, I was reminded Jesus began his days in prayer. Often the disciples would wake up and Jesus was no where in sight. They’d have to search for him and when they found him, he was away doing what? Praying!

Where does God find us? Do we ‘go away’ and pray? This Holy Season of Lent, let’s all try to pray more. Pray more Thankfulness, more Gratitude, more for others here and throughout the world, more for those who are hurting and those who are giving of themselves.

Let our Benediction today be:

Lord, we praise and thank you. Bless those who are hurting, less fortunate than I am, and fill us all with your Love.  And thank you God for always being right here with us!

May you have the Peace of God leading you today,

Pastor Lois

February 2021

Greetings Friends!

It’s hard to believe, January is over, the Season of Epiphany is almost over and Lent is upon us. Wednesday, February 17th is ASH Wednesday. It seems like it was only yesterday we were in the season of Advent (preparation and anticipation) and Christmas (joy and hope celebrating God with us – Emmanuel). As I am writing this, there are ‘3’ more Sundays in Epiphany, our season for learning and identifying who Jesus was and the work Jesus was called to be about.  WOW, it’s been a fast journey.

The Season of Lent is a journey where we are called to take time to reflect, to think about and to determine what the meaning of discipleship is all about. What it means to be followers of Jesus, studiers, learners of Jesus. To be followers of Jesus doesn’t mean we sit back and watch or observe only the ministry and work of Jesus. It means we are called into action. One can’t follow and be sedentary. It is to be active in our faith journey, to be actively continuing to learn, to put what we have learned into action, to live out our faith.

To be an observer in faith is more of a ‘sit back, look and see’ sedentary type of faith. It is a valid beginning step in faith which doesn’t require any more action than watching. It is very low demand. To be a follower in faith is action from the beginning. We are, in this instance, so to speak, following the leader!     

So, as we come into the Season of Lent, both as individual followers and as a community of faith, let us take time to observe where we are on our faith journey. Reflect upon our daily living of our faith, take time to own what we have or haven’t done, and ‘repent’, ‘turn-around’, to have a change within our own hearts, just like God had with the people, from the things which have bogged us down in the muck and not brought forth the Joy of Discipleship. Let us hear anew the teachings of Jesus, and see with new eyes the ministry he modeled for us to follow. Let us hear the words, the stories, the commandments, and the ACTIONS Jesus did, telling and showing us the way. Let us find new, fresh ways to put our faith into action. Let us be renewed in faith, so we can “run and not be weary, walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31b).

As we are led to Jerusalem and the Cross this Lent, let us hear the question being asked of us:

‘Are we willing to follow Jesus, to Jerusalem and the Cross, down the path Jesus walked’?

May God bless each and every one on your journey.

Pastor Lois