Celebrating 50 Years!

I’d like to pass on to you some reflections from our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, as she reflects on an amazing milestone. Many thanks to all of our women of the faith, and thank you for all of the blessing you have shared in your pastoral leadership over these past 50 years!

“The Church of Christ in every age, beset by change but Spirit-led, must claim and test its heritage, and keep on rising from the dead”(Fred Pratt Green, 1969).

Dear church,
Words matter. Words matter in our Scripture, in our hymns, in our governing documents, and beyond. Fifty years ago, on June 29, 1970, the Lutheran Church in America voted to change the word “man” to “person” in its bylaws and opened the door for the ordination of women. The American Lutheran Church achieved the same thing by resolution a few months later. The church was led by the Spirit to change. At the time it was scary for some. Fifty years later, it is now part of our heritage.
Fifty years later we celebrate the anniversary as a whole church. The influence of those decisions 50 years ago is not merely the impact on women. This is a celebration for the whole church, because the whole church has been strengthened by the gifts of ordained women in its leadership. We celebrate how these pastors have shared the Word, including with words of compassion, conviction, and curiosity. We also give thanks for the moments when there are no words, but they have offered their presence.
We also know that women who are pastors have struggled in ways men who are pastors have not. They deal with sexual harassment, disrespect, and often lower pay due to gender-based discrimination. The first women of color in our predecessor bodies weren’t ordained until 1979. And it wasn’t until 2009 that barriers to ordination were removed for LGBTQIA+ individuals in committed relationships. We know that racism and heterosexism complexify and intensify these problems. This discrimination is also part of our heritage, and something that we need to continue to work to eliminate.
In recognition of this 50th anniversary on June 29th, I invite you to express gratitude to a pastor who is a woman for how she has influenced your life. It could be by letter or email, or by other means. If you post on social media, please use the hashtag #thankyoupastor. If you would like more resources for celebrating this year, go to elca.org/50yearsofordainedwomen, which has an adult forum, Bible Study, video, and worship materials.
Fifty years after 1970, we also live in a world beset by change. I am grateful for the Spirit who continues to lead us and for the women God has called to minister to us. I thank God for all of you who minister so faithfully.
In Christ,

Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

A nation of equality

If the past 2 months living under the restrictions of Covid haven’t been challenging enough . . . the past two weeks and our nation’s response to racial injustice have reshaped the world.  As Christians, I pray that you would recall the gross act of injustice that has taken place and that you would be a voice of peace, love, and equality for all people.  I am reminded of the old Sunday School Song.  “Red, and Yellow, Black, and White, We are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” 

Perhaps what is amazing about the words of that song is that we, as white Christian Americans, are named last. Red, Yellow, Black, White, they are precious in his sight!  We are all loved, we are all created equal, we all deserve the same privileges and respect that you and I have come to take for granted.  I pray that you would be mindful of that, and that you would be a worker in the Kingdom of God for fairness and equality to all people.

As a world united in prayer and hope, I invite you to listen to the sermon from Elizabeth Eaton, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.

Youth Fundraiser

Fundraising has become a bit more challenging with all of the “stay at home” orders, which ultimately led to the cancellation of our Annual Spring BBQ and Raffle. So we’ve decided to be a bit creative and still hold the BBQ, but to distribute it as a drive through. I pray that you might be willing to support our youth and their efforts to attend the National Youth Gathering next summer.

To order you dinner, either use the QR Code above, or click the link below.

Easter Sunday

It was an Easter to remember!

From the Gospel of St. Matthew:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Matthew 28:1-11

90+ cars gathered for worship

Good News has come to us. Good News that cannot be contained and needs to be shared. Yet how do you share it, when we’ve all be asked to stay home? Well, here at First Lutheran we got creative. Rather than gathering in our own pews, or staying home on and enjoying the comfort of our own couches, we gathered for a parking lot worship service.

Pastor Doug DeVos

Together, three congregations, First Lutheran, First Christian, and Faith United Methodist shared the Good News of our Salvation that Christ is Alive! Pastor Doug DeVos (First Christian) preached about the great “ta da” moment as Jesus appeared before Mary and the disciples. In that moment fear was shattered and hope was born. In the midst of the uncertainties of our world today, that same “ta da” moment is able to shatter our own fears and bring us everlasting Joy.

