1st Thessalonians

January 6 – Chapter 1
January 7 – Chapter 2
January 8 – Chapter 3
January 9 – Chapter 4
January 10 – Chapter 5

The story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the foundation of our faith. However, the stories as we know them from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are not the first to be told if we read the New Testament as it was written chronologically. For that to happen we turned first to James and now we set our sights on the writings of Paul.

Who was Paul? He was a persecutor of the church, turned by God, from his evil ways to be a witness to the world of the Good News found in Christ. Much of his work is done by personally visiting many communalities and in his constant travels around the known world. Then, Paul would typically follow up with letters of support, encouragement, prayer, and sometimes admonishment. This is were we encounter Paul, as we read his letters back to the faith community.

So let’s set the clock at around 50 A.D. Some 20 years has passed since Jesus ascended to the right hand of God. Paul has visited with the people of Thessalonica. Their visit goes well. Many come to faith. However, their visit turns sour as Paul and Silas encounter pressure from the Roman Officials to the point that Paul and his companions flee for their lives. Now, of course Paul regrets that they were forced to flee, and is greatly concerned about the fate of these new believers. Timothy is asked to go back and visit, and he returns to Paul with amazing news. The church in Thessalonica is thriving!

All of this is needed to better understand the First Letter to the Thessalonians. It is a letter of praise and rejoicing, as much as it is a letter of encouragement and support. Take a look at the video description from thebibleproject.com to get a better understanding of everything that takes place in 1st Thessalonians.


Up next: 2 Thessalonians

Reflection & Prayer for a Troubled Nation

This afternoon has been a challenging and unfortunate day for our country. What should have been a routine step in our electoral process, has turned into a scene best reserved for books and movies. Now, I don’t know what side of the aisle you may lean. I don’t know how you may have voted. I can’t say if you feel this election was rigged or full of fraud. Frankly, none of that matters, especially at times such as these. What does matter, should cause alarm, and even weigh heavy on our heart is that the events we are witnessing today, do not represent the America that you and I were born into. Nor does it represent the country in which we are proud to call home. It certainly doesn’t represent our values as baptized children of God called to mutually respect, support, and love one another. 

I would ask that as news continues to be broadcast and the darker hours of this night continue on that you spend some time in prayer and reflection for our country. Pray for our elected leaders who have found their lives threatened by violence. Pray for the electoral process which has defined our freedoms for over two hundred years. Pray that peace and freedom would continue to remain as pillars which have defined this country since its founding.

I pray that if you find yourself aligning with those who have stormed the capital, that you might find peace in the process which has guided our country. I ask plainly that you take a moment to step back, open your eyes to the peace of the Christ Child, and to echo that peace in your daily lives. 

Most importantly, I pray that we might all remember that today is the Celebration of Epiphany. Today the church recalls the Magi who were guided by the star to bow down in humble adoration in the presence of the Christ Child. May we all be bold enough to remember the brightness of that star, recalling that God’s light is bright enough to illumine the dark shadow of this day.  May that light shine upon us, so much so, that we might all be proud to call ourselves Americans, mutually care and respect one another despite political differences, and that we might beam with the love and light that Christ has placed within us. 

God’s blessings,
Pastor Bailey

Let us pray . . .
God of tempest, God of whirlwind, we come to you on this tempest tossed day
as our own electoral process has been threatened and our nation’s capital building
has been taken seize. Pour out your sheltering wings upon all those in harm’s way,
especially our elected leaders, and those who are asked to provide protection for them. 
Bring peace to the protesters. Help us all to realize that we are stronger united
than we ever are divided. Be with us in these darker days. 
Shine your light upon us. Illumine your world with the brightness of your love and light. 
Reassure us once again of your great love, and may we be vessels of your eternal peace
and compassion. All this we pray, in the holy and precious name of Jesus, the Christ. 

The Letter of James

January 1 – chapter 1
January 2 – chapter 2
January 3 – chapter 3
January 4 – chapter 4
January 5 – chapter 5

As we kick off our start through the New Testament, we do so by looking at The Letter of James. You may or may not be familiar with it as this short five chapter, 108 verse letter written by “James.”

First question . . . James who? 1:1 states “James, a servant of God an of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV) Three different “James” are considered as likely authors, two of them disciples, James, son of Zebedee and James son of Alpheus. The third, and typically considered as author, is James the brother of Jesus. Of course there is always the possibility that the letter was written by someone else completely, yet gave it the name “James” is honor/memory of James or because they were a disciple or companion with James. Either way, we’ll never quiet know. However I am inclined to thing that one of the disciples or Jesus’ brother had a hand in writing this letter.

Here’s why . . . James lacks an address to any specific community. He writes to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” (1:1 NIV). He’s writing to the People of God (which includes all of us) in a manner that I found rather comforting as I reread these words again, especially if we consider this to be one of the earliest writings of the New Testament. Here’s what I mean . . . as you read through the letter, do so imagining Jesus teaching you, one on one. What would you take note of? That’s the mindset that I find the Letter of James, and it’s almost as if it becomes an extension of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, teaching us how to live life by caring for one another.

This in brings the debate of chapter 2, as James highlights “works.” Martin Luther struggled with this as it was contrary to Paul and the understanding that we are “saved by grace through faith.” I won’t disagree, but I won’t go as far as Luther to say that James’ is an Epistle of Straw! For if we are to live a life of faith, than our actions in how we care for one another certainly ought to mirror what we believe. I would reiterate James’ words ” Faith without deeds is useless?” (2:20 NIV) Our call, as followers of Jesus is to be the hands, feet, voice, and mouth of Christ. It’s a tall order, but that is the walk of discipleship, and I believe James’ is encouraging us to do just that.

As, James encourages us, I’ll encourage you, pick up your Bible, read through the Letter of James as if you are hearing Jesus teaching you first hand, and share your thoughts on how this letter of scripture might be speaking to you.

Beginning a New Year with Scripture

Happy New Year and welcome 2021! The Northwest Ohio Synod of the ELCA is encouraging us to consider spending the year studying scripture together, just as we did a few years ago as we took on reading the entire Bible cover to cover. This time will be a little bit different, as we will be looking at the New Testament and doing so is chronological order.

What does that mean? Rather than starting with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we’ll be starting with the earliest letters and work our way through the New Testament in the order that most scholars believe they were written. Personally, I’ve never read the New Testament in this manner, so I’m looking forward to seeing how God’s Word speaks to us anew this year as we set off on another Year of Scripture together.

If you would like a copy of the Daily Reading Plan, click the link below:

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!