Pastor C.J. Bailey

Filled with joy, we gathered around the Table of Communion with blessings shared by Pastor Marilyn Coney (Faith United Methodist) and Pastor Bailey (First Lutheran). Individuals either brought their own elements or received a presealed communion cup, which included a wafer and grape juice.

The highlight of the day . . . horns honking. As we greeted each other, as we shared the peace, and as we extended many thanks, horns would honk. We may have been separated by windows, government mandates, and arrived from various congregations, but in our worship together we were gathered as one people, a people of God, celebrating the hope that only Christ can bring! While the horns honked here in our own parking lot, somewhere out in the distance, several blocks away, was one horn that would always join in. It was a great reminder that the Good News of the Resurrection is far reaching and continues to be shared today.

Pastors Bailey, Coney, and DeVos sharing the closing blessing.

Good Friday

One of my favorite portions of the Good Friday service come as the service is coming to a close. These words are entitled “The Solemn Reproaches” and have been a part of the liturgical service for centuries. Pray them with me as you envision Jesus hanging on the tree. Feel the anguish. Remember the love. Give thanks for the blessings of forgiveness as Jesus has died for you and me!

O my people, O my church, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?  Answer me.
I led you out of slavery into freedom, and delivered you through the waters of rebirth, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you? Answer me.
Forty years I led you through the desert, feeding you with manna on the way; I saved you from the time of trial and gave you my body, the bread of heaven, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud and fire, but you led me to the judgment hall of Pilate; I guided you by the light of the Holy Spirit, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I planted you as my fairest vineyard, but you brought forth bitter fruit; I made you branches of the vine and never left your side, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you? Answer me.
I poured out saving water from the rock, but you gave me vinegar to drink; I poured out my life and gave you the new covenant in my blood, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I gave you a royal scepter, but you gave me a crown of thorns;  I gave you the kingdom and crowned you with eternal life, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I struck down your enemies, but you struck my head with a reed; I gave you my peace, but you draw the sword in my name, and you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I opened the waters to lead you to the promised land, but you opened my side with a spear; I washed your feet as a sign of my love, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I lifted you up to the heights, but you lifted me high on a cross;  I raised you from death and prepared for you the tree of life, but you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you? Answer me.
I grafted you into my people Israel, but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt, and you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you?  Answer me.
I came to you in the least of your brothers and sisters, but I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me, and you have prepared a cross for your Savior.

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-14
John 13:1-17

Tonight is all about creating new traditions.  New Traditions for the Israelites as they prepare for the Exodus. New Traditions for the disciples as they gather in the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed. New Traditions for all of us as we continue to adopt/adjust to life with Covid-19.

We are all learning how to live life differently.  We are all learning how to worship “apart . . . yet together.”  I can tell you it is strange leading worship in the absence of a congregation. We are all learning how to fill our time as we are confined to a stay at home order. 

As we are all learning how to live, have you ever though that some of the things we have started doing may very well be new “traditions” that we are creating as we are all spending a bit more time a home. 

New Traditions . . . What do they look like? Well for the Israelites . . . they look like a meal. 

  • Lamb roasted (not boiled)
  • Bread baked (without leaven)
  • Eaten hurriedly.  With rob on and staff in hand.
  • And blood marking the door post so that the angel of Death might simply “pass over”

For God was about to do a new and miraculous thing. God was going to save the people! Too long they had lived in bondage, too long they had been kept from worshiping God, too long they had been oppressed. This was God’s final answer to the continued request that Moses had made . . . “Pharaoh . . . Let my people go”

New traditions were at hand . . . salvation was near.

The same can be said as Jesus gathered with his disciples on the night in which he was betrayed. In the midst of sharing a meal, a bowl was taken out, Jesus undressed and sat on the floor, and he began to wash the feet of his disciples. Then later he took a loaf of bread, he took a cup, he blessed them saying take and eat.

As Jesus took on the role of the servant washing the disciples’ feet, and later as Jesus redefined the Passover meal, he redefines the story of God’s saving act.  For salvation was soon at hand even as the cross grows every closer.

Today, even for us, as the world is being redefined by how we live, work, and interact with one another, New Traditions are being created. But how will those new traditions reflect our life of faith? How will we live out the story of our salvation and reflect the grace, love, and peace that is gifted to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ?

I pray that it is through actions of compassion as we seek to love and care for one another!

Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

“Why can’t we just celebrate Palm Sunday?” That’s a great question to ask as many congregations gather to celebrate “Passion Sunday”, where the text for the day cram all of Holy Week into one day. We’ve got all week to celebrate the Passion, so for today, should Jesus be allowed one day where all the world can praise him.  I believe so, and that being the case, this is it!

As he comes down from Bethphage, as the disciples are sent ahead to bring the donkey and its colt, as Jesus rides through the city gate into Jerusalem, everyone praises him!

Hosanna to the King of kings!
Hosanna to the Lord of lords!
Hosanna         Hosanna         Hosanna in the highest!

This is a day of thanksgiving, this is a day of praise, this is a day worthy of proclaiming.  For as Jesus enters Jerusalem, for once he is recognized for who he is. 

King of kings
Lord of Lords
Son of God.

For that all the people should praise him. For that his name needs to be recognized. For that his name needs to be heard. For that his messages needs to be seen by all the world.

For this is the time when we need to let all the world know that Christ has come . . .

That Christ has come to us, in a time of uncertainties

  • To bring healing to a world plagued by virus and disease
  • To bring hope to a world that seems hopeless, isolated, and alone
  • To bring to life the promise that better things are coming, New restored, resurrection life stands in our future.

Christ has come . . .

  • To show us how to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • To show us how to forgive as we have been forgiven.
  • To model how we care for one another even as the Samaritan, the outcast, offered care to a stranger in need. 

Indeed, Christ has come. As he rides on in majesty, we realize that this day . . . in fact every day . . . is his day. 

And so with all the crowds gathered along the city street, with the rocks and stones that could not keep silent, with all the earth, with all of the heavenly host we praise his name saying:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna         Hosanna         Hosanna in the highest!

The Spear

John 19:28 – 42

Six hours after being lifted high on the Cross, Jesus speaks, “It is finished!” Then he bows his head and breaths his last. While we are witnesses to these things, something else is taking place behind the scenes at the same time.  For the Sabbath was approaching, and this was not just any Sabbath, this was the Sabbath tied in conjunction with the Passover. These were high . . . high holy days for the people of Israel.

With that the Chief Priest appealed to Pilate, and he then gave the order to have the legs of those being crucified crushed with the same hammer that had driven in their spikes and nails. Now the end is near! With broken legs, the weight of the crucified body would crush their lungs, causing quick death for those on the tree.

Yet , as the guards approached Jesus, they found that he was already dead.  A prophecy was fulfilled:

He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken. 
Psalm 34

To be certain that Jesus was dead, the Centurion approaches, spear in hand, and with one quick thrust forces it up through his side. 

The end . . . it has already come and gone.  Or has it?

As the spear is withdrawn, now standing by the side of its guard, blood and water begin to flow from Jesus side.  These are signs of Life . . . even in the midst of death. 

As blood and water flow, we find two symbolic reminders of life that abounds in Christ. Life that is freely given to us.

Let’s remember, that blood and water are the very essence of life.  You and I cannot live without them.  God, through Christ’s death and pierced side, pours them out upon us, and upon all the world to receive this life sustaining gift.

Let us also remember what else they represent. 

  • The Water’s of Baptism, where we first encounter God’s grace poured out upon us. This water washes us clean from our sin and the eternal punishment that should have been ours.
  • The Blood that is Shed, as Jesus invites us to gather around the table to break bread and lift a cup, here we celebrate a covenant of hope and forgiveness through the cup that we share.

Yes indeed the end is near, but as the spear pierces Jesus side . . . as blood and water flow . . . we are reminded that new life, a transfigured life that is soon to be found.  See death is not the end. Thanks be to God, through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are the ones who are transfigured.  We are the ones who receive new life.  For the water, flowing from Jesus side, through the font of baptism, has claimed us as Children of God. And the Blood, flowing from Jesus side, through the cup that is shared, welcomes us to the eternal banquet that has no ending.  Indeed . . . these are blessed things!

These are blessed things that remind us that the end is just the beginning of a great big beautiful tomorrow!

The Hammer & Nails

Matthew 27: 27-54

On this fourth Sunday in Lent, I would like you to ponder a quick question . . . how many nails played a part of the Crucifixion? Think about that just for a moment. 

Most of us are going to say 3 . . . and three might be correct. It is the traditional image of Jesus, arms outstretched with one nail in each hand, feet crossed with one nail driven through each foot. That would make a total of three.

However, some of us might say 4 . . . and most scholars believe that might be a bit more historically actuate. Arms outstretched with one nail thorough each wrist. Then one nail for either foot, through the side of the heal, into the side of the cross, almost in the pose of riding a bicycle. This would have heightened the pain, as the nail went though the bone, and severed the major nerve that runs through the foot and leg.

But a few of us might even say 5 . . . and five you might think?  Yes five . . . that is probably closer to the right answer. Two in his hands. Two in his feet. One for the sign nailed above his head. That sign, often forgotten is still important.   It’s message is still crucial to the crucifixion . . .  so that nail still counts, making a total of five nails.

And those five nails . . . tell a story as well. Just as the Crown of Thorns told the story, of how Jesus’ death is connected to the Garden of Eden and the sins of all humanity.

The nails tell another story . . . They tell a story that reminds us of who Jesus is and why he came.  For what shape can you make with those five nails? Laying them out one by one? Interweaving them one over another? Maybe you’d get something like . . . a star.

33 years before Jesus was hung on the tree, there was a symbol of hope that lit up the night sky.  It beckoned the shepherds. It guided the magi. It accompanied the angels.  As that bright light shone down on all the earth hope was born.

As Jesus came into the world, he was placed into the hands of a carpenter.  Joseph . . . Jesus’ earthly father, and with that we can imaging that Jesus was a carpenter as well. Following in dad’s workshop, following in his father’s footsteps, with hammer and nails in hand, covered in sawdust.  Splinters in his fingers, and blackened fingernails nails from missing the mark. 

Jesus was a carpenter destined for the cross, which means from birth to death . . . nails were a part of his story.

All Activities Postponed

Greetings families and friends of First,
Under the guidance of the CDC, the President of the United States, the Ohio Department of Health, our Governor, and the Northwestern Ohio Synod Office, the Congregational Council has decided that all group gatherings located within the building are postponed for the next eight weeks. These gatherings include but are not limited to:

  • Sunday morning and Wednesday evening worship.
  • Leadership Meetings.
  • Confirmation, High School, Children’s Church, First Communion, and other youth classes.
  • Adult Bible Study.
  • Youth Group Activities.

There is no doubt that these are challenging times, and that these decisions directly impact our ability to gather together as a community of faith, especially as we move closer to celebrating Easter. While we may not be able to physically gather together, I give thanks that there are alternative means that enable us to continue to offer our thanks and praise to God in the midst of these uncertain times.

  • Our Sunday morning radio broadcast will continue on WTTF, 93.3 FM.
  • We hope to live stream our Sunday morning service on Facebook Live. If you aren’t following us on Facebook, now is the time to do so. Follow us here!
  • The Bulletin, complete with hymns and readings, will be available for download as a PDF file on our website. I also hope to include them as part of my weekly email message. If you haven’t visited our website recently, you can also listen to portions of the previous week’s service and find a summary of my sermon on my blog. It’s another great resource for you to use. 

If you know of anyone who does not have email, please spread the word. Please share this message and these resources with them. It’s more important now than ever that we stay connected, for this is still a great time for us to be the church. That being said, if you know of someone, or if you and your family, are in need of prayer or assistance, please contact the church office (419-447-1323) or me personally (pastorcbailey@gmail.com). We will do our best to extend God’s gifts of love and grace as we journey through this together.

God’s Blessings, stay safe, healthy, and well!
Pastor Bailey

Let us pray . . .God of the resurrection and new life, we entrust to your care the needs of the world as fear, anxiety, and worry consume the lives of many in the midst of the spread of Covid-19. Be present with all those who have contracted this virus. Be with families who grieve the loss of loved ones, have suffered loss of work, or are surrounded by doubt and fear. Be with medical personal who work to provide care and comfort, and technicians and labs who work to provide a cure. Heal us! Comfort us! Bring us the hope and joy that only you can bring! Amen